Absolutely everything is done online these days and peer review is no different. If you’ve ever written a journal article, or been asked to review one, then you will no doubt be familiar with online submission systems.
They generally involve filling out a lengthy form, inputting a lot of information, and then attempting to persuade your manuscript files to upload. It probably won’t be surprising to hear, then, that a question all peer review administrators will have heard at some point or other is:
Wouldn’t it be easier to just email it?
Online submission systems are used for a reason (and we promise that said reason isn’t just to annoy researchers).
Tedious as it is to have to fill out all that information during submission, it is all information that we need. If you were to “just email it”, then we would simply have to go back and forth via email until all the information had been supplied. Trust us when we tell you that it is actually much quicker to just fill in the form.
With the pressure for academics and researchers to publish more and more of their research, journals are receiving more and more submissions. Online submission systems which house all the information pertaining to each individual manuscript and automatically record when reviews and revised versions come in are an invaluable tool when trying to keep up with this demand for publication.
Successful journals these days are global enterprises with Editors and Associate Editors based all over the world. Having a system where everyone can just log in and see what manuscripts are assigned to them, what stage they’re all at, and whether any action needs to be taken makes this process far easier to manage.
Yes, but surely this could all be managed on a spreadsheet?
Those of us who’ve been in this game long enough will remember the days of running journals using emails and spreadsheets. This is a perfectly reasonable system in principle, however all it takes is for one email to go astray or one piece of progress not to be recorded on the spreadsheet (easy to do, especially when working on a large journal) and the peer review process stalls. Online systems are designed to make sure that manuscripts can’t “fall through the cracks”.
The other great feature of online submission systems is that they automatically remind people when they need to be doing something. If you’ve used an online submission system as a reviewer, then you’ll no doubt have received reminders sent from the system when your comments are due to be submitted. What you may not realise is that the editorial team also receive automated notifications – a new manuscript’s been submitted and needs to be checked over, more potential reviewers need to be assigned as none of those already invited are available, a decision needs to be taken, etc.
The other (and arguably the most important) thing that the online submission systems have over spreadsheets is good old-fashioned layout. When we log into the system as administrators, we get an overview of how many manuscripts are in each stage. We can then check each stage and see how long each manuscript has been there and whether any action is overdue. We can then go into that individual manuscript and see who’s done what to move the process along and when they did it.
If that weren’t enough, the system records up to the minute information on how many submissions have been received, what the manuscript’s acceptance/rejection rate is, the geographical spread of where submissions have come from, etc.
But I’m really struggling with uploading my files and it just won’t let me submit.
Then send the Editorial Assistant an email and ask for help. Just because the majority of journals don’t accept submissions via email doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to email us. We are here to help and to do everything we can to make sure the peer review process runs smoothly – most of us are more than happy to help you submit your article, advise you how to prevent the problem from occurring in future, and even to upload your files if you’re having connection problems.
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