EJIL and its sister publication, I-CON are peer-reviewed journals. This is a counter-cultural posture in an age which celebrates, for some very good reasons (and some less admirable), the freedom that self-publication on the internet provides. Our own very successful Blog, EJILTalk!, is an example of a highly interesting and useful form of self-publication and I-CONnect will be launched soon. There are surely others like ours. SSRN is a more ambiguous example, but even there, there are some diamonds in the rough, if you have the patience to do some heavy-duty prospecting and sifting. Be that as it may, SSRN is not just part of contemporary academic culture; it is a defining part, both reflective and constitutive.
There is a place, we maintain, for discernment in publication, including external referents. There are some weeks where the (electronic) mailman (in the form of ScholarOne) sends my way one or even more articles per day for both EJIL and I-CON. We need to select, not simply because the economy of a journal dictates such, but because we try to give our readers a certain guarantee of quality, even excellence. We know, too, that in many countries, publication in a selective, peer-reviewed journal plays an important role in appointment, promotion and tenure.
At the heart of such a system is, indeed, peer review. This institution is in serious crisis, which is evident in the functioning of both journals. I have discussed the issue with other Editors in other journals and the situation is the same elsewhere. I am, thus, taking the extraordinary step of publishing a similar editorial in both EJIL and I-CON.
At EJIL (and I-CON) we try to practise double-blind peer review: in principle, the reviewer should not know the identity of the author, and the author, obviously, is not privy to the identity of the reviewer. The double-blind principle is not always achievable. We do not have the resources to scour each and every article that goes out to review and excise from it all tell-tale signs, notably footnotes of the ‘see-my-treatment in…’. Some authors have a distinct voice which is impossible to conceal. And, as I explained in greater length in an earlier Editorial (‘Demystifying the EJIL Selection and Editorial Process’, at 22 EJIL (2011)), since we like each piece we publish to have had critical scrutiny by at least two sets of eyes, oftentimes one of the peers is myself; obviously I am aware of the identity of the author. In that case the double-blind principle will apply only to one of the reviews.
We give considerable thought to the selection of ‘peers’. We look for people who have expertise in the field and whose own publications meet our yardstick of excellence. We make liberal use of our own Scientific Advisory Board and Members of the Editorial Board. But given the volume and diversity of submissions we receive, even after our in-house screening which reduces the numbers considerably, we need to venture outside and turn to the legal academic community at large.
Why crisis? Read the rest of this entry…