Peer Review Best Practices Part II: Reject without External Review

By Jennifer Stephenson, Peer Review Specialist, SAGE US

Photo by Gflores on en.wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Gflores on en.wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

To follow up on an earlier post on best practices for inviting peer reviewers and in an effort to discuss ways to enhance the efficiency of the peer review process, I am focusing this post on the initial editorial review of a new submission – the first step of the review process that takes place after the author submits their manuscript. When a manuscript is first submitted to a journal, it should be evaluated by the editor to determine whether it fits within the aims and scope of the journal.  This is an integral component of the review process, ensuring that manuscripts accepted for publication fall within the focus and goals of the journal. If the manuscript is not a good fit, the editor proceeds to reject without conducting an external peer review of the manuscript.  When evaluating this part of the review process of a journal article, I’ve found that the practice of rejecting a manuscript without external review can result in considerable benefits for all participants in the review process – author, reviewer, and editor(s).

For the editor(s) and administrators of a journal, developing a comprehensive practice of rejecting without external review significantly reduces the amount of time spent on administrative processing of the manuscript and searching for external reviewers.  This will decrease the workload of over-burdened editors and allow them to redirect that time to other editorial matters.  Additionally, because this process eliminates a substantial amount of time the manuscript would otherwise have spent in review, authors receive decisions quicker, enabling them to submit the manuscript to a more appropriate journal.  The practice also ensures that reviewers’ time is not spent on a manuscript that would eventually be rejected due to the manuscript’s incompatibility with the journal’s aims and scope.  Reducing the burden on reviewers and utilizing their time for more appropriate manuscripts eases reviewer fatigue and enhance the efficiency of peer review.

When journals in a given discipline employ the practice of rejecting a manuscript without external review, the manuscripts can be reviewed and given consideration for the most appropriate publications at a quicker pace, while creating a more efficient peer review system in which reviewers are utilized in the most effective manner.

Look out for future posts as I continue to discuss peer review best practice topics throughout the year.

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