FYI: I (Jeremy Fox) am on leave until July 1 and unavailable for reviews (UPDATED)

Public service announcement: I’m on leave until July 1. I’m working on a book. I’m not doing any reviews during this time. I’m announcing this here in the hopes that it’s an efficient way to alert lots of editors. I don’t like having to reply individually to every review request I get if I’m just going to decline them all. And it’s a pain to have to log into every journal’s editorial manager system and change my availability status.

Posts will continue as usual-ish, because I’ll be trying to use the blog to help me write the book. But I might be posting a bit less.

UPDATE: Since this came up in the comments, I should note that no, I’m not shirking my obligations to the peer review system by taking a 6-month break from reviewing. As I’ve written in the past, I believe each of us has an obligation to do at least as many reviews as we receive (unless you can’t do so due to lack of sufficient invitations to review). Since starting my postdoc, I’ve always done more than 2 reviews for every ms I submit or co-author (counting rejected and resubmitted mss as new ones, obviously), and in any given calendar year the ratio is usually more like 3:1 or 4:1. I’m going to return to that practice after my sabbatical. So I think it’s fine for me to submit a few papers in the next 6 months without doing any reviews, because on a longer-term basis I’m fulfilling my professional obligations to the “peer review commons”.

11 thoughts on “FYI: I (Jeremy Fox) am on leave until July 1 and unavailable for reviews (UPDATED)

    • Over any given 12-24 month period, I do more than two reviews for every paper I submit as an author or co-author. But over shorter periods, such as the next months, I may not achieve that standard, just due to the vagaries of things like when my review requests happen to come in and when my submissions happen to go out. If you like, for the next 6 months you can think of me as living off “accumulated credit”, since for years I’ve been doing 3-4 reviews for every paper I submit or co-author. Or, if you prefer, you can think of me as going into temporary debt that I will make up once my sabbatical ends. Since after it ends I will once again do more reviews than my papers receive and so will quickly work off the debt.

      I believe everyone has a professional obligation to review in appropriate proportion to how much you submit. In the past I’ve proposed a reform to ensure that everyone lives up to this obligation (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/do-individual-ecologists-review-in-proportion-to-how-much-they-submit/). And I’ve co-authored a paper compiling and analyzing data on what fraction of ecologists live up to this obligation (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/do-individual-ecologists-review-in-proportion-to-how-much-they-submit/). I also track all the review requests I receive and my response to them, and periodically share the data publicly: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/whos-asked-me-to-review-and-how-ive-responded/. (To be clear, I don’t have any expectation that everyone or even anyone else should share data on how often they review. Just noting that I do it.)

    • Something I’ve been wondering about lately: are there other forms of service where we put precise numbers on how much to do? It’s relatively straightforward with reviewing because you can measure how many papers you submit and how many reviews they get. And, for reviewing, should major service in one area potentially offset some of the reviewing a person “should” do? Are there some people who are review service specialists, doing much more reviewing than needed to offset their pubs but not doing a lot of other service? One example I’ve wondered about (in terms of how people think about how much reviewing someone should do): would a department chair who gets some papers submitted from her lab while chair be excused from some reviewing in light of the major service work of being chair? I think the answer should be “yes”, but don’t know what others think.

      Part of why I was thinking about this was in terms of thinking about how different people do different forms of service (some doing much more service overall than others), but that I never hear that factor into discussions of how much reviewing someone should do. Just piggy backing my random musings on a somewhat related comment here.

      • Whether or to what extent one form of service (or service to one group) “compensates for not doing a different form of service (or not serving a different group) is an interesting question. I’d say yes, but only up to a point. For instance, somebody at your university has to sit on the graduate admissions committee (or whatever). It’s not ok if everybody in the department says “sorry, can’t sit on that committee, I do a ton of reviewing”. I think the ideal is that any institution or group has a diverse mix of people with different skills, interests, and likes, so that there’s a reasonable chance that somebody who’d be good at whatever job needs doing–reviewing paper X, sitting on departmental committee Y, serving as an officer in society Z–is willing and able to do it.

        The trade-offs between different forms of service are easier to make if you’re trading off different forms of service to the same group or institution. For instance, for several years I’ve organized my department’s EEB seminar series. I like doing it, and it lets me argue that I shouldn’t have to serve on [name of committee I wouldn’t enjoy] instead. (aside: I do of course serve on some committees.)

        Owen Petchey, Lindsey Haddon, and I briefly noted this in our old paper on how much reviewing BES reviewers do relative to how much they submit. We noted in passing that there could be many reasons why someone submits a lot but doesn’t review much, many of them legitimate.

        Extending the random musing even further off topic, this kind of gets back to your post on “saying yes” and how we don’t all have to “say yes” to the same things. I confess I don’t like it when somebody who’s “said yes” to something criticizes others for not saying yes to that same thing (e.g., criticizing other scientists for not taking a public stance on political issue X) Without having any idea what other things other people may have “said yes” to instead.

        This came up as well in my old post on what should ecology students learn less of. You see opinions all the time that future ecologists need to know more of X, and criticisms of people who teach future ecologists for not teaching them more of X. But nobody ever seems to say what ecology students should learn less of, to free up time for them to learn more of X.

