Tuesday, February 21, 2012

7 Days for 7 Journals

I submitted Sticky Slopes yesterday to about 60 of the nation's finest law journals (I'll push that number up closer to 75 as several late bloomers complete their turnover). I've already achieved the first critical milestone of any submission season -- the first rejection (here within less than 24 hours) -- so that's out of the way (and I must admire the speed at which the journal in question completed their review of my 29,000 word article. No, I won't mention who it was -- wouldn't want to embarrass them).

But I was thinking about the emergent trend we're seeing in some journals to abide by a 7-day expedite window, where they commit to giving authors at least 7 days to make a decision. The effect is to give authors a reasonable amount of time to gain expedited review from more prestigious journals. It's something authors have been clamoring for for some time as expedite windows have been shrinking to absurdly small time-frames (I've heard of 2 hour windows, and even rumors of demands to accept or reject on the phone), but one understands why the journals have been reticent.

1) It's basically giving authors greater opportunity leave them for greener pastures, and there is no clear benefit to the journals for playing nice. One could argue that it helps their reputation, but there is no real evidence that authors actually are putting their money where their mouth is and preferring journals which provide generous expedite windows.

2) Even if journals were inclined to be altruistic, there is a race to the bottom -- journals are afraid of being outcompeted by peers which play hardball.

For these reasons, most of the journals which have agreed to the 7-day window are relatively top-tier reviews that, frankly, don't see a lot of their pieces stolen by reviews higher up the chain.

One proposal I have for fixing this -- or at least partially solving the collective action portion of it, anyway -- is for journals to agree to a 7-day window, but only for expedites to journals which have themselves adopted the 7-day expedite window policy. So if the #50 ranked journal adopts this policy, it would say authors have 7 days to accept an offer from any higher ranked journal which itself provides 7 days to make a decision, so long as it agrees to withdraw from all journals which do not have that policy (or withdraw from those journals after, say, 2 days). This would encourage the journals higher up the ladder to sign on to 7-day policies, as they would be reaping concrete benefits.

Of course, these sorts of withdrawal demands may seem difficult to enforce. But it seems like deals like this happen with some regularity -- schools agree to extensions on offer windows on the condition that the author withdraw their submission from all but a few agreed-upon law reviews.

Anyway, all of this is getting ahead of myself with Sticky Slopes -- dealing with expedite chains is a problem I at the moment only dream of facing. But the policy idea seems sound to me. Thoughts?

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