Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Helpful Tip

[UPDATE: In response to comments below: I am fortunate that I am not relying on this piece--or another one that has been at a journal for five months--for tenure or promotion. I'm tenured and already have enough scholarship for promotion when the time comes. My point is not "woe is me, I have been wronged," but "here's something seriously wrong with the academic system." I hope to do a post in a few days about how poor performance by the keepers of major institutions is doing as much to harm and frustrate junior faculty as the state of the job market.]

Dear Editor of Relatively Respected Journal,

A. It is perfectly acceptable to reject an inappropriate article with a one-line email.

B. It is perfectly acceptable to reject an inapproriate article after a thorough review that takes five solid months. The reader's report rejecting the piece is well worth the wait.

Combining the terse reply of A with the slothful response time of B is not at all acceptable. The article so rejected is a brief note. I could translate it into Gothic, translate it from Gothic into Old Norse, translate it from Old Norse to Latin and then paint it on the side of my house in less than five months. To get only one pro forma line out of that long wait is a fairly grotesque failure of courtesy and, more importantly, intellectual responsibility. I'll bet those slothful, lazy reviewers put their reviewing duties on their vitae.

If you wonder why so many younger scholars are starting to submit articles simultaneously to multiple journals (creating headaches and strife for editors), see above.


Mike Drout

P.S.: Now I'll be sending the article off the journal where I thought it belonged in the first place.


Vaguery said...

This must be a new phenomenon, brought on by the emergence of this newfangled Internet, and "weblogging" or whatever it is they call it.

Because you never used to hear about it, before now. Except for the occasional isolated complaint at a cocktail party or a professional meeting, or an obscene exclamation in a mailroom now and then. Surely it was never so bad that there was a place one could read about an actual complaint.

So clearly it's something new.

Pity. One misses the old times, before all these delays in editorial responses had been caused by blogging. Perhaps in future, as this and the other negative consequences of academic blogging become more apparent, the problem will die back to its previous levels.

Chaser said...

I was starting to wonder if it was just me; I'm generally one of those play-by-the-rules types, and I have been really tempted to submit to more than one journal by the long wait even for acknowledgement at some journals. I never have and I never will submit something in more than one place (my field is really small) but....five months for a junior faculty to get NO meaningful reviews is really horrible.

Chaser said...

As a response to your, I wasn't referring to you as wronged, I was pointing out that for somebody in my position, 5 months to get a "sorry, wrong audience" response is a major kick in the head.

It's obvious from your description that you're tenured.

For those of us who aren't, these waits are a trial. Even when you have something in the journal pipeline, it can be a bit uncomfortable for universities that ask you for offprints or reprints to include with your yearly faculty activity report: "Umm, I have a letter that *says* the paper was accepted...."

Anyway, my apologies if my comment made you uncomfortable; I'll go back to lurkydom now.