Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effect

Peer-review revisited. The last journals’ scandals effectLately there have been some scandals regarding some low quality academic publications or fraud involving several journals, an issue that is not new and that is affecting the current model of journals and peer-review system. So much so that The Economist has written an interesting and intricate article on this subject (How science goes wrong), in which scolds the industry, coming to say that:

  1. Peer-review system is not enough to guarantee the quality of research
  2. It is important that research results can be replicated, and in many cases have not been made by tech firms, because data were allegedly manipulated.
  3. Also blames journals, which may be selecting the more sensational or interesting articles for their readers.

To solve this problem it raises fairly complex ideas, difficult to implement in practice from my point of view for all fields of knowledge, such as including a system of post-publication evaluation, or even registering the research protocols, so it can be monitored and trial data can be tested and inspected.

Currently, publish in journals is an elephant pregnancy, 22 months: once the draft research is ready, it must be passes to a paper format, with the following peers and co-authors revisions; then you have to choose the right journal; adjust the paper to its specific format and translate  it to the proper language, if necessary; then you have to send it to the journal, which usually have up to 90% of rejections, and take up to a year to be re-reviewed and eventually accepted.

Therefore, I think that complicate the process would be counterproductive, but I agree that something certainly should be done because this system gives rise to errors and fraud, which could lead to a slower advance of science and humanity.

As a researcher in finance, it comes to my mind the implementation of corporate governance practices but applied to academic journals and research (Journal Governance), which is somehow already being done. The prevailing logic would be that journal practices are aligned with each other, as well as with the academic environment in which they operate.

(It will continue.)

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Where do journals go to find articles and authors?

Lately there are many places in internet proliferating with calls for papers in different social networks and web pages. That makes sense, since it is a method traditionally used in academia for collecting research journal articles and conference presentations.

A call for paper is usually distributed using a mailing list or on specialized online services, trying journals to target as much professors and researchers as possible:

  • Direct mailing with their own databases, either of published authors or authors who have submitted rejected articles, which should be a lot in some academic journals, though not necessarily happy.
  • Use data from their subscribers and readers. Many of them are usually professors or researchers.
  • Another source is directly the Universities and Faculties, through the secretaries or heads of departments, but it takes time to find and update the data.
  • It is also common now to communicate the call for papers on social networks such as Linkedin or on specialized websites, as WikiCFP.

At the end it turns out to be like going hunting journals, there are thousands of call for papers that come to your e-mail and many web pages where to go, and eventually as always you have to analyze each journal: its indexation and field of knowledge. That is, the difficult part is that your current scientific paper or research has to match with the need of a specific journal.

Apart from the call for papers, other tool journals have to find content and authors is writing in their editorials or webpages their interests or content sought for the future. An author may read it and try to meet this need writing something for the journal. I tried but it is not easy to design or research something on a determined topic in the short term.

The ultimate method is Gaudeamus, an online community of scholars (professor, researchers and journal editors) with the common goal of getting research published in journals; giving authors the opportunity to communicate directly with editors seeking quality content for their journals. Because, at the end, publishing papers is not only about searching databases and call for papers, it is also about networking with journal editors.

Authors, what do you do when looking for journals to publish your articles?

Journal Editors, where are you going to look for authors and quality papers?

Where do journals go to find articles and authors?

Connecting journals and papers, researchers and editors

Best practices for peer reviewers

Best practices for peer reviewers

What is the matter with some reviewers? I understand that it is an uncomfortable job as it is not remunerated, it takes time to do it well and we are such a perfect scholars… So I think some guidelines are needed , it is our game:

  1. Integrity. Do a good review, spend time and care on it.
  2. Know your journal. Read the notes for authors, familiarize with the articles it publishes, look for its citation indexes, all these will help you to set the standards for the review.
  3. Align with the editor to set the quality criteria of your reviews. Editors usually need content for their journals, if you are too strict maybe you are not valid to them.
  4. There are many more options than accepted / rejected. You can leave it open for the author to improve it, without throwing it back completely. Leave the decision to the editor, there are still another reviewer. Sometimes the material is good but you have to help authors to adapt the paper to the journal’s editorial line.
  5. Be constructive with your comments. Think a bit of the author, who has devoted time and has tried to contribute to knowledge, it could be yours in the future. Use the journal form for reviews, it will make you easier the task of revision.
  6. Accept the articles which you feel able to review, though you should accept some papers a bit beyond your area of ​​expertise and knowledge. Editors usually have trouble finding reviewers, if you only circunscribes to your specific field, neither you are you going to learn nor you are going to make the life easier to the editor.
  7. Confidenciality of information. Do not consult nor send to anyone the paper you are reviewing, especially to a professional who does not know anything about peer review or research. If it’s something you do not know, you can ask or investigate, but YOU have been requested to do it, stop thinking much about it, contribute as far as you can and full stop.
  8. Time management. If editors see that you are a good and efficient reviewer, you will be used a lot. So reviewing 1 or 2 articles every two months is fine, it keeps you fit: you read about your research field, you learn about paper structuring, you gain knowledge of journals’ procedures and you build relationships with editors for the future.
  9. Conflict of interest. If you’re not comfortable with the review task, either you think you know the author or it is a subject far beyond your knowledge, you have several options: withdraw as a reviewer, have deft touch or work harder on the review; it will depend on your level of compromise with the journal.
  10. Be agile. There is no reason to take 4 to 6 weeks to review a paper, do it within the next week. Spend a couple of hours at most (one to read and take notes, and another to do the review, with time in between to let your little brain to assimilate it).

In conclusion: easy, peer! Take it as a learning experience, a way to build yor network and an obligation to stay updated in your reserach field. If you are not a reviewer, sorry for your academic and publishing career!

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