February 02, 2004

I feel a draft...

Allan Hazlett jokingly proposes that the APA institute a draft for new PhDs, in place of the hiring system we have now. I don't think this would be such a bad idea--medical schools do something quite similar for residencies, and it seems to work fine. But I promise not to complain about the hiring system on this blog....

Where I really think this would make sense is with papers. Applying for jobs has this advantage over submitting papers to journals--you can apply for more than one job at once. When you send a paper out, you often have to wait a long time to hear back, and you have to engage in all sorts of risk-reward calculations about how prestigious a journal to send it to; not to mention that you may not know that a certain journal is filled for the next five years.

The APA (and appropriate non-American organizations) could set up a system in which papers are sent to them, they send papers to reviewers, the reviewers write up recommendation letters to send to the journal combine, journal editors can request the full text of articles that look interesting, and then the editors (or original referees) can send offers or suggestions to the author.

How 'bout it?

Allan goes straight onto the blogroll. I might try to say something about his conditionals post, if Mark Liberman hasn't already covered it.

Posted by Matt Weiner at February 2, 2004 09:03 AM

Your suggestion would, as I understand it, be tantamount to submitting the paper to all participating journals simultaneously. For some papers, this would save a great deal of time and trouble.

However, I've written several papers which I revised between submissions. The referees' report from the first submission prompted me to improve the paper. If the first submission had been a draft submission to everyone, then would there be anyplace left to send it after revision?

Also: A paper can get unfairly reviewed, and I send it someplace else without much revision. With the draft system, what can I do to get a second hearing?

Posted by: P.D. at February 2, 2004 02:56 PM

P.D.--There's meant to be an added efficiency bonus--it's as though one reviewer does the first pass for every journal, instead of each journal having its own reviewer read it once. But you're quite right that this runs the risk of multiplying the effect of an unjust review, or a premature submission.

But maybe all that would need to be done is to say--a paper can always be sent back, revised (or possibly not). Then it can get a new referee and a new opinion. We might have to enforce a waiting period to prevent people from referee-shopping by sending the same paper in over and over--but you probably wouldn't have to wait longer than it takes for one journal to reject your paper as things stand!

I should say that I'm envisioning a system where the papers that get sent to the journal combine are papers that are judged to deserve publication somewhere (possibly with revision). If the initial referee does not think the paper is worthy, the paper should be sent back with helpful comments. So rejection the first time doesn't mean every journal has passed on your paper--journals should be expected to take a second look at papers that have gone undrafted their first time through, because those were already judged to be decent papers.

Of course, this is all fantasizing--no one asked me to design a publishing system. But I can dream! Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at February 2, 2004 06:59 PM