Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pre-Submission Peer Review to Reduce Journal Costs

In these difficult economic times, it would be wise for scholarly journals to seek means of reducing costs, for several reasons. First, the budgets of many library customers will be adversely affected by the economic situation. Happily, there are ways to reduce costs, so that scholarly publishers could reduce prices and minimize potential cancellations with little or no impact on revenue. This post is the first in a series on efficiencies in scholarly publishing, examining the potential of pre-submission peer review as a means of reducing the work involved in copyediting and coordination of peer review.

Pre-Submission Peer Review

Please note that this is a suggested addition to traditional blind post-submission peer review, not a replacement. The idea is to encourage authors to arrange for colleagues to review their papers even before they submit their papers for publication. While this will not eliminate the need for subsequent peer review, it should improve the quality of work received by a journal, reducing the subsequent workload for copyeditors and peer reviewers. Anecdotally, I have seen some evidence suggesting that this works; as a reviewer and editor I have seen works that the author had reviewed before submission which needed almost no work. I have asked colleagues to review my work before submission, and have reviewed works for others before submission, so that I have seen firsthand the improvement in quality with pre-submission peer review. An author who submitted a preprint to arXiv, told me that they found that taking into account the comments on the preprint resulted in a submission that needed little work in the review stage. This would be a good topic to research.

A journal might benefit from pre-submission peer review from procedures as simple as posting information on the journal website encouraging the practice, or perhaps asking a question on the submission form. A stronger form of encouragement would be to prioritize pre-reviewed works for processing, or to write to authors whose articles are obviously in need of such assistance, suggesting that they consider pre-submission peer review on a voluntary basis.

While open access is a completely separate topic from publishing reform, these kinds of efficiencies will help a smooth transition to open access. This post is the first in a series on Essential Efficiencies.