An Author Unsuccessfully Crawling Out of the Review Process

The Author

As indicated below, Steve Kachelmeier, Senior Editor of The Accounting Review, will be joining us for a Round Table discussion on Wednesday, August 19th at 11am ET.

For preparation, I would strongly recommend that you take a look at this fascinating (and very easy-reading) essay by former editor of the American Economic Review, Preston McAffee, entitled Edifying Editing.

I was particularly interested to read about McAffee’s innovative approaches to the problem of multiple-round reviews and the increasing tendency of reviewers to write the paper they want the author to write, rather than simply acting as a reviewer:

Gradually, like a lobster in a pot slowly warming to a boil, we have transformed the business of refereeing from the evaluation of contributions with a little grammatical help into an elaborate system of glacier-paced anonymous co-authorship. This system, of course, encourages authors to submit papers crafted not for publication but to survive the revision process. Why fix an issue when referees are going to force a rewrite of a paper anyway.

His solution?  A “no revisions” option.

The no revisions option is a commitment by the journal to say “yes or no” to a submission, hence preventing the endless rounds of revision common at other journals and at EI itself. No revisions is an option for the author, not a requirement. I implemented no revisions when I assumed editorship in July 2007. About 20% of the papers are now submitted under this option.

Would accountants ever embrace this idea?

There are also some wonderful observations on the life of an editor and on the types of authors an editor encounters.  Here is just one example:

There are authors who attempt to annoy the editor. I’m not sure why they consider this to be a good strategy. I attempt to be unfailingly professional in my journal dealings, as this is what I seek in editors handling my work. Back when I had a journal assistant (everything is electronic now), I asked her to impose a “24 hour cooling off period” whenever I seemed to write something emotional or unprofessional. I still write and delay sending even now, if I feel at all peevish or irritated.

Authors, in their attempt to irritate the editor, will ask “Have you even read my paper?” This is a more subtle question than it first appears, for there is an elastic meaning of the word ‘read.’ The amount of time necessary to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a paper is not suitable for a journal ranges from a few minutes – the paper’s own summary of its findings are incomprehensible or not ambitious – to many hours. One of the effects of experience as an editor is that the amount of time spent on the bottom half of the papers goes to about zero (except for the desk rejections, which get a bit more), and most of the time is devoted to those papers that are close to the acceptable versus unacceptable line.

If you were never quite clear on why so many papers are repetitive — the introduction and the conclusion say the same things — take a look at this:

A surprising number of papers provide no meaningful conclusion. I consider these papers to be fatally incomplete. I have seen one that had a heading “Conclusion” with only one sentence: “See the introduction.” Opinions vary but I consider a serious conclusion section to be essential. After going through the body of the paper – usually very hard work – it is time to get a payoff, which is delivered in the conclusion. The difference between an introduction – in which one motivates a problem and summarizes the findings – and a conclusion is that the reader has actually gone through the body of the paper at the point where they encounter the conclusion. Thus, the kinds of points you can make are different. If, after finishing the body of the paper, you really have nothing more to say, it is not clear why anyone wants to read the paper. The conclusion should be more than just a summary of the paper.

What is your favorite part?  (Theorists, note that he says that ‘all kooks are theorists’, but he doesn’t say all theorists are kooks.)