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“No Revision” Journal Policy – Thoughts?

- August 29, 2012

Here’s something for all of you political scientists who suddenly have extra time on your hands today to ponder. The journal Economic Inquiry has adopted a “no revisions” option when you submit papers to the journal. Here’s how the process works:

Under this policy, an author can submit under a ‘no revisions’ policy. This policy means exactly what it says: if you submit under no revisions, I (or the co-editor) will either accept or reject. What will not happen is a request for a revision.

The editors and co-editors will ask referees: ‘is it better for Economic Inquiry to publish the paper as is, versus reject it, and why or why not?’ This policy returns referees to their role of evaluator. There will still be anonymous reports. Authors who receive an acceptance would have the option of publishing without changes. If a referee noticed a minor problem and put it in the report, self-respecting authors would fix the problem. But such fixes would not be a condition of publication.

The justification given for the option is that:

Journal time to publication lags has become embarrassing. Many authors have 5 year submission-to-print stories. More insidious, in my view, is the gradual morphing of the referees from evaluators to anonymous co-authors. Referees request increasingly extensive revisions. Usually these represent improvements, but the process takes a lot of time and effort, and the end result is often worse owing to its committee-design. Authors, knowing referees will make them rewrite the paper, are sometimes sloppy with the submission. This feedback loop – submitting a sloppy paper since referees will require rewriting combined with a need to fix all the sloppiness – has led to our current misery. Moreover, the expectation that referees will rewrite papers, combined with sloppy submissions, makes refereeing extraordinarily unpleasant. We – the efficiency-obsessed academic discipline – have the least efficient publication process. The system is broken.

I’m interested in what readers think of this policy. Is this an option you would like to see in political science journals as well?