This two-part series (part 1 is here) focuses on the open access journal, PalArch's Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. We're talking with its managing editor, Brian Beatty (who also blogs at The Aquatic Amniote).
As a managing editor, what sort of things do you do?
As a small outfit with relatively few submissions, I find I spend most of my time requesting suggestions for reviewers from the editorial board, asking reviewers to review papers directly, and passing manuscripts and revisions back and forth between the authors and reviewers. I consider myself lucky to be able to learn so much from these contributions and from the editing and review process itself, though I must admit that it saddens me to think that there are probably plenty of people that think poorly of me because I've had to request revisions, or even reject their papers. I try to be gentle and constructive, as that's my only intention, but it never seems to be enough. I also try to be fast, even though I am a full-time professor and researcher, as well as a father of two young children, which also rarely seems to satisfy anyone. I don't mean to whine, especially because I understand why authors want things to move quickly (I do and feel the same way for my own papers).
So, ultimately, as managing editor I basically have to deal with running the whole review process, even though I have help from the editorial board. Andre Veldmeijer and Ilja Nieuwland are tremendously helpful and talented with copyediting, formatting, and reviewing, and none of this would be possible without them. That isn't to suggest that is all they do, and their roles in the board of PalArch and as editors themselves is integral to the function of the journals published by the PalArch Foundation. Recently my father passed away, and Andre and Ilja were there to back me up and shoulder some of the burden while I was otherwise occupied, and they are as much a part of of making this journal function as I am. Andre started the whole thing, and if it were not for him, the Foundation and journals would never have been possible.
Are there any "myths" about your journal that you'd like to see "busted"?
I don't know of any myths about the journal, and if you do I'd love to hear them. The only thing that comes to mind is that some people might think we have lower standards because we don't have name recognition and that we welcome topics that are not popular. Any idea about our standards being low are misguided by the perception that other journals have maintained, that by rejecting papers they are proving their importance and high standards. What goes on too often is that popularity (or shock value) often wins over good science in other journals. One can see that in the way that papers are often worded so as to convey that there is a controversy, and that their work proves some alternative viewpoint. That may be a popular way to write things up, sensationalizing science, but I like to think that PalArch's priority is publishing good science, even that which only confirms other people's work, even papers where the statistics indicate that the results are insignificant or that the controversy is not needed.
The fact is, if the science is good, then that's all that is needed. I hate to say this, because it sounds like the same way other journal brag, but we have a fairly high rejection rate. I think that's just because some people think of PalArch as the last resort, but I hope that will change. This rate isn't the result of the same cause for rejection I have witnessed for my own papers, as well as those of others, but because PalArch simply cannot save every paper from being fundamentally flawed in their structure, data, or writing. Many of the papers we have in review take longer because we actively try to help the authors improve them, but some people refuse to edit their papers and take constructive reviews seriously, but EVERY paper is sent out for review, and EVERY review is intended to be constructive and have an aim of helping the author get the paper to a publishable state. I would love it if every submission started out that way, then publication would occur more quickly, but that is rarely the case. I find it worthwhile helping authors get it there, though I fear I may be too idealistic in thinking that everyone's goals are to patiently publish strong science.
Thank you, Brian, for sharing your thoughts!