Should we boycott journals that use bullying tactics to speed up their review process?

This morning, the 26th March, I received an email from a journal for which I had agreed to referee a paper.

I should add that this is one of those journals that asks you to return your review within ONE week and if you accept and click on their little calendar you find that the longest you can delay the return date is to a generous (!) ten days. As an Editor myself, and knowing how difficult it is to get referees at the best of times, I, against my better judgement, agreed to review the paper, but did say in my return email, that three weeks was a better time frame. I was thus somewhat surprised, a mere three days after accepting the invitation, to get this email from the Editorial Office.

You will note that they totally ignored my request for extra time

If you were an old softie like me, always willing to see the best in everyone, you might call this passive-aggressive behaviour, but really, I think you can construe this as bullying, especially, if, unlike me, you are new to the reviewing game. I was very tempted to reply saying that I had changed my mind and wasn’t going to review the paper after all.  I had, however, read the paper and made my preliminary notes, so despite my anger, they will get a review from me this time, but I have vowed to turn down all future invitations from this particular journal.

Given that Steve Heard thinks that the fastest review time an author should expect is seven, yes SEVEN weeks, then, by golly, asking a reviewer to do it in one week is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  Yes, we don’t want to return to those days in the 1980s, when I once waited 18 months for a decision from the Journal of Applied Ecology, but there are limits, and one week, is as far as I am concerned, taking the mickey.  I know from personal experience, that as journal Editors we are under pressure, (unduly so I think), from our publishers to improve our turnaround time, for example, the four journal with which I am involved, ask reviewers to return their reports within three weeks, but I am always happy to extend this if asked*, but I will say this again, one week is just not on!

 

I don’t often do polls, but here we go.

 

Finally, as an Editor, can I just add two pleas; first, if asked by a journal to review a paper, please reply promptly, even if it is to say no; second, if you do agree to review a paper, please either return by the stipulated date, or ask for an extension.  We will, and I am sure I speak for the majority of Editors, be happy to oblige.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Bugbears, Science writing

One response to “Should we boycott journals that use bullying tactics to speed up their review process?

  1. And the cherry on the cake is the use of “Guest Editors”. Essentially free labour.
    Personally, I think 3-4 weeks is reasonable. A couple of times I have asked for a short extension because of unexpected extra work I had to do, so I needed a bit more time to review the manuscript. Editors were understanding and granted the extension.
    I fully agree with your post. Thanks for sharing your experience and I hope that now that we have to work from home, you’re not expected to produce and review even more papers, as if we suddenly had so much more spare time now… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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