Dr Sally Gainsbury is a psychology gambling researcher at the University of Sydney, and Editor of the Taylor & Francis journal, International Gambling Studies. To ensure an efficient editorial process, Dr Gainsbury has composed an extensive guide detailing instructions for Regional Assistant Editors (RAE) on the journal’s board. This organized approach has led to very healthy peer review turnaround times and rejection rates. We asked Dr Gainsbury to share an overview of the journal’s workflow to show other editors how they can tighten their peer review process.
Something nearly every journal strives for is a quick, yet thorough, peer review turnaround. Like most things, however, it is difficult to achieve this without putting the work in beforehand. On my journal, International Gambling Studies, I created a workflow guide to support our RAE and ensure a smooth and efficient peer review process:
Initial RAE review
The first step is for RAEs (or equivalent) to review the manuscript themselves and make a decision on whether it is suitable to be sent to review, or whether a decision should be made at the editor's desk to reject the manuscript.
- At this point, it is important that any conflicts of interests are declared by the RAEs so that the Editor can assign another RAE to review the manuscript.
- The RAE is expected to consider the quality of the paper, the extent to which it will make a novel and significant contribution to the field, whether it is likely to be widely cited, whether the audience is appropriate as well as the technical merit in terms of writing and research quality. Technically good manuscripts that do not add value to the literature should be rejected.
If it is acceptable for review, the next step is for RAEs to nominate some reviewers and send out invitations. Some guidelines we have set at this stage include:
- We suggest that you select at least three reviewers from various fields; it may take more than three invitations to get this amount of reviewers to agree. Generally, having two reviewers is sufficient, but occasionally they do not return their reviews on time, or the reviews are insufficient, so having three reviewers agree to review means that you’re more likely to receive the minimum required.
- There are various tools to select reviewers, such as: keyword search, search by name (if you have someone in mind), author suggestions, and the journal’s editorial board members.
Note: If a reviewer replies directly to an invitation email, it is important to log this response within the submission system to be sure that they have access to the manuscript and do not receive further reminders to respond to this invitation.
Once the reviews are submitted, we ask the RAE to rate the review in terms of its timeliness and whether or not it is sufficient.
- This is an important step that informs the selection of future reviewers. On our system, this generates a score (out of 3) that you will see next to reviewer’s names in the database, who have previously completed reviews.
- Ideally, reviewers with a score of two or less should not be invited to review manuscripts, unless there is an appropriate reason for this.
- Scores should be completed within a week of receiving the review.
Furthermore, it is expected that the RAEs will act as a final reviewer and where relevant, and add additional comments to be passed on to the author.
- The RAE should also provide some text in relation to the reviews within the recommended decision email to the Editor, e.g. highlight the most critical comments to be addressed or provide some guidance if there are inconsistencies in the reviewer comments.
- If two sufficient reviews are received before the third one has been completed and RAEs want to make a recommendation, they should write to the remaining reviewer and indicate that they are no longer needed to save them time, but invite them to send any comments if they have commenced their review.
- On our journal, the Editor-in-Chief always make the final decision.
Note: Where the reviews are not sufficient, or where there is disagreement, an additional review may be sought. If this needs to be done in a timely manner, RAEs are encouraged to call on members of the editorial board and specifically ask for a shorter review time, e.g. two weeks.
When an editorial decision is made (i.e., accept, revisions, reject, etc.) an email is sent to the corresponding author. Immediately thereafter, we also send a de-identified copy of this decision email to the reviewers.
- This allows the reviewers to a) see the decision that was made and feel that their input actually was useful as a contribution, and b) view the feedback provided by the other reviewers.
- This is particularly useful for reviewers to understand the level of detail that is expected. This feedback is often specifically requested by reviewers, and we receive positive feedback from them for providing this.
We have changed the system so that the reviewers can access the author's response to the reviewer comments, which of course is very helpful in reviewing a revised manuscript.
- For major and minor revisions, authors are asked to make changes visible within the manuscript, e.g., through track changes.
- They are also asked to provide a detailed response to the decision letter, outlining the changes made in response to the comments provided.
- When a decision of minor revisions was made, generally, the manuscript does not have to go back to the original reviewers; however, when a decision of major review was made, the manuscript is sent back to the original reviewers if possible.
If you would like to discuss any of the details or features mentioned in this article, please get in touch with your Peer Review Systems contact, or email the PRS Helpdesk.