        Trade-offs and opportunity costs are ubiquitous, and you hardly ever know enough about the marginal benefits, marginal costs, and constraints somebody else is working under to be in a position to criticize the personal choices they’ve made.

        Plus, people say yes to different services at different times. Even from the narrow perspective of “somebody’s got to do all this reviewing!” I’m totally fine with somebody who does more reviewing early in their career and then dials back when they become department chair or something. Indeed, this is pretty standard practice for many forms of service. Brand new asst. profs shouldn’t have to teach much or sit on a bunch of committees, so they can focus on setting up their labs. The job of dept. head/chair should fall on someone senior. Etc.

  1. On the off chance any publishers follow this blog, wouldn’t it be nice if each person could have one account for all the journals affiliated with a given system (e.g., Manuscript Central)? That way you could file a single unavailability notice for multiple journals.

    I hope the writing goes well!

  2. “I don’t like having to reply individually to every review request I get if I’m just going to decline them all.”

    Please do, and have a stock answer on hand that you can copy and paste that recommends advanced students and other early-career scientists for the review.  Anyone with a “name” gets overloaded by requests, but for junior researchers, getting into the peer review game is important. It can be advantageous for improving their writing, editors remember careful and thoughtful reviewers, and editors know lots of people. This is important for networking and if nothing else, an icebreaker at conferences and source of enjoyable conversations.

    In my ire at this post, I just did a little background checking and was pleased to see that you have avoided a practice that many advisors use to compound the review imbalance problem: serving as corresponding authors on paper with their student as first authors. In doing so, the first author remains invisible in the reviewer database, and the good professors (corresponding author) gets flagged for even more review requests. I see this over and over, and kudos to Jeremy for not perpetuating the problem.

    “And it’s a pain to have to log into every journal’s editorial manager system and change my availability status.”

    Indeed. Even within ecology there are hundreds of journals, but from what I can tell, just 3 editorial manager systems in use by the thousands of scholarly journals: ScholarOne’s ManuscriptCentral (e.g. Wiley-Blackwell titles), Editorial Manager (e.g., PLoS, MacSpringer), and Elsevier’s EES.  Each is promoting or even requiring ORCID identifiers to keep authors and reviewers straight.  So why can’t Jeremy enter his non-availability once into Manuscript Central, and (with opt-in permission) it would show across all journals handled through the system? Oikos, the ESA family of journals, Freshwater Biology, Ecology Letters, E&E, Insect Conservation and Diversity, Ecography, and 100+ other titles. ORCID is supposed to facilitate this but so far it’s just yet another number to keep track of and yet another field to get past in order to submit.  The Scholarly Kitchen rant  “The Manuscript Submission Mess” and its 59 comments (some from publishers trying to ‘splain why pain is gain) is a good read for editorial manager sufferers.

    And best wishes with the writing!

    • Thanks for your comments. I’m now glad I updated the post to make clear my stance on this.

      “have a stock answer on hand that you can copy and paste that recommends advanced students and other early-career scientists for the review. ”

      Unfortunately, that’s not possible for me because I get asked to review a wide range of stuff, for a wide range of reasons. So I couldn’t have a stock answer prepared as to whom the editor should ask for a review instead of me. I’d recommend different people depending on the topic of the ms. I’ve no idea whether I’m unusual in the range of mss I’m asked to review.

      • Sigh. Well I presume you will at least put your original post in the body of your out-of-office message. At least at ScholarOne, replies go directly to the editor and they can use your bounce back to change your invitation to declined instead of pending. All editors expect and understand some declines, but the invitation that goes unresponded to for days or weeks is particularly aggravating. Good editors try to focus invitations narrowly to recent authors on the same or closely related topic. They don’t want to shotgun review requests, yet move manuscripts along for authors promptly. So please try to take a few seconds to click decline so the editor can move on. (This comment surely isn’t pertinent to present company or situation, but hope not to perpetuate the suggestion that simply ignoring those tedious review requests as if they were sales pitches is OK. Many AEs are human and have their work to attend to.)

        Another peeve with the editorial manager systems is that, just with availabilities, they should be able to show overall reviewer load within their system. As it is, if I get miffed at Dr. Selfish who has declined every invitation, if I saw that that s/he has reviewed 15 times for other journals in the last year, and has 2 before them now, that would dramatically change my views of Dr. Notso Selfish.
        *And I think also the case with Editorial Manager (e.g., PLoS, Am. Naturalist, Freshwater Science, Hydrobiologia, Elementa) replies go to the editor. With EES, I’ve never seen any indication that email replies go to any human, much less back the requesting editor. (True? Any AEs for Elsevier journals ever read this blog?

      • Oh, I still reply individually and promptly to every review invite I get; I never just ignore them. I just don’t like having to do so. And if the editor’s a personal friend, I usually send them a personal email as well to say sorry, can’t do it, here’s why.

        No idea re: the inner workings of the various ms handling systems. Back when I was an editor at Oikos, we didn’t use one, and then later had our own homemade one. I left the Oikos board before they started using their current ms handling system.

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