Let Go Over this Again in Still Greater Detail
Here are more specific steps you take as Chair of the ad hoc review committee for a submission:
- Read the submission and assemble your thoughts on how the author might improve it. But don’t close your mind; wait to hear how the reviewers react to the submission.
- Check the reviewers’ progress after a few weeks from your dashboard at http://My.InformingScience.org. Give the reviewers time to complete their review, at least until a week after their target date. Anytime after that when you have at least three reasonable quality reviews, you can start to compose your Development Letter that synthesizes your thoughts and the reviewers’ thoughts for improving the current version of the submission.
- Four weeks after your initial assignment, you should have at least three useful reviews. What if you don’t? In that case, email the Editor-in-Chief (the EiC’s email address is in your assignment email) to follow up with the assigned reviewers or to appoint new reviewers should that be necessary. (Some Editors-in-Chief may ask you to email the non-responsive reviewers.) See the reviewers’ email addresses on your 4. Peer Review tab.
- When you have finished composing your development letter (after the initial reviewer target date when you have sufficient feedback from reviewers), insert the Best Practice letter template ‘Accept subject to revision’ or ‘Reject’ and add your developmental comments. You can add your Development Letter either by cut and paste into the template or, if need be, by uploading your formatted file. When you upload a file for the author, the system inserts a link (at the point where you currently have your cursor) to your uploaded file. While it is more awkward for the author to download an inserted file, you may find it more useful in communicating complex thoughts.
- The wording you use in your development letter is critical. Ensure that you write your letter with a single voice and that you share with the author practical advice for improving the paper using supportive language. To be clear, never write “reviewer 1 said this, reviewer 2 suggested that”, but instead tell the author your summary, that is what changes you recommend or require. Your development letter can use any or all of the suggestions your review board provided you as chair of the ad hoc review board. You can even use a reviewer’s exact wording, should you wish, since you are writing as chair of the committee. At other times, you will need to rephrase the views of the reviewers. It is important that comments from different reviewers do not contradict each other. A significant aspect of being an editor is synthesizing and determining the most appropriate comments or suggestions to be included.
- Good development letters include positive comments about what the author did well. When you criticize, criticize the paper, not the author; but it is fine to praise the author. Phrases like “Your paper will be even better by doing this or that” expresses encouragement. Make your comments clear and as detailed as possible, giving examples. You are serving as the coach, not the referee. See the sample development letter in Appendix B.
- When you click on the submit button, the system sends your recommendation and comments (the template with your Development Letter pasted in) to the Editor-in-Chief for quality assurance review. After reviewing it, the EiC ‘submits’ your letter, and the system emails a copy of it to the author.
- If the decision is to ‘reject’ the paper, the process stops here. An ‘accept subject to revisions’ decision requires further action as indicated in your development letter. The next section describes the next steps.
Two Features for You: The paper’s Activity Log and the paper’s Notes for EiC and Editor towards the top of the screen (Figure 5).
- The system keeps an activity log for each paper that records all decisions and communications made through the dialogue box. You can review all this activity by clicking on the paper’s Activity Log.
- Use the Notes feature to post comments related to the Development Letter and the review process. If you have a private email conversation with the author, put a copy in the Notes, or perhaps just important paragraphs. These notes are shared only with the EiC or Associate EiC.
Figure 9. The activity log and the Notes features (notes for a paper are seen only by the Editor and the EiC)