A view from the other side: journal publishing

For a long time I have been on one side of the table: writing and submitting papers to various academic and technical journals. So I have like most scientists my views on the process.

Now that I am also sitting on the other side of the table: part of the journal editorial team, it is an entirely new experience!
I recently joined the IEEE Photonics Journal as Associate Editor and in early 2014 I took over as Section Editor for the Journal of European Optical Society: Rapid Publications.

As an author, almost inevitably I felt the review process took too long. Why cant reviewers send their reviews on time – I would fume.
Occasionaly I felt the reviewer/s may not be from the exact technical area and hence not fully able to see the nuances in my paper! They are missing the whole point/don’t appreciate the fine technical details of this area- I would fume!
Very often I felt that changing 1 sentence in the manuscript did not merit a “major revision required” judgement!
Changing reviewers where revisions were needed also came across as disruptive to the process to me as an author. After all, the new reviewer seems to have a completely different perspective from the older one!

And now?

Well as a section/associate editor dealing with each submission assigned to me raises many difficulties:
– to find appropriately qualified reviewers who are willing to perform the review within reasonable time. This can be fiendishly difficult!
– when the reviews are late, how the devil do you get people to do this voluntary work on time and respond to your reminder emails!
– how do I find appropriate reviewers if the manuscript is in an area that I am not a specialist in?
– make sure I dont send too many manuscripts to the same reviewers- avoid reviewer fatigue!
– ensure that there is some diversity in the reviewers (gender balance for example)
– check the reviews and see their quality, relevance, fairness, confidence (not satisfied means starting all over with new reviewers!)
– make decisions where the reviewers do not agree

So when I submitted a manuscript recently to Optics Express and began tracking its progress, I found that I was guessing the internal workings of the process as much as I wanted it to be speedy and positive!

It sure made me see publishing in a different light. How do you feel about it?

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One comment on “A view from the other side: journal publishing

  1. I love reading a post that will make men and women think.

    Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

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