Vital Statistics; Time for Change – With Thanks to Guy Fiti Sinclair

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Vital Statistics

Each year we publish statistics on the state of our submissions: where submissions originated, which were accepted, and which were published in EJIL during the previous 12 months. We do this to observe and understand any changes that may be taking place in submission and publication patterns in our Journal and to keep our authors and readers informed of such.

The final selection of articles published in EJIL is determined by two principal considerations: quality is, naturally, one of these. All published articles go through our double-blind peer review process. We do not put the finger on the scale when it comes to national or geographic origin of the article, gender and other such factors. We look for excellence: articles we hope will be read, recalled, referred to and cited in years to come.

The second consideration is curatorial. EJIL is not a mere refereeing service. We publish between 40-60 articles per year. We receive anywhere between 5-10 articles per week. We receive many more excellent articles that are worthy of publication than we are able to publish, given considerations of space. Choices have to be made. Our curatorial decisions aim to produce issues of interest to a wide variety of readers, covering different areas of international law, different approaches to scholarship, and the like. EJIL Talk! is an integral part of EJIL and its coverage is part of the mix we consider. Thus, in the initial screening by the editorial office we may reject articles simply because we have published recently on the topic, or there might be something in the pipeline and other similar considerations. We also