As regular readers will know, I’m on the board of Axios Review, an independent editorial board in ecology and evolution (see old posts here and here). It’s a service that authors can use to get their papers rigorously pre-reviewed by expert reviewers chosen an independent editor, before being referred to a journal of the author’s choice. Quoting from an old post of mine:
Authors get back peer reviews, just like with a journal, along with an editorial decision as to which journals (from an author-supplied list of “targets”) the editor would recommend the ms to (following appropriate revision, if needed). Axios then forwards the ms, reviews, and recommendation to the target journal, asking them if they’d like the paper to be revised and submitted…
Axios Review has benefits for both authors and journals. For authors, the reviews improve the ms, and the referral process prevents you from wasting time by targeting a journal that’s too selective or a bad fit, saving you from unnecessary rejection and resubmission. It also prevents you from losing audience and impact by aiming too low. Journals get pre-reviewed mss that are very likely to meet their standards.
I’m posting on Axios Review again for two reasons. First, Axios Review founder Tim Vines recently updated the board on how the service is working, and on some important changes to the service. I think that information will be of interest to many of you as potential users of Axios Review, so I wanted to pass it along. Second, I used the service myself recently and wanted to share my experience.
How is Axios working?
- Axios Review is growing. We’ve handled 126 papers as of early Sept., more than last year at the same time.
- Over 120 papers that have gone through Axios Review have now been published. Here’s the full list.
- About 80% of papers referred by Axios are accepted by the target journal, approximately half of those without going through further review. Many of those papers are being targeted at, and getting accepted at, highly selective journals like Ecology Letters, Ecology, Molecular Ecology, and Evolution. At this point, pretty much every journal in ecology and evolution, including pretty much all the selective ones, welcomes referrals from Axios Review.
What are the recent changes I should know about?
- Axios Review is now non-profit. This is a recent change, it’s not yet reflected on the Axios website because the (considerable) paperwork is still being processed. Axios Review’s previous for-profit status had been a concern for some people who might otherwise have considered using the service. I confess I didn’t share that concern. In my mind, there’s a big difference between a small startup like Axios that is just trying to make enough to keep the lights on and grow into something sustainable, and, say, Springer. But whatever, that’s water under the bridge. Axios is a non-profit now, so if its previous status as a for-profit was a dealbreaker for you, you should give it another look.
- Axios Review now uses Editorial Manager to handle papers. That’s because EM has an effective system for transferring papers and reviews between journals.
What was your experience using Axios, Jeremy?
Glad you asked. 🙂 My co-authors and I went to Axios Review with a paper that we thought very highly of, that had been rejected without review by Nature and Science. I still thought highly of the work, and so wanted to continue aiming high with it so as to ensure it reached the broad audience I thought it ought to reach. But I wanted to minimize the risk of yet another rejection and resubmission. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t overrating it. Even as an experienced author, it can be hard to judge your work impartially. Particularly in this case because the paper was a departure from my usual work in some ways. So I wanted to get the sort of thorough, independent feedback that it’s hard to get except through the formal peer review process. Axios Review was just the ticket, and I’m soooo glad I used it. We got thorough, thoughtful reviews in good time, that pointed out some serious flaws in the ms, a lot of points we needed to clarify, and gave us a good independent evaluation of the interest and importance of our work. The handling editor at Axios quite rightly wasn’t willing to recommend the ms to any of our target journals. In response, we completely rewrote it, and it’s now a much better paper, which the handling editor at Axios is now prepared to recommend to any target journal on our list. The ms hasn’t been accepted for publication yet, and it’s of course still possible it will get rejected. But that’s life; there are no guarantees. Plus, if it does get rejected, we can just ask Axios Review to refer the ms to another journal on our target list. Personally, I couldn’t see routinely going to Axios Review with every paper I write. But I would totally use it again whenever I felt the need. Independent peer reviews are just so helpful, but good ones are increasingly hard to get.