The Complete EJSSM Guide for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers (PDF)
Accepting a position as an Editor carries with it great opportunity, and great responsibility. Editors have the opportunity to exercise considerable control over what does and does not appear in the journal. This means that the Editor also has the responsibility to make decisions as impartially as is humanly possible. The goal of EJSSM is to foster scientific communication and to maintain an archive of publications and subsequent communication that can serve as a resource for future generations of scientists and historians of science.
A guiding principle for EJSSM Editors should be to allow the debate to be carried on within EJSSM, rather than rejection, which renders the debate inaccessible to the larger community. Nevertheless, high scientific standards must be maintained. All EJSSM content must meet those standards. EJSSM will publish those manuscripts accepted by the Editor but will also include, with accepted publication, the substantive content of the reviews and responses by the author(s). Trivial content, such as minor grammatical and editorial suggestions and the author responses to those suggestions will be edited from the published content of the reviews and the responses, at the discretion of the Editor. Editing of the review and response content is an important responsibility of the Editor.
To accomplish this involves a commitment to high scientific standards, of course, but also to helping scientists carry on a discussion about their work. High standards are essential, but should not imply a sort of censorship for controversial ideas. The difference between plausibility and implausibility can be difficult to decide; what is plausible to one may be implausible to another. This distinction necessarily relates to the topic of choosing reviewers for submissions. A basic principle for EJSSM is that scientific standards are served well by careful choice of reviewers. If the Editor has reason to doubt the capabilities of a candidate reviewer, then that reviewer should not be chosen to do a review.
Generally speaking, if the Editor has chosen reviewers well, the recommendations from the reviewers will form the basis for the Editor’s decision. In some situations, however, the Editor may choose to decide against the majority of the reviewer’s recommendations, even to the point of deciding against all the reviewer’s recommendations. In such cases, the Editor will be expected to provide a detailed explanation for deciding against the consensus recommendations of the reviewers to all reviewers. Such decisions will be included in the online comments. Although deciding against the consensus of reviewers will be infrequent, assuming the reviewers are chosen well (see below), such a decision is well within the authority granted to the Editor. An appeals process for any of the reviewers in such a case is discussed at length in the Reviewer’s Guide. When the Editor follows the majority in making a decision about the submitted paper, a minority reviewer cannot submit an appeal when the paper is accepted. When the paper is rejected, an appeal is possible for a minority reviewer. The reason for this asymmetry is that when the paper is accepted, a minority reviewer’s comments are included as part of the publication. When the paper is rejected, the discussion about the issues is not going to be published.
One critical way in which Editors exercise control over the content of a journal is in the choice of reviewers. This aspect of the job is easiest when the topic of the paper is within the Editor’s sphere of competence. In particular, this means familiarity with who is doing work in the subfield and so would be a candidate for reviewing the manuscript. When the content of a submission departs from the Editor’s domain of expertise, the Editor should seek assistance in obtaining a list of candidate reviewers.
This assistance can include asking the author(s) of the submitted papers for reviewer recommendations, choosing possible reviewers from among the papers listed in a submission’s reference list, seeking suggestions from colleagues, consulting the EJSSM reviewer list, and consulting the EJSSM Editorial Board. In any case, at least two and preferably three reviewers should be chosen for all submissions.
EJSSM Editors may maintain, update and share a roster of potential reviewers, containing contact information and relevant specialties, in order to streamline the reviewer recruitment process and expedite timely reviews of submissions. The Editors always are open to nominations for high-quality scientific reviewers in any facet of severe storms meteorology.
Experts within the subfield of a submitted paper do not represent the only possible pool of reviewers. Some sections of the manuscript may have content that could be ably reviewed by someone not specifically working within the manuscript’s subfield. For example, a paper that includes a detailed mathematical analysis of some aspect of the topic could usefully be reviewed by a referee who has demonstrated a comprehensive capability with mathematics, even if that referee is using that capability in a different subfield. At the Editor’s discretion, any reviewer felt to be capable of contributing important information regarding the paper’s content can be chosen by the Editor, even if that reviewer is only capable of reviewing a part of the whole work. Similarly, if a reviewer is capable of providing useful reviews over most of the paper, but is not qualified to comment on some portion of the work, it is nevertheless plausible for the Editor to seek the reviewer’s recommendations even if s/he cannot review the entire content.
