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how would you fix this journal?

On Facebook, Daniel Laurison started this discussion. With his permission, I have reposted it:

Sociologists, how would you change/improve the journal submission & review process, if you could? I’ve recently become an editor of the British Journal of Sociology, and we are making some changes to make things more sensible, transparent, and efficient. What would make submitting & reviewing better for you? Creative ideas welcome. So far, we’re:

  •  inviting authors whose papers have been rejected elsewhere to include the reviews & how they’ve addressed them. We all know papers often get shopped around until they find a home, and it seems to us there’s no need to start from scratch as if a paper doesn’t have a history.
  • making our initial ask for reviews in 2 weeks, rather than 30 days. Most of us submit a review within 2 or so days of whatever the deadline is, so this should speed up review time quite a bit. Reviewers who need longer can have it, but the default will be 2 weeks.

My additional suggestions:

  • Desk rejects: If you just don’t want to, reject now and let people move on.
  • Save orphan papers: If a paper can’t complete review after X days (90?), then the editors will terminate the review. If a paper can’t get reviewers, let the author move on to a new journal.
  • Editorial guidance: If the reviewers are in conflict, don’t just say “do your best.” Offer guidance about which reviewer seems to offer the best criticism.

How do you think peer review should be improved? Use the comments.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 5, 2017 at 4:22 am

4 Responses

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  1. I think reviews should be done with 2 reviewers rather than 3 or 4. (As a general rule, remove Reviewer 2 and keep Reviewers 1 and 3.) If the two reviewers disagree, the editors should break the tie. And please no new criteria to be introduced in later rounds. (BJS probably doesn’t do this, but just in case other editors are here.)

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  2. I agree with Boris. Limit reviewers per paper, unless a review is clearly garbage. Use editorial board to help out with tricky papers. Honestly, if an editor and two other trusted members of the profession can’t provide enough information about a paper, then you’re doing it wrong.

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    fabiorojas

    July 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm

  3. As much as I value quick reviews, I have to say that the two-week turnaround request seems mighty tight to me. At no point during the academic year would I be able to guarantee that I could meet such a request, given the number of urgent matters that appear and suddenly take precedence (such is the life of a department chair). So I hope you’ll make the request for an extension easy, otherwise I foresee a lot of trouble getting reviewers.

    The biggest thing I would suggest is thinking carefully about how you select reviewers. I have been asked numerous times to review papers very far from my expertise, and I have had papers reviewed by people who do not have the appropriate background or perspective to evaluate my work. (My favorite personal horror story–the reviewer who responded to my paper about racialization of Asian immigrant populations by complaining that the paper was not about Black people. While I don’t know for sure, I strongly suspect that appropriate vetting would have excluded this review. The paper may have been terrible, but that wasn’t the reason). I know finding and vetting reviewers is a thankless task–I did is as an assistant editor for Soc Forum while in grad school–but there has to be a better way than what many journals do.

    I’ll second the desk reject and no new criteria comments. And while I don’t like the one-and-out system, as some papers are THISCLOSE and just need a tiny bit more work after round one, if you drag out an R&R to three rounds of revision and then reject it, please have a damned good reason and make it clear to the authors. Because that is just such a torturous waste of time for everyone involved.

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    Mikaila

    July 6, 2017 at 2:59 am

  4. No submission fees. These are cost prohibitive to many, and given the profits most publishers make completely unwarranted.

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    spidersharp

    July 6, 2017 at 3:41 pm


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