Just spent time going through the outliers on the submission-review-decision round trip at BRiA. Our overall times are excellent 60-70 days. But I believe that we should be able to get nearly 100% done in 100 days.
So I examined the handful of outliers. The one thing that stood out was reviewers who took much longer than they committed to. Yep, in three cases the editor or I agreed to a longer time to get a “preferred” reviewer. But in the other cases it was all on the reviewers.
So of my outliers three could be attributed to editor choice but 6 were reviewers not delivering – up to three months after the promised date.
So the basic reason for long lags is clear, it is our community. The unfortunate aspect is that some authors then consciously “retaliate” by deliberately being late with their next review. Really!!!
“Tit for tat” may be a dominant game strategy but only when the opponent is the same or you can build a reputation publicly! Neither works in the double blind review world but has huge externalities.