Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Regarding Prof. Jim Steenburgh's posting "about submitting a paper"

I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Steenburgh's comments. As a reviewer, I have often felt that a manuscript that I was being asked to review was not nearly in as "ready" a state as possible. Not uncommon are manuscripts of this type with multiple authors; it seems doubtful that all of the "authors" have participated in the preparation of, or even proofread, the final submitted version.

The submission of poorly edited manuscripts or the premature submission of manuscripts can be viewed as an abuse of the peer review process. Asking reviewers - whose time is valuable - to review these manuscripts is disrespectful and ultimately destructive to the peer review process - reviewers become unenthusiastic and wary about agreeing to do reviews.

It would be desirable for MWR and the AMS to institute policies to discourage the submission of ill-prepared and poorly edited manuscripts.
An issue is that editors and reviewers are currently often unwilling to reject a manuscript, which has some scientific merit, solely on the grounds that it is poorly edited and inadequately prepared.
One possibility would be to ask editors and reviewers to identify such manuscripts. An editor, assigned such a manuscript, could return it to the authors without sending it out for review; and a reviewer, who received such a manuscript, could decline to review it on the grounds that it was not in a suitable state for submission in the first place. Such a decision or recommendation would be different from a rejection - the author(s) would be asked to submit an adequately prepared revised manuscript.

Herschel Mitchell
Editor, MWR


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