How face-to-face peer review can benefit authors and journals alike

Two editors recount their experiences of speed reviews

Speed reviews banner image July 2019
© istockphoto.com/Dmitrii_Guzhanin
Here at Elsevier, we have been running “speed reviews” with editors of a number of journals for several years now. These interactive, one-to-one sessions have become increasingly popular amongst editors and authors alike and are now more common at conferences in many different fields.
Speed reviews are individual, 15-minute meetings in which authors who have signed up in advance bring with them a manuscript and discuss its potential with an editor. They may wish to submit the paper to the editor's own journal, or perhaps they are after advice on how to improve it and where they should consider sending it. Some authors are more prepared than others, bearing printed manuscripts, a set of questions and an understanding of how the publishing process works, while others may be at an earlier stage of research and writing, simply looking for encouragement and a few pointers.
Feedback has been extremely positive in many cases, with some authors going on to submit papers to the journal they have been discussing, and others simply pleased to have met an editor in the flesh and to have had expert advice on their work!

Comments from attendees

It was an excellent experience and opportunity, the editors provided good feedback

Very informative session and great advice on how to proceed with my manuscript

Below, two editors from different subject backgrounds discuss their own recent experiences. If you would like to get involved with speed reviews, please contact your Publisher for details of upcoming events and possibilities – this can be a great way for journals to engage with their communities, and for editors and early career researchers to meet each other in a focused but enjoyable setting. Why not give it a go?!

Roman Słowiński photoRoman Słowiński is a Professor and Founding Chair of the Laboratory of Intelligent Decision Support Systems at the Institute of Computing Science, Poznań University of Technology, Poland. He is a full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and, presently, its Vice President. Since 1999, he is Coordinating Editor of the European Journal of Operational Research. His most recent speed review was at the EURO conference in Dublin, Ireland.

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Geert Leus photoGeert Leus is a professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands. His research interests lie in the broad area of signal processing for communications and networking. Geert is Editor-in-Chief of Signal Processing, one of three Eurasip journals published by Elsevier. His most recent speed review was at the ICASSP conference, Brighton, UK.

  1. Where did the idea of doing speed reviews on your journal come from?

    Roman: The editors of the European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR) have been organizing special “Meet the Editors” sessions at various conferences for more than 10 years now. At these sessions, the editors present the latest facts and statistics about EJOR and explain their editorial policy. In addition to these special sessions, the editors also participate in speed review sessions, meeting would-be authors face-to-face at the same conferences. This initiative came from the publisher and was well accepted by the editors.

  2. Do you think it is helpful to run speed reviews?

    Roman: Yes, the speed review sessions appear to be useful, as confirmed by the fact that we always seem to be booked out! This is my own experience at least. Speed reviews are useful for both authors and editors. The authors get answers to their particular questions which are, in general, of two following types: (i) “I plan to submit a paper to EJOR but I am not sure if it fits its scope and if it is of a sufficient quality to compete for publication”; (ii) “my paper that was submitted to EJOR was desk-rejected, or rejected with two positive reviews and one negative – why?”. The editors learn from the authors what is the opinion about the journal by the readers and how the authors’ academic institutions perceive the journal.

    Geert: Yes, I think it is helpful.

  3. Have you any recommendations for editors who are thinking of experimenting with speed reviews?

    speed review banner photo July 2019Roman: For the editors, it is always beneficial to be close to the authors and potential reviewers. Face-to-face meetings at conferences permit one to build a relationship that is useful for both sides. The authors may hear from the editors what they value in papers submitted to their journal, and editors may learn from the authors what kind of doubts they have when reading the editorial policy of the journal, or what experiences (good or bad) they have had with their submissions.

    Geert: Be clear about what is expected from the authors but try to avoid going into technical details. Many authors want to tell you all the details about their work but that is not the goal of such a meeting.

  4. What do you think is the most helpful aspect of doing reviews like this?

    Roman: As explained above, the presence of editors and their availability for the authors is probably perceived as evidence of their open attitude. It is also a sign that the editors are ready to advise non-experienced authors how to shape their paper before submission to the journal.

    Geert: It brings editors and authors closer to each other.

  5. Do you find it useful to be face to face with the (prospective) author?

    Roman: Definitely, yes. Being face-to-face with prospective authors means that the editor can much better assess their capacity for presenting a valuable paper than by e-mail.

    Geert: To realize the above aspect, I feel meeting face to face is more useful than meeting through email or Skype.

  6. How do would-be authors generally deal with rejection in these circumstances?

    Roman: In these circumstances, rejection can be expressed in a more constructive (i.e. softer) way. If a paper is not appropriate for EJOR for the reason of being out of scope or because of low quality, I try to suggest another journal that would be more appropriate for this particular paper.

    Geert: I usually tell them where they can submit instead or what they have to change in order to qualify. So in that sense, they are ok with the rejection since there is a solution path.

  7. Have you had any “eureka” moments when discussing a potential article in a speed review?

    Roman: Maybe not a great discovery of “eureka” type, but I have met authors  working on some very interesting problems and hesitating about making a submission to some OR journals. I was therefore able to encourage the authors to consider EJOR.

    Geert: No, not yet.

  8. Would you run speed reviews again in the future? Why or why not?

    Roman:
    I will continue to offer my availability for the authors and reviewers at the speed review session at all future OR conferences where I will be present. The sessions are building my personal network “capital” which is very valuable in my editorial work.
    Geert: Yes, I would like to do this again.

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