By: Greg Currie
Executive Editor, Mind & Language
Mind & Language submission and review went fully digital just after I became executive editor in late 2016; I am very glad it did. It has lifted a weight of administration from our editorial team, freeing up resources to allow us to make innovations; it has created a reliable memory system, making it harder for submissions to languish and providing us with vital data on our own performance. Frankly, as a someone occasionally on the other side of the system, I have never enjoyed the process of electronic submission of my own work to journals and sympathise with anyone who would prefer simply to attach a paper to an email and send it to the editorial office. But you would be buying time at one end of the process which you would be very likely to lose at the other; once you are in the system you can track where your paper is in its progress and the editors get timely reminders if some step is taking too long, as do referees. If and when the paper is accepted the system holds it through the several stages before it goes to the publisher, making mistakes and delays much less likely.
Before we operated with ScholarOne (the electronic submission system we and many other journals use) there were occasions when the review process took too long—much too long occasionally. There still are times when the whole process takes longer than I would like; they are mostly caused by it being hard sometimes to get reviewers. There are times when we have ten refusals in a row. But delays are fewer and less acute; reviewers can turn us down (if that’s what they want to do) at the touch of a button, and often we get a response within hours.
With the move to electronic submission came a shift to requiring (rather than as previously encouraging) anonymous submission that hides the author’s identity from reviewers. More recently we have introduced a limited form of “triple blind” reviewing which hides the author’s identity from the executive editor to the point where he/she decides to assign the paper to a handling editor. Why not simply make everything triple blind and have done with it? I don’t rule out our doing that eventually but we see problems arising where editors don’t know the author’s name; several of our editors have had the experience of receiving their own papers for review from other journals and editorial expertise can help avoid seeking referees who were the authors’ supervisor or who might be antagonistic. But we did feel that at the first stage there was a good case for author anonymity. The executive editor does desk-reject a small but significant number of papers, generally on the grounds that the paper is not suited to the interdisciplinary ambitions of the journal, and making that decision is not helped by knowledge of the author’s identity.
A very inflexible system would be a hinderance but the editors now have access to Wiley’s tools and guidance on peer review best practice, and a team able to reconfigure things so we can meet the expectations of authors. There’s also guidance for us on the increasingly important issue of publication ethics
The other digital side of our operation is online publishing, which makes the journal so much more readily available. I am thinking not only of electronic issues of the journal which have been available for some time; perhaps the biggest change for authors that we have made is to go to Wiley’s “Early View” online publishing system which allows us to publish articles and reviews well ahead of their scheduled issue. Before this, an author could expect to wait a year from acceptance to publication. With a big push this year we now have almost everything that is accepted either online or in production. With Early View and no backlog we expect to be able to publish a paper within two months of acceptance; often it will be significantly quicker. Papers on Early View have a publication date, a DOI, and appear there exactly as they will appear in the issue. They can be cited as published from the day they go up.
Finally, the emphasis on digital publishing means that we are now planning to expand a little the number of papers that appear in a year. We are getting more good papers and, with the mechanics of editorial review less burdensome, we have a bit more time to deal with them. We will also be seeing a new category of invited papers on topics we think it would be helpful for people across the disciplines to a get an oversight of: relatively short pieces by scholars mostly starting to make a name for themselves in their area.