[Coral-List] Editor bias in peer review

Edwin Cruz-Rivera edwin.cruzrivera at uvi.edu
Fri May 19 12:11:23 EDT 2017

Dear all,

   I apologize for the cross listing. We are trying to cover as broad a canvas as possible:

In the past years, journals have increased the responsibilities of editors-in-chief to the point that they have become gatekeepers of their publications. The bottom line is that papers get sent out to peer reviewers only when editors say so, if they deem the article to be "of broad enough interest" to their readers.

Clearly, there is a spectacular number of problems with this (though we do not seem to talk about them). For one, systematic bias can be introduced in a multitude of ways: what terrestrial researchers consider "hot topics" of "general interest" may not be the same as what freshwater or marine ones do. I keep glancing at the plant-herbivore interactions literature seeing how marine papers often cites terrestrial works, but not the other way around..

After talking to several colleagues, it seems that the trend is "I (insert editors name)  don't think this is of general interest but it is really good, so I recommend you submit your manuscript to this journal of also general interest (open access journal from our publisher that costs you thousands of dollars to publish in)." This, frankly, seems like a dishonest practice; if it is good enough for one general ecology journal it should be for another. Have we exchanged fashion for quality? We want to know your opinion.

We would like to compile data on the frequency of such cases. Our hypothesis is that the definition of "general interest" or "worthy of peer review" in ecology is completely arbitrary and we will be designing an experiment to test this, but we would like to establish a baseline by asking for cases in which authors have felt their papers have been rejected out of bias rather than merit. In order to narrow the field, it will be important to have articles that were published in journals after "broader" journals rejected them without peer review.

Your responses will be kept confidential,


Dr. Edwin Cruz-Rivera
Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
University of the Virgin Islands
#2 John Brewers Bay
St. Thomas 00802
Tel: 1-340-693-1235
Fax: 1-340-693-1385

"It is not the same to hear the devil as to see him coming your way"
(Puerto Rican proverb)

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