Is your peer review system still worth it?
Everyone in academic publishing has been challenged by new conditions which have developed in recent years.
Whether you work for an editorial office agency, a publisher or a single society journal, increasing costs, new technologies and changing workflows have had all of us scrambling. As we settle into our new economic and dataflow realities, it is a natural step to take an honest look at all links in the chain and decide where we can and cannot make smarter choices. In this decision-making process the peer review system is often taken as a given, exempt from scrutiny, but should it be? Would your organisation benefit from taking a closer look at what you (should) have?
A fundamental necessity
For most journals, having a submission / peer review software provider is a need-to-have, non-negotiable fixed expense. Without a peer review system, any journal with more than approximately 30 submissions per year would have an administrative nightmare on their hands. Though avant-garde types of review have emerged in recent years, the majority of journals can hardly imagine doing without a peer review software system. Peer review has remained largely unchanged for over 300 years, and most of us respect that it has staying power. But could it be time to consider whether your present peer review software provider also has staying power? The state of academic publishing technology is still very much up in the air. Acquisitions, collaborations and new partnerships abound. When the pieces land, your peer review system partner must both help you operate more efficiently and be responsive to the changing demands of industry standards as well as your general workflow.
Peer review pain points differ across an organisation
Considering that last sentence, you might already realise that a change is needed. In fact, depending on where you are in the food chain of your organisation, you might have a particular issue glaring at you. If you are a decision-maker, for example, you might be running into the undeniable fact that your present provider is simply too expensive. This same provider might be difficult to communicate with or closed to input when innovation is needed to keep up with changes. There might even be exorbitant fees charged for setting up new journals. All in all it might seem this provider is more interested in their own immediate profits than working with you, their partner. Long-term if not immediate budgetary concerns are as serious as your concerns about the potential for collaboration.
A little bit further down the food chain, it might be different red flags that take centre stage. If you are a journals manager, or an editorial office administrator, you might be painfully aware of how difficult it is to reach your current provider for support, even when it comes to making small adjustments. And worse, with legacy systems, it’s usually not possible to help yourself. When you do reach someone who can assist, that assistance might only be available to you in exchange for a hefty fee. As if that weren’t enough, you might also be frustrated by the system’s laggy performance. You might generally feel you are in a daily struggle with a slow and old-fashioned platform. All in all, things just aren’t efficient. Its appearance doesn’t help. It is no fun to look at for you, but even worse for your ‘customers’ (authors and reviewers). In a larger operation, the marketing department or UX specialist might even share your woes. Slow systems that look old-fashioned do not put your best foot forward.
Ironically, concerns about the quality of your peer review software service might permeate your entire organisation, but that does not necessarily mean that anyone speaks up. If you work at decision-making level, you might be apprehensive to rock the boat. This provider might have been chosen years ago by someone still leading your company today. If you are at middle management level, you might think that it could reflect poorly on you to speak up, that your opinions will be interpreted as negativity. But bear in mind: no matter where you sit in the structure, your concerns are valid and you owe it to yourself and your organisation to share your thoughts.
Your first steps towards creating a better peer review experience
Speaking up to challenge the status quo takes courage, conviction, and preparation. First, gather your facts and do thorough research. If you work directly with the system, tally the frequency of particular challenges and explain inefficiencies. Employ graphs and charts to detail the time lost in time to publication. If your audience are colleagues who are mostly concerned with the future and the bottom line, conduct a market cost comparison or share case studies from a few competitive options. Second, analyse how best to communicate and to whom. While the chain of command is important to respect, perhaps another, more effective option is available to you. In any case consider your message, the recipient(s) and the media you use to communicate. Your perspective on using the peer review system is invaluable input from which your organisation will learn and benefit. Depending on how much of your budget goes to your peer review system provider, you might be able to impact profitability considerably by looking for alternatives.
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Manuscript Manager encourages customers and business partners to uphold high standards in peer review. Thus, we refer to the standards of DOAJ, COPE and OASPA, when considering partnerships.