Monday, June 05, 2006

Marcuse's rules for journal editors: Speech be free, be it agree with me!!

From the FREAKONOMICS blog (excerpt):

Your editor is deeply distressed by the style of the TSSM. In particular, consider the following incident: Several weeks ago, I encountered a thin-skinned scholar, who was driving in his car as I walked to my own car in a parking lot. Apparently unimpressed by the writings of Miss Manners, this scholar opened his car window, loudly and repeatedly declared strong views about the composition of my head and the phylum in which I should be classified, and rapidly drove his car so close to me that it did, on the third such maneuver, brush against my pants. I wonder still, is this thin-skinned scholar just a talented and kind-hearted stunt-driver with unusual ideas about parking? Or does he reveal true malice, a will to evoke fear and a willingness to use his car to damage a pedestrian? These are questions that I cannot answer. But answers are suggested by his emailed statement (with copies to others) that he would be pleased to see my body lifeless and in pieces. More to the point, these are questions that no editor should have to consider. This thinskinned scholar has wasted great volumes of an editor’s time and effort, reviled the editor in numerous hostile email letters (with copies sent to a variety of others), delayed publication of Sociological Methodology, wasted hours of time by talented and highly-paid lawyers, and badly strained relations between an editor who sought to uphold the principles under which scholarly journals are published, and the ASA executive officer, who sought to save the ASA the expense and trouble of a lawsuit by an enraged scholar.


I did have one incident so far as Editor, of Public Choice. I had turned down a paper, with perhaps more of a flourish than was required. I suggested, without sending the paper out for review, that the paper was so far beneath the standards of the journal that no reviewers' time should be wasted. It was just worthless.

Inexplicably (perhaps because the author was cited by someone else, a fecund setting for finding new referees?)(*), three weeks later I asked THIS SAME ABUSED AUTHOR if s/he would review a paper for PUBLIC CHOICE.

Abused author replied, in hurt but humorous terms: "Is there not a contradiction in the claim that my paper was so bad it could not be reviewed, followed by an invitation for me to review the papers of OTHERS? I would be flattered, if I were not simply confused." Yes, well, bother. I apologized, and pledged not to trouble the aggreived amore.

*In which case, NOT inexplicably, since this would be an explicabation.

(thanks to JAR, who is thick-skinned. thank goodness.)


Chris A said...


I enjoyed your amusing anecdote. It left me with a question though. Journal A is the top journal in the field. Journal B is a second tier journal. How does the journal editor ensure the best is published in journal A? Does he:

1) Pick only those reviewers who are at the top of the field?

2) Instruct the reviewers that Journal A is the top journal in x and therefore manuscripts should only be reviewed in that light?

3) A combination of 1 and 2?

Relatedly, I assume a reviewer is sometimes asked to review a manuscript for both Journal A and Journal B. Does that reviewer use different criteria? I.E. the reviewer says to the editor that the manuscript isn't acceptable for Journal A. Manuscript Rejected. Then, the author sends the manuscript to Journal B. Editor of Journal B sends it to the same revewer. Would the same reviewer decide that "this manuscript is acceptable for Journal B"? even though it wasn't for Journal A?

Finally, at the end of this "post a comment" page it says "Publish Your Comment". Is there a similar button on the Public Choice website?!



Dirty Davey said...

As a journal editor, what would you do if a reviewer returned an article with no comments except for a sketch of a skull and crossbones?

Generic said...

this is one of the best posts that I’ve ever seen; you may include some more ideas in the same theme. I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post.

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