An original paper was submitted to our journal. After peer review, the authors were requested to revise the paper, and the revision was submitted back to the journal. Our manuscript editor accepted the paper.
The paper was scheduled for publication 3 months later after copyediting was completed. We informed the corresponding author about acceptance of the paper and sent them the typeset article for proof reading.
The corresponding author contacted us stating that they wished to withdraw their submission, two weeks after we sent their paper for proof reading. As the chief editor, I immediately sent a message to the corresponding author and requested an explanation. The articles have been edited by one format editor, three peer reviewers, one manuscript editor, one copy editor, and finally typeset by our printer. We do not charge any article processing fees.
Question(s) for the COPE Forum
- Significant resources have been provided to modify and improve the paper. Should we accept the withdrawal?
- Is there anything else we should do if the authors do not respond to our request for an explanation?
The Forum noted that editors have no control over whether authors withdraw a paper even if significant work towards publication has already been done. The Forum questioned why the authors did not receive notification that their paper had been accepted before copyediting began. Were all the authors notified of this decision? Did they assign copyright, or did they agree to publication?
The Forum recommended that journal processes should be in place to preclude these situations. The editor should re-evaluate the journal’s internal editorial processes. Is there a possibility that the authors discovered a critical error and decided they could not publish the paper? The editor could consider communicating with the authors to determine if something in their process caused them to withdraw their paper. The editor would not want to publish an article if the author wants to withdraw it.
The editor has no choice but to accept the author’s decision. The Forum recommended that the journal should review their internal processes to make sure expectations are clear in their communications with authors and revise where needed. COPE’s journal auditing tool (https://publicationethics.org/news/new-cope-audit) might be helpful to the editor in that process.
The journal contacted the corresponding author stating their disappointment with the author’s decision. The journal decided not to pursue the matter further.