Over my past three blog posts I have been summarising the workshops run at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting about manuscript submission (here and here), and how to be an effective reviewer (here). In this final post in the series, I will talk about the discussion on effective reviewing that followed the presentation on this topic by Maggie Xenopoulos (Deputy Editor-in-Chief, ASLO’s Limnology and Oceanography) and Miguel Goni (Editor-in-Chief, AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences).
As the Editors were presented with a range of questions, some version of the same answer kept coming up: ‘Contact the Editor and they will help you’. This response was related to issues about whether you should accept an invitation to review, such as if you can only comment on a certain aspect of the manuscript (which is apparently becoming common as cross-disciplinary research is more often submitted), or if you feel you may have a conflict of interest (e.g. if you know one of the authors but have never published with them, or if you are part of a multi-author paper but haven’t interacted with all co-authors). This answer was also given to questions about issues that arise during the review, such as if you feel that the writing is of a quality that impairs your ability to review the science. This reply also related to queries on issues that arise following the review, such as if you are an early career researcher and would like feedback on the quality of your review.
The response of the Editors suggested that an effective reviewer isn’t necessarily one who simply responds to the automated e-mails, but rather actively participates in the process. While it may feel to reviewers that this is intrusive (particularly to ECRs who often perceive Editors to be far too busy to deal with our e-mails), these interactions are encouraged as they make the overall process of peer review run more smoothly.
This brings the series of posts from the 2018 OSM workshops on publishing to a close. I hope that they provide insight into what was learnt at this event, which was a great opportunity for members of the scientific community to ask questions of journal editors. As the Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellow, I have a unique opportunity to request these kinds of discussions outside of structured workshops, so if there are other similar issues you are wondering about please contact me (twitter: @ljfalkenberg, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and they may become the focus of an upcoming blog post.