Try as hard as we may, it often takes months to get a publishing decision from EJIL. The bottleneck is, in most cases, the peer review process of which you have read my laments on more than one occasion. Let me say straight away that peer reviewing is a fundamental and immensely valuable part of journal publishing. It not only helps us in our publication decisions but our authors receive constructive comments, which enable them to improve their articles and for which they are, without exception, grateful. We, in turn, are incredibly grateful to our colleagues in the international law community who regularly or irregularly take on the somewhat thankless task of peer reviewing (though perhaps seeing a significantly improved piece in print does provide a measure of thanks).
As important and valuable as peer reviewing is, the process is often as unpredictable as the weather in spring. It might take weeks before we manage to assemble the peer reviewers (we get many refusals; and potential peer reviewers do not always reply instantly to our request) and then, as you know from your own experience, good intentions come up against the realities of academic life – one constant of which is always to be late in submitting something promised. Have you not sometimes thought that the flows of our professional life resemble managing a perennial overdraft in the bank?
We have revised our procedure in one small but critical sense which, we hope, will be welcomed by our authors. As I have explained on more than one occasion, the first step in considering a manuscript is a careful read by the ‘in-house’ editorial team, who decide whether or not the submission should be sent to peer review. As I have also explained more than once, there can be many reasons apart from quality that may underlie a decision not to send out to peer review. EJIL is a general interest IL journal and we build our issues with the aim of appealing to a wide readership. Each article we publish means the rejection of another article which could be of similar intrinsic quality. For example, we may not wish to publish in one year five articles on, say, customary law, or proportionality, or investment arbitration, even if each of the five would be of publishable quality.
Henceforth we undertake to inform our authors within six weeks of the date of submission at most, barring complications, about the screening decision. If we decline to publish, the author will then be able to submit it elsewhere in a timely fashion. If it is a positive decision the author will know that his or her submission is in the peer review process. We assure you that we do our best to expedite the process but sometimes speed is the enemy of quality, and thus we exhort a measure of patience. But that patience will be well rewarded if you publish in EJIL as your article will be read, downloaded and cited for many years to come.