You have an article ready to go and you’re anxious to get it published. You know that if you submit to one journal, it could potentially take over a year for it to be published. And, even if it is rejected, you might not know for months. Why not increase your chances of a more timely success by submitting the article to more than one journal?
DON’T DO IT! Aside from plagiarism, submitting to more than one journal at a time might be one of the worst possible academic sins there is. It may not be obvious why that’s the case, so read on, find out, and no matter what, only submit to one journal at a time.
Don’t Drive the Editor Mad
Let’s say you submitted to three journals at the same time. It’s a great article and 8 months later, you hear from all three journals that they would like to publish your article. Now you have to tell two of them that you’re not interested in publishing in their journal. This is bad for a few reasons in itself. First of all, its insulting to the editor to say that you’ve chosen another journal over his or hers. They will probably remember this slight.
Second of all, by the time you tell the editor you don’t want to publish in their journal, they may have already planned most, if not all, of that issue. So, now they have to go back and re-plan the entire thing.
Editors don’t simply slap up the first half dozen articles they get. They balance issues with different themes, methodologies, established scholars and younger scholars—a number of factors. It’s a complicated process and now you’re forcing them to do it twice.
Legal and Moral Issues
Next, there is a legal issue. Once the article is accepted, or shortly thereafter, the journal owns the copyright to the article. You’re going to get yourself into quite a quagmire if you’ve given the copyright to more than one journal.
Finally, there is an ethical angle to submitting to multiple journals. Editors are usually from academics who have separate, full time careers, as well as their editorship. They are busy. If you take up their time unnecessarily, that’s less time they have to teach, do their own research and writing, or read someone else’s submission.
More than just the editor, though, you should be concerned about the outside readers. The top people in your field are generally asked to peer review article submissions frequently and they often don’t have the time to review all of them. That means that editors then have to find another qualified outside reader. If an editor goes back to one reader too much, the reader will certainly begin to turn the editor down.
The circle of available readers is so small that, when I submitted my first article, the editor asked my advisor to peer review it because he didn’t realize who my advisor was. Reviews are double blind (neither the author nor the reviewer know who each other are), but my advisor quickly realized he was reading my work. Of course, he then declined and it was passed to another outside reader.
But this is how tight the field of outside readers is; the same people get asked over and over again. So if you submit twice or more, you are wasting someone’s valuable time that could go to reviewing someone else’s article.
To sum up, submitting to more than one journal at a time is rude, will potentially put you in a bad legal situation, and wastes the time of some very busy people. That’s why when people who do this are discovered, they are often banned from the journals they submitted to for life.
It speaks poorly about your character. Instead, be patient. If your work is that good, it will eventually be published. In the meantime, start working on your next article.
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