LINGUIST List 15.204

Tue Jan 20 2004

Disc: Re: Blind Peer Review

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Joseph Tomei, Blind Peer Review
  2. Kleanthes Grohmann, Disc: New: Blind Peer Review

Message 1: Blind Peer Review

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004 18:34:30 +0900
From: Joseph Tomei <>
Subject: Blind Peer Review

While not directly related to the discussion about blind peer review, 
list members may be interested in reading this article on the economics 
of journal pricing which discusses the growing sector of electronic 

I would also point to Geoff Pullum's article "Stalking the Perfect 
Journal" which suggests the publication of the referees who accepted 
the article. While this doesn't address Ron Sheen's point of the 
problem with the rejection of manuscripts, it does provide a number of 
advantages that Pullum lists. The article is included in _The Great 
Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax_ (1991, Chicago)

joe tomei
Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku
Department of Foreign Languages
Oe 2 chome, 5-1, Kumamoto 862-8680 JAPAN
(81) (0)96-364-5161 x1410
fax (81) (0)96-372-0702
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Message 2: Disc: New: Blind Peer Review

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004 09:06:56 +0200
From: Kleanthes Grohmann <>
Subject: Disc: New: Blind Peer Review

Martin Haspelmath < > (LINGUIST 15.182) followed
up on Ronald Sheen's < > announcement of a new
website regarding blind peer review (LINGUIST 15.118).

One sentence struck me as especially worth discussing in the open:

> [...] I find it very worrying that some of the most prestigious
> journals in linguistics reportedly take between 6 and 12 months
> to get reports from two or three reviewers, even though these
> reviewers are asked to send their reviews within eight weeks. 

What's even worse is that the same reviewers use the name of "some of
the most prestigious journals" for CV purposes. So, out in the world
of job hunting or trying to make one's mark, we read of linguists
"serving" as reviewers for the field's leading journals -- when in
fact more often than not the deadlines laid out by the editor(s) are
excessively violated. Not much service there.

And for whatever reasons, journal editors in turn don't seem to have
the balls to then take the consequences and dismiss the reviewer of
his or her job. Rather than pulling the reviewer out and asking a more
reliable colleague to do the job, they even come back to the slow
reviewers and ask for more jobs to be delayed. Is there a shortage of
high-caliber reviewers? Could we maybe train our graduate students
earlier to do reviews professionally so that when a reviewer, for
whatever reasons, can't get the job done, the editor can draw from an
ever-growing list of volunteers? (On my bringing in the editor, it
must be said, perhaps in fairness to some reviewers, that here too
we're dealing with some fast ones who are on top of their submissions
and some slower, less concerned editors who tend to let things flow.)

Why, also, don't take reviewers a more conscientious approach to this
task -- don't they ever send submissions out, with the hope to get
them published? Or is it enough these days to jot down the line on the
CV that such and such paper is going "to appear," no matter when, thus
satisfying the university's (or whoever else's) pressure to publish? I
would assume that many scholars do actually have something to say in
their papers. Then why is everyone happy getting these results out in
the open one, two, sometimes three or more years after submission?
Perhaps because often people make their papers available on their
website, or they send them electronically to friends and favourites,
to long lists of recipients. But in that case, why have "prestigious
journals" to begin with? Journals, which Martin reminds us, are often
quite expensive.

Martin also suggests:

> [...] It would be good to know in general which journals are the
> fastest and which are the slowest in evaluating submissions [...]

In fact, some (though not too many) journals include a little "date
stamp" with their articles, informing the reader when the submission
was received and when it was accepted for publication. It is not
uncommon to see a few years difference between receipt and actual
publication (the famous "backlog" editors often complain about rightly
also plays a role, of course). Maybe there is a group of people out
there interested in tracking down these numbers systematically, also
for those journals that don't publish the date stamp. Maybe someone is
doing this already. Are there any thoughts on this? A result of such a
study would very quickly show which journals are fast and which ones
are slow. (A compounding factor is of course "favourable publication"
where not every submission is treated equally -- while we may have a
hunch of which of the "most prestigious journals" may be faster than
others, it's probably also relatively easy to pick out at least some
instances of such favourable publications, which would blur the

On a personal note and as an honest reclaimer, I have been on all
sides that I highlighted above, so neither am I an angel nor do I
carry a(n ir)rational grudge against any journal, editor, reviewer, or


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