(Note: Withdrawing an already published paper is called a Retraction, which is different from what is discussed in this article, which refers to unpublished papers, under review or accepted. To retract or correct an already published paper, please read We published a paper in JMIR and have a correction. What is the process of publishing a corrigendum?).
Withdrawing a paper during peer-review or (worse) during the production after acceptance, but before publication, is an uncommon event and not considered good scientific practice, and must be done only in exceptional cases.
Consider a Rebuttal Instead of Withdrawing
"Abandoning" a paper after the initial editorial decision is also not wise - we advise authors to at least attempt a revision/rebuttal or consider a transfer to a sister journal if they do not feel they can address all major reviewer comments. Keep in mind that the editor makes the decision, not the reviewers, so if you disagree with major changes demanded by a reviewer, you should say so in your rebuttal, rather than just giving up and abandoning the submission.
While it is the authors' prerogative to withdraw the manuscript after the first round of reviews because they feel they cannot address the reviewer comments, in these cases we still advice to respond to the peer-reviews and simply state why specific comments could not be addressed. Do not be intimidated or discouraged by reviews which seem "off" - simply argue your case and a good academic editor will consider your point of view (if not, you can appeal the editorial decision at firstname.lastname@example.org and a secondary editor will arbitrate).
Consider a Transfer Before You WIthdraw
You may also contact the academic editor or via email@example.com to request if the paper can be transferred to another journal of the JMIR family (no additional reviews may be necessary) in exchange for waiving certain requirements or issues raised by reviewers. For example, JMIR Res Protoc publishes protocols/methods or proposals (and has less rigorous requirements for the results section) and JMIR Formative Research publishes formative studies which may be less generalizable and important, but are still important to be published so authors can apply for further grant funding.
Sometimes the editor questions if the paper is strong enough in the current form for the journal it was submitted to, and/or authors realize that a lower-tier journal may be more appropriate for their preliminary work, and it should be transferred to a different journal. This request to transfer can be also done when you submit your revision (How do I request a manuscript transfer to another journal?).
Before you withdraw a paper, please consider that editor and reviewers have likely already invested significant (and often unpaid) time in your manuscript. Please let us know before withdrawing if there is anything we can do to avoid the withdrawal and to prevent editorial/reviewer time to be wasted. The further along in the peer-review process the paper is, the more ethically questionable a withdrawal becomes, because often a considerable amount of time has been spent on the paper, by reviewers, editors, and editorial assistants.
Note that it is unethical and considered violating scientific norms (i.e. is poor scientific practice bordering on scientific misconduct) to submit a paper still under consideration at a journal A to a different journal B. Before submitting a paper to another journal outside of the JMIR family, make sure it was properly withdrawn (JMIR sends out a withdrawal confirmation). If you have already created a duplicate submission, please withdraw your paper from the other journal immediately, and only submit it after proper withdrawal from us.
Otherwise, according to international rules of publication ethics, a withdrawal may violate the research community's norms and may have negative consequences for the authors. If JMIR Publications becomes aware of a manuscript submitted or already published elsewhere (most articles show the submission dates, so we may discover months or years later that there was an overlap in submission periods), we will have to launch a scientific misconduct investigation which may lead to the retraction of the paper in the journal it was submitted to later while it was still under consideration elsewhere.
Authors can request withdrawal of their manuscript from submission to publication; however, it is not advised unless it is obligatory. The journal editor must be informed with a withdrawal request letter signed by all authors indicating valid rationales. A submitted manuscript will not be withdrawn from peer review until a withdraw request letter has reached to editorial office. Authors must not assume their manuscript has been withdrawn until they have received a acknowledgement letter from the editor’s office. The journal editor does have a responsibility to impose disincentive sanctions, such as payment of the charge, rejection of the articles submitting by same authors etc, on the corresponding author and contributing authors according to international rules for publication ethics if the manuscript is not withdrawn properly, and even if the withdrawal is permitted. (Kirac, Publication Ethics)
Unacceptable and unethical author practices include for example playing "impact factor games" (What is impact factor misuse?), such as the case described here, where an author withdraws an article to have it considered by another higher-impact factor journal, or worse, submits it to multiple journals to cherry-pick the one with the most favorable reviews or highest impact factor.
Note that at JMIR, as explained above, we may cascade (transfer) manuscripts to another JMIR journal if it is felt not to be strong enough for the original target journal, and that other JMIR journal may have a lower or no impact factor. We do not force authors to accept the offer of publication from another JMIR journal, but encourage authors to seriously consider our offer of speedy publication in another JMIR journal (without additional peer-review) rather than keep sending the paper to other journals to play "impact factor games", in particular in light of recommendations not to misuse the journal impact factor as a proxy for research excellence (see DORA statement).
Another example for unacceptable author practices includes gross negligence before submission, i.e. failing to read our instructions for authors and failure to understand that we are an Open Access publisher. There is no excuse to withdraw a manuscript because "I was not aware of the fees" as our fees are disclosed on our website, our instructions for authors and our FAQs. On the submission form authors even check a checkbox confirming that they have reviewed our fee schedule and agreeing to be charged in case of acceptance (see screenshot below); thus, we consider a withdrawal the result of gross negligence on the part of the authors (in particular because alternatives exist, see I don't have any grant money - how can I publish in JMIR?).
When the journal and referees have behaved blamelessly, it is hard to justify unilaterally withdrawing the paper as an author, in particular after acceptance. When you submitted the paper, you implicitly agreed to publish it there if accepted. This is part of the research community's norms: a submitted paper is a request for publication, not a request for the option to publish. (Stackexchange)
Before you withdraw, please consider a manuscript transfer (How do I request a manuscript transfer to another journal?) or deadline extension so you have more time to work on your revision (I am an author working on my revision in response to the reviewers and I would like an extension for submitting my revised manuscript and responses to reviewers.).
Process to withdraw
Once authors considered all the alternatives listed above (rebuttal, transfer) and have considered the ethical implications, please follow the process:
- Send a message to the editor handling your manuscript, see I would like to send a message to the editor about my paper (already submitted). Before you definitively withdraw the manuscript, let the editor know your intention to do so and if there is anything he can do to avoid it. If the manuscripts still has to be withdrawn, please upload a letter signed by all authors as supplementary file indicating the reasons for withdrawing the manuscript.
- If you do not receive a "Withdrawn" confirmation within 3 business days, please file a ticket with firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to quote the manuscript number. Ideally attach a letter signed by all coauthors confirming the withdrawal.
- Please refrain from submitting future manuscripts to JMIR journals unless you have a valid explanation, in particular if you withdraw during review or after acceptance
Note: Effectively 11/2017, JMIR has discontinued its former practice to formally blacklist authors who withdraw a manuscript after acceptance or in other late stages. Still, we urge authors not avoid wasting our resources. Please make sure before submission that you have the necessary funds to pay the APF in case of acceptance.
Refund Policy Already Paid APF
If an article is withdrawn by authors after acceptance (but before publication) and the Article Processing Fee has already been paid, the APF will be non-refundable. This covers a withdrawal initiations by authors, for any reason and at any stage in the production process, but it also includes (rare) cases where scientific misconduct or problems with the data come to light in the production/copyediting process (this case has never occured so far).
- I would like to send a message to the editor about my paper (already submitted)
- I am an author working on my revision in response to the reviewers and I would like an extension for submitting my revised manuscript and responses to reviewers.
- How do I request a manuscript transfer to another journal?
- What is impact factor misuse?