Reviewing for Growth

I believe that PRIMUS has a very supportive review and editorial process, perhaps even distinctively supportive, and I wanted to reflect briefly on how and why.

First, what do I mean by supportive? As an editor, I regularly get notes about how thoughtful and helpful the reviewers’ comments were for authors, and the journal is full of examples of authors adding acknowledgements about how the feedback helped them strengthen their ideas. This stands in contrast with the tale of a paper getting contorted into some form of Frankenstein’s Monster in order to appease Reviewer #2.

A tweet using Wordle as a metaphor for revising a paper that starts off with good elements but ends with none.

And as an author, I open feedback from PRIMUS knowing that it will be constructive, even when I disagree with a reviewer about a few points. Frankly, I’ve had a handful of nasty reviews from submissions to other publications. More than that, I kind of dread opening feedback on a submission, even when I expect it to be mostly positive, because the feedback is often more about the reviewer’s perspective than the piece of writing. Anonymous evaluation is not a great tool because it often centers an inscrutable version of the status quo without dialog and hence resists new ideas.

During a recent PRIMUS board meeting, I made a connection between how I think about editorial work and teaching. It feels to me that at PRIMUS, our review process is about helping authors find one of the best versions of their paper, just like in our teaching, feedback helps our students find an improved version of their thinking. Put another way, I think we’re in the business of helping ideas become great rather than in evaluating and gate-keeping ideas that come to us good enough.

So I want to thank the folks who review for PRIMUS. As we know from teaching, giving significant and actionable constructive feedback is hard work. We should pay reviewers for this labor. For now, let me say that your efforts are appreciated, and they make being an Editor with PRIMUS a joyful responsibility.

1 thought on “Reviewing for Growth

  1. Sounds like family at PRIMUS. It is good to have constructive responses in reviews, be they acceptance, modification requests, or rejection. As Founding Editor I always felt if someone took the time to write up their ideas and submit them they deserved respect and careful review. Glad to see the Brian tradition keeps on.

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