From Tom Baldwin (editor, Mind)
As editor of Mind I have followed these postings with considerable dismay at the complaints about Mind’s performance. I should acknowledge at the start that things did go a bit wrong in 2006/7 when I had to complete some writing of my own in time for the 2008 RAE, and in the pressure of work I temporarily overlooked some submissions. Following that experience my editorial colleagues and I modified our system for processing submissions in 2007, and such mistakes are now much less likely to happen.
I will not attempt to explain in detail how we handle submissions to Mind (though there are no secrets about it). But, in brief, after a quick review of the prima facie suitability of the papers submitted (and most are suitable), we try to find external referees with appropriate expertise for them. That process takes time (a consideration which is not, so far as I can see, acknowledged in this series of comments). So even though we ask referees to report within two months, it is unusual for us to have a full set of reports available in less than three months, and it often takes longer. In thinking about this, it is important to recognise that, unlike many other journals, Mind does not impose a word limit, and some submissions are well over 10000 words; reading and commenting on these just does take a good deal of time. We do chase up referees whose reports are delayed; but in my experience it is very much more useful, both to the editors and ultimately to authors, to have a full report from an experienced referee, albeit a bit late, than a brief paragraph that comes in on time. I am currently considering the introduction of the quick ‘reject with no comment’ option for referees used by Nous. The advantage for authors of this option is that a (negative) verdict would come back to them promptly, hopefully within a month; the disadvantage is that the verdict would not be explained (at present most Mind authors receive substantive comments, often from two or more referees). The practical problem I foresee is that of deciding what to do where referees disagree (and they do often disagree). Nonetheless I would be interested to hear from contributors to this blog, – potential authors and referees alike – whether they would favour the introduction of this option.
I hope that these comments provide some reassurance concerning the commitment of Mind’s editorial team to dealing properly and promptly with submissions. Believe me, we do devote a great deal of time to it, including evenings and weekends (ask my wife about it!). There is still some space for papers submitted now to appear in 2010 and our procedures certainly allow for this possibility. When the data is available I will place some detailed information on the Mind website about the number of submissions to Mind and the acceptance rate during recent years.
For my part, I think Mind should go ahead and implement the ‘reject with no comment’ option (or maybe ‘reject with one sentence’).
What to do about referees disagreeing? Well, I always figured that it was nearly impossible to get a paper accepted at an elite journal unless both referees were enthusiastic about it (in cases where two referees are involved). Am I wrong about that? If I’m not wrong, then there’s no need to worry about the disagreement.
Here’s one way of implementing it. Initially ask one referee to inspect it and decide within a week whether the paper deserves a full review. Ask that ref to please review it if it does deserve it. If it doesn’t, then you have your verdict. If it does, then either trust the one ref, or if the journal thinks it’s important to get two reports, at that point ask another to give the paper a full review (with no ‘reject with no comment’ option).
Doing it that way would add at most a week to the whole process — the time given to the first ref to look it over initially. (This assumes the ref will do the job roughly within the time limit.) But it also promises to cut the review time by several months in many cases.
I also think a 10,000 word limit is more than generous, and definitely worth implementing if it makes the whole process smoother.
What do other people think?