When a manuscript raises questions about some existing work, the authors of those papers being questioned are prime candidates for reviewers, of course. However, the Editor should be aware that such reviewers can have a vested interest in rejecting any submitted manuscript that criticizes their work. Thus, although such reviewers are obvious choices, their reviews should be carefully considered in light of what amounts to a natural human tendency to reject criticism. The Editor’s task is to make a decision about the suitability of a submitted manuscript for publication, not to decide the scientific questions considered. That is, the Editor must judge the validity of any scientific content that is critical of existing publications. If that content is based on valid scientific principles, the paper is worthy of publication, irrespective of the responses by the author(s) of papers being criticized. Having scientific debates carried on within the contents of the journal helps the whole scientific community come to their own decisions about the issues. It is not always easy to judge when the debate is a matter of opinion rather than when one party or the other has invalid arguments. In keeping with the basic principles of EJSSM, Editors are encouraged to allow publication when in doubt, rather than rejection.
Another responsibility associated with the Editor is to maintain professionalism within the sometimes heated discourse associated with publication reviews. The authors and reviewers are expected to avoid ad hominem attacks, and profane or offensive language is not permitted. The fact that the exchanges between reviewers and authors will become part of the publication should usually be enough motivation to keep the discourse on a professional, not personal, level. On those rare occasions where this breaks down, the Editor’s responsibility is to encourage a civil discussion. Since the EJSSM will not publish any content that is unprofessional, this has strong implications for any final decision by the Editor. The Editorial Board is fully supportive of the Editor’s final choices in cases involving unprofessional behavior in the interaction between reviewers and authors.
In cases where there is even the appearance of conflict of interest or partiality with respect to a particular submission, the Editor should recuse him/herself from editing that manuscript and turn over the responsibility to an Associate Editor. Examples of this include submissions of papers by: (1) current supervisors of the Editor, (2) Associate Editors, (3) authors critical of papers on which the Editor was an author or coauthor, (4) students currently or formerly advised by the Editor, (5) subordinates of the Editor, or any other cases where the impartiality of the Editor is questionable. The Editor is responsible for avoiding even the appearance of impropriety in carrying out his/her duties. Obviously, no Editor should edit a submission on which s/he is an author or coauthor.
The EJSSM has created an appeals process for the reviewers of papers, when the Editor has decided against the recommendations of the majority of reviewers. However, no such appeal process is currently envisioned for authors; the Editorial Board wishes to avoid bogging down an Editor’s duties with a torrent of appeals associated with rejected papers. Thus, when it comes to rejections, the Editorial Board fully supports the decision of the Editor when reflecting the majority recommendations by the reviewers. In the case of a rejection decision that goes against the reviewer consensus, the Editor will be submitting a detailed explanation for that decision. Only in extraordinary circumstances would the Editorial Board consider overturning an Editor’s decision.
If it can be demonstrated convincingly to the Editorial Board that an Editor has committed an impropriety, exhibited unprofessional behavior, or shown evident partiality, the Editorial Board will consider what action is necessary, from simply reminding the Editor of his/her responsibilities up to and including immediate dismissal of the Editor. Dismissal of an Editor will require a unanimous vote by the Editorial Board, but any lesser action is decided by a simple majority of the Editorial Board. All decisions of the Editorial Board in such cases are final.
The Editorial Board has recommended that reviews should be returned by the reviewers within two weeks. Candidate reviewers will be contacted before sending a submission to them, and their agreement to submit their review within the deadline set by the Editor should be obtained. If a reviewer does not agree to submit a review on or before the deadline, another candidate reviewer should be sought. The Editor’s responsibility is to hold the reviewers to that deadline. Not all eventualities can be foreseen, but if a reviewer has a mitigating circumstance come up before the deadline that would compromise that deadline, he/she will be expected to contact the Editor to obtain permission for an extension of the deadline, which should be for no more than one to two weeks. The Editor has the discretion to permit such extensions. In the event a reviewer is unable to meet the deadline, the Editor should seek another candidate reviewer immediately, imposing the shortest possible deadline on that alternative reviewer. The goal is to limit the review process routinely to less than one month, and preferably to three weeks or less.
Once the author has been forwarded the reviewer comments, it is in that author’s best interests to respond to those comments and revise the manuscript as quickly as possible. The Editor is responsible for setting a reasonable deadline for receiving the revised manuscript. If the reviews are generally favorable and include only minor suggestions, that deadline could be as short as two weeks. If major changes are required, it could be up to one to two months. Extensions to the Editor’s deadline can be granted at the Editor’s discretion to accommodate an author’s circumstances. Failure to meet the deadline will result in the author having to submit the revised paper as a new submission.