Karen Miller Russell serves as editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research. I don't use the word "serves" lightly here, especially after taking on the job of guest editor for a special issue on social media. The issue is slated for publication later this year as volume 22, issue 3. She and I are now cross-posting to both our blogs on the experience from editors' perspectives. This is a good deal for me because her blog gets a lot more readers than mine.
- Figuring the right fit. One of the articles submitted reported an outstanding piece of research, but the reviewers and I did not feel that it fit the theme of the issue well. I had to refer that one back to Karen for consideration for an open issue of JPRR (if the author(s) choose to go that route). I hated to let it go, but "fit" with the specific topic ended up being a deciding factor.
- Assuming anonymity. In one case, a reviewer saw an author’s attempt to block out a self-citation (i.e., XXXX, 2008) as an editorial oversight. When I mentioned that I thought the author had done this intentionally to preserve the blind review process, the reviewer wrote back, “I've never seen such a practice. And I don't think that would protect the anonymity. A quick Google search and I can find out.” Yet in a separate context, I've seen a JPRR reviewer complain that citing a newly in-press piece makes it too easy to identify the author. With this special issue centered around such a specific new area for scholarship, I’m certain that the contributors and reviewers are often familiar with each other’s work. As editor, I tried to avoid having anyone review another’s work if I knew the two to have a close connection. But the Google point is well taken. All three parties (authors, reviewers, and editors) have a role in trying to make the process work. Karen, this might be worth some consideration in the revised reviewing guidelines.
- Editorial overrides on deadline. One of the most conscientious and dedicated reviewers will see in print both articles that he/she recommended rejecting. On four different occasions -- two rounds of review for two different papers -- this reviewer offered meticulous critiques. Based on how long it takes me to review journal submissions, I would estimate that this reviewer invested more than a week’s worth of research productivity in this issue (or a week's worth of vacation for those of you on spring break!). And the reward? Being overridden twice. If this had been a normal journal timeline, we might have been able to let the R&R process run its course a little longer before committing a decision. (See Karen’s comment above about one person’s 'reject' being another’s 'R&R.') Anyhow, the upshot is that the two articles are much better now than they were before the process, and the issue is stronger because of that.