Meet the editors - journals unmasked

This article was written by Tom Vaughan
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In July 2020 we held our first virtual 'Meet the editors' event. This year's event was run jointly with Chatham House. 'Meet the editors', a session where attendees have the chance to ask current journal editors their questions, had become a popular feature at the annual BISA conference. Although this year's conference was cancelled due to the global health crisis, we were happy to be able to offer the event online so that upcoming scholars didn't miss a valuable opportunity.

Our speakers were:

  • Ambreena Manji - African Affairs
  • Victoria Basham - Critical Military Studies
  • Ted Newman - European Journal of International Security
  • Andrew Dorman - International Affairs
  • Emily Taylor - Journal of Cyber Policy
  • Martin Coward - Review of International Studies

You can watch the full event on our YouTube channel.

Our editors gave additional written tips via the Zoom chat which you may find useful.

On Revise and Resubmit (R&R) responses from journals:

  • If you receive an R&R for a paper see if a more experienced colleague will read it with you and mediate it for you. They can talk to you about what you need to do in the revisions. Don't put the R&R in a drawer and try to forget it. The vast majority of responses are R&Rs, it's very rare to get a shoe-in. Indeed, an R&R is an invitation to come back with a strengthened paper.
  • Sometimes you can follow all the advice and still not end up with a good article. We encourage authors to adopt a ‘comply or explain’ approach. We expect review comments to be respected, but if you feel that a minority of comments will pull your article out of shape or end up with a different article, explain your reasons for not taking it on board. This has to be done with care and restraint, but in the end your article still has to fit together in a coherent way.

On becoming a (good) peer reviewer:

  • One of the things we are really bad at as established academics is talking about what peer review is and how you do it. We all just assume everyone knows what to do. Here I benefited a lot from asking colleagues when I was an ECR to share a review with me, read mine when I had drafted it and talk to me about my reviewing. Everyone can review and everyone has some expertise but the 'how' is something we need to talk about much more. It actually deserves its own session.
  • Some journals publish advice for peer reviewers. Many reviewers come from the practitioner world and it’s a totally new experience for them!
  • Please reach out to editors if you want to review, they're always looking for good people! And if you want guidance on how to review, always ask. Journal editors often have guidance they can readily send out.
  • A newly minted PhD is certainly qualified to act as a peer reviewer. Indeed, they may often be closest to the literature. And their review will be balanced alongside two or so others.
  • Review of International Studies (RIS) sends instructions for reviewers. They are also happy to give feedback on reviews. In general, Editor Martin Coward says 'review as you would like to be reviewed'.
  • One editor often shares a paper, the reviews it had, and the revised paper in tracker. That actually helps to see clearly how a review is linked to a revision.

On special issues:


Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash