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Background: The motivation for this question is two-fold. First, I would like to get some hard facts to better understand the ongoing conferences vs. journals debate. Second, if this information was somewhere available, I could make a more informed decision when submitting papers for review; I would be happy to favour journals whose editors do a good job at selecting and shepherding referees.


Question: Are there any TCS journals that have consistently fast reviewing?

The rules:

  • I am not looking for any anecdotal evidence; I would like to see hard facts, such as "according to our statistics, during the last 3 years, 98% of our submissions were reviewed in at most 4 months".

  • Only time from the initial submission to the first decision counts. I do not care how long it takes to actually print a physical journal; it is beyond our control anyway.

  • A journal that is just a series of conference proceedings does not count. We all know that conference reviewing is quick.

  • Open-access on-line journals are perfectly fine.

(And if a journal is so questionable that you would be embarrassed if your name was somehow associated with it, let's skip it entirely.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I review for PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They publish some computer-science papers, often with an engineering aspect. In any case, the editors routinely include this sentence in their request: "We would need to have your critique within the next 10 days"! A different world... $\endgroup$ – Joseph O'Rourke Sep 28 '11 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke: A different world indeed. But at least in computer science, what the editors request and what the reviewers do are also two different worlds. For example, when I have reviewed for IPL, I have been asked to return my report in 4 weeks, but when I have submitted to IPL, it has taken up to 10 months to get any feedback. That's one of the reason why I would like to see statistics... $\endgroup$ – Jukka Suomela Sep 28 '11 at 12:01
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Glencora Borradaile has an interactive graph with turnover time (among other information) for several journals from several sources.

However, not included is the first journal I think of with a fast turnaround time: Information Processing Letters (IPL). I couldn't find any statistics, but rapid dissemination is their first goal. When refereeing for a similar Elsevier journal with the same goal of rapid dissemination but with a slightly different scope, they requested my report within about 5 weeks.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, Borradaile's graph is really nice! Regarding IPL, I do not think the reviewing times are that fast in practice, but I would really like to see some statistics. To get a rough idea, I took the latest 64 papers and calculated the time between "received" and "received in revised form" time stamps. Less than 6 months: 28/64 ≈ 44% of papers, less than 9 months: 45/64 ≈ 70% of papers. If we assume that the authors react quickly to referee comments (these are short papers), we cannot really say that reviewing is consistently fast. Certainly much more than 5 weeks. :) $\endgroup$ – Jukka Suomela Sep 23 '11 at 17:13
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Edit: It's been 2+ years so I'm updating the answer.

Every year the Notices of the AMS publishes a list of math journals and their backlogs, turnaround times, etc. Here are some of the previous articles: Nov 2009, Nov 2010, Nov 2011, Nov 2012, Nov 2013.

Based on the Nov 2013 article, here are some CS Journals and their median submission to final acceptance times:

  • Algorithmica (Springer): 7 months
  • Theory of Computing Systems (Springer): 7 months
  • Theory of Computing: 12 months
  • Theoretical Computer Science (Elsevier): 13 months
  • SIAM Journal on Computing: 15.4 months
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The IEICE Transactions from Japan has a very fast review process. The first round of review takes at most 3 months, and the second round between 2-3 months. So, in 5-6 months you get a definitive answer. I don't know the numbers, but several professors told me that's the case, and I confirmed that by personal experience. These journals are very popular in Japan, with many papers published every month.

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While it is not a typical core-TCS journal, it seems that ACM Transactions on Database Systems sets a very good example:

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I am an AE for Journal of Biopharmaceutical Statistics and Statistics in Biopharmaceutical research. Both journals aim to review articles within 3 months. They also provide us with lists of referees with the specialties and past perfirmance with the journal. Links: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/lbps and http://www.amstat.org/publications/sbr.cfm. I think this is becoming commonplace and in the case of SBR it is published electronically only. So the articles get published more quickly than if they had to go to press. For conferences the Interface between Computer Science and Statistics meetings may be a good place for members of this site to present papers. Their proceedings is read quite extensively. The Communications in Statistics journal Simulation and Computation may also have a fast review cycle. Link: http://www.math.mcmaster.ca/bala/comstat/cis_sc_2.html.

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I have heard that Theory of Computing aims to have quick reviews. I am not sure about the statistics though, I have not looked them up.

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