Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Records Management Journal, Volume 24, Issue 3
A highlight in researchers’ lives is the second they can hit the button “submit manuscript […]. And then researchers wait. And wait. And wait (#B1, p. 5).
These words, written by a fellow Editor of an Emerald journal, applies to any author submitting an article, irrespective of whether or not they consider themselves to be a “researcher”. But what happens during the waiting period? I thought it was time to devote part of this editorial to discussing the review process, given we engaged a wider range of reviewers for the submissions to our previous special issue on Big Data and Open Data and were asked by some to clarify what it involved.
The Records Management Journal, like many journals, operates a double-blind peer review system, which means that each submission is reviewed independently by two reviewers and the identity of the author(s) and the reviewers is not known to each other. It is therefore essential that authors remove all information about themselves from the submission, including any reference to previous work. The latter can be inserted later should the article be accepted.
As the Editor, I select reviewers based on the subject focus and nature of the submission. For example, a research article with a theoretical focus may best be peer reviewed by two academics/scholars, whilst a research article with a practical application or context may better be reviewed by an academic and a practitioner. A case study may be reviewed by two practitioners or a practitioner and a researcher, depending on the approach taken.
To ensure a consistent approach to the review process and to maintain the highest possible standard of quality reviews, reviewers are asked to provide a structured review covering six aspects, each one scoped via a series of questions:
Originality: Does the paper contain new and significant information adequate to justify publication?
Relationship to literature: Does the paper demonstrate an adequate understanding of the relevant literature in the field and cite an appropriate range of literature sources? Is any significant work ignored?
Methodology: Is the paper’s argument built on an appropriate base of theory, concepts or other ideas? Has the research or equivalent intellectual work on which the paper is based been well designed? Are the methods used appropriate?
Results: Are results presented clearly and analysed appropriately? Do the conclusions adequately tie together the other elements of the paper?
Implications for research, practice and/or society: Does the paper identify clearly any implications for research, practice and/or society? Does the paper bridge the gap between theory and practice? How can the research be used in practice (economic and commercial impact), in teaching, to influence public policy, in research (contributing to the body of knowledge)? What is the impact on society (influencing public attitudes and affecting quality of life)? Are these implications consistent with the findings and conclusions of the paper?
Quality of communication: Does the paper clearly express its case, measured against the technical language of the field and the expected knowledge of the journal’s readership? Has attention been paid to the clarity of expression and readability, such as sentence structure, jargon use, acronyms, etc.
At first glance it may seem that not all aspects are applicable for all submissions, in particular the methodology. However, on reflection they are all appropriate but of greater or lesser significance. Even a viewpoint or opinion piece has a methodology, in as much as it should be clear if the argument is built on theory, concepts or the author’s ideas and clear that it has been well conceived, i.e. designed. Comments may be more extensive for some aspects than others.
The final part of the review allows for overall comments for the author(s). Here, we are looking for the reviewer to summarise their assessment and highlight why the submission is of such quality that it warrants publication in the journal or, in the case of a rejection, why it does not. The majority of submissions undergo some degree of revision. This is the benefit of the peer review process. A good submission can become an excellent submission and ultimately be of more value to the journal’s readers. In these cases, it is important that the overall comments make clear what are the critical areas to address as it may be the case that comments on the six aspects above do not necessarily imply that revisions are required; they may simply be comments. It can be difficult for authors to “decipher” or interpret some reviewers’ comments.
A hastily undertaken review and/or one that is insufficiently critical is neither helpful to the author(s) or the reputation of the Records Management Journal as a high-quality publication. The best reviews are those that highlight the strengths, identify any areas for revision that would improve the quality of the submission and are constructively critical and supportive for the author. They should also be as objective as possible and not reflect only the reviewer’s own preferences or views.
As the Editor, I make the final decision to accept, reject or request revision based on the two reviews. Not surprisingly, reviewers do not always agree; they may come from different standpoints, have different perspectives. Therefore, the judgment is based on the detailed comments and their overall assessment.
Emerald has produced a useful guide for authors “How to […] survive peer review and revise your paper”, which includes an exercise to carry out a peer review[#fn1]. This is useful for anyone undertaking a review for the first time.
The number of submissions, the range of subjects and the double-blind peer review system means that we are always looking for new people to review submissions. This is not a role that the Editorial Advisory Board members can do alone. There are advantages of reviewing for the journal. If you review a submission, you get to know about the latest research and thinking before others, albeit that the author(s) are unknown. You may get new ideas, be inspired by what you review and compare practice/research/viewpoints with your own. It is also an excellent stepping stone to becoming a member of the journal’s Editorial Advisory Board. If you review a resource such as a new book, not only do you become a published author, but you also keep the book.
If you are interested in becoming a reviewer for the Records Management Journal please contact me.
We had such a wealth of submissions for the special issue on Big Data and Open Data that we could not include all of them in it. We have therefore included some which consider wider aspects of the topic in this issue.
The opening article from Olav Sataslåtten of The National Archives of Norway critically examines the Noark model requirements for electronic document and records management system in the context of an open government in Norway and access to information. He asks to what extent are transparency and openness embedded in Noark’s mandatory requirements and what that means for trust when metadata from government agencies is transferred to the country’s public electronic records system. He also highlights that metadata and the use of XML-based technology offer the potential to provide the public with access to the content of the country’s national archives, via mobile devices, apps and a portal, when the originating systems are no longer available.
Dr Joanne Evans et al. at Monash University, Melbourne, share findings from a collaborative action research project between the university and the Defence Science Technology Organisation, which explored ways of developing the data, information and records management infrastructure of its wind tunnel, used by its Flight Systems Branch, in a sustainable way. A case study of managing legacy and future research data the findings should be of interest to other scientific research contexts faced with similar research data challenges.
Dr Valerie Johnson et al. at The National Archives in the UK also provide a Big Data case study. In their case, they concentrate on the implications of scale, rather than on digital preservation, of extremely large volumes of data/records for future digital archives. Using a collection of World War II service records, they discuss some of the issues and practical implications of large-scale data/records retention alongside some approaches to their management. Amongst the questions they raise are:
Will technology, alongside space and cost savings in the digital context, increase the pressure to retain more records.
Will this create a “vicious circle of volume where improved capacity stimulates increased demand”? Can we manage the consequences?
The final case study is provided by Dr Anthony Cocciolo based in the School of Information and Library Science at the Pratt Institute, New York. His investigation into the challenges to born-digital archiving at a New York art museum does not only consider the technology challenges of digital preservation, but it also considers the social and cultural challenges. He concludes that the latter present the greater challenge, particularly in terms of getting staff to transfer material to a digital archive so that the technology elements of digital preservation can be implemented.
This issue also includes a selection of book reviews, some of which are from new contributors to the journal.
“How to […] survive peer review and revise your paper” which includes an exercise to carry out a peer review. http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/authors/guides/promote/review.htm
Greifeneder, E. (2013), “30 days to first decision: time span in Library Hi Tech from submission to first decision”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 5-7.