On civil critique: reviewing for JAIS
I recently received a savage review of an article I co-wrote and submitted to a journal that referred to the submitted article as sounding like it was written by a “charlatan attorney” and that referred to parts of the article as “absurd” and as “gibberish.” It compared the argumentation to that in “freshman-level term papers,” and recommended that the author, who is “seriously out of his/her element with this topic … refrain from venturing into areas that exceed his/her professional competence.” –Robert J. Sternberg Many scholars, ourselves among them, can relate to the opening quote. While many, if not most, reviews are politely composed with helpful suggestions, the reviews we tend to remember are the ones that hurt us, that seem to attack us, that feel as though they discredit not just the specific work but our professional competency. Rarely, one hopes, will that have been the reviewer’s intention, but their words can be painful to bear. They also set a norm for the language of reviews that others may follow. Worse, they may discourage us from even trying to improve our own work. Yet most reviewers have received no training and little instruction. Nor will they get much, if any, credit from their institutions for reviewing and are themselves under huge pressure. Reviewing is something they are therefore doing as a service to the field and they are understandably unhappy when they find themselves reviewing a paper that they feel was prematurely submitted. With many of our major journals and large conferences experiencing annual growth in submissions, moreover, the demand for reviews is ever increasing. And with journal reviews, this may mean committing to several rounds of review on the same paper. So, how are reviewers to cope with the pressure of performing many reviews while at the same time providing high-quality reviews? In this editorial, we attempt to address this question. We provide our thoughts on what constitutes a review of high quality, offer suggestions for managing multiple rounds of review, and make recommendations for coping with the pressures of review requests.
Online Publication Date