The Role of the Journal Editor

[This week’s blog post is from AuthorAID community member Richard de Grijs, a professor at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, China. Richard has published many articles in international journals and is a scientific editor of The Astrophysical Journal]

I have been a scientific editor of one of the main journals in my field for a number of years. It's very exciting to see many good papers get published after one or more rounds of revision.
Occasionally, however, we receive unexpected responses from authors whose articles have been criticized by expert reviewers. I recently received from an author a message that surprised me a little; the author fumed that he would respond to the reviewer's comments after "dealing with [his] anger".
This message made me pause for a moment. I had the impression that this author thought that the referee was "out to get him" and that I had simply forwarded the message without considering it.
However, that is not what the editorial process is about. Our aim is to help authors improve their papers to reach an acceptable scientific standard. Of course, this process should be complete within a reasonable number of iterations.
Decisions on suitability for publication are made by the editorial team and not by reviewers. Reviewers' contributions are indispensable and greatly appreciated, but they are only advisory. Editors are independent assessors; they may agree with criticism raised by reviewers, or they may instead be convinced by an author's counterarguments.
We try to ensure that members of our editorial team don't have a stake in the articles they handle (after all, we are members of the community whose papers we consider) to avoid any semblance of conflicts of interest.
So, next time you receive a critical report, please don't blame the messenger.

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