Journals adapt to the new normal

Lata Gangadharan

Lionel Frost

Yves Zenou

The pandemic has put journals and their editors under pressure. We spoke to three editors in the department who are adapting their content and extending the time granted for peer-review and re-submissions.

Professor Lata Gangadharan is Chief Co-editor of Experimental Economics. Operating under Covid-19 in the last few months has been frantic, she says.

“Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic in our lifetimes, it has been difficult to think of appropriate responses," she says.

"We have made efforts along the following lines: we are planning to publish a special symposium: Symposia on Behavioral Economics of the COVID-19 Pandemic (check this out in the Events section).

"We are also providing more time to authors to re-submit their revisions and more time for the reviewers to submit peer review reports, if required. We also take into account that the decision process considers the difficulty in collecting additional lab and field data during this time," she says.

What has it been like working as an editor during this time? “It has been very frantic! Submissions at Experimental Economics have increased by 32 per cent, relative to the same time last year.

"It has however become significantly more difficult to get reviewers for the peer review process. There are also more emails from authors and reviewers who have concerns or questions about delays in their work.

These concerns are often from researchers who have caring responsibilities, says Professor Gangadharan.

"Making editorial decisions has become more complicated, as cases where you could recommend that authors collect more data as a way to address reviewer comments, is not as feasible in the current situation,” she says.

Associate Professor Lionel Frost is the editor of Australian based journal Sporting Traditions and a member of the board of Australian Economic History Review. He is also a board member of the US-based Journal of Urban History.

In his experience, the journals he edits haven’t been affected too much.

“There is a pretty solid bank of submissions. None of the journals have made any attempt to develop pandemic-related content, through special issues. I'm aware of other journals that are advising that reviews are likely to take longer with the review process, but I'm not aware of any greater than normal delay. I still need to chase up referees from time to time, but that's always been the case.

"The bigger impact has been on a book on environmental history I'm co-editing, which involves international contributors. We're running about six months behind schedule in getting the manuscript to the publisher, as authors in Europe and the US have been hit hard by lockdowns, and the closure of libraries and archives.”

What has it been like working as an editor during this time? “Like all aspects of academic and everyday life, the pandemic has changed how we do things in unprecedented ways," says Associate Professor Frost.

Apart from missing my family, colleagues, and students, the extra work in getting teaching up and running cuts in to the number of hours I have available to do research, writing, and editorial work.”

Professor Yves Zenou is currently the guest editor of a special issue of Labour Economics.

“As a result of the pandemic I have given people more time to referee papers and to authors to compete their papers. It’s important to be more lenient to understand that people have a lot of other constraints. Usually we would be tougher with deadlines. So this issue will probably take a bit longer than usual to complete,” he says.

He has never experienced a situation like this before and it has meant the editorial process is adjusted.

“I have decided to base my decision of acceptance or rejection on the paper itself and not asking for new empirical research because it’s not possible to ask authors to go back to the lab or the field during this time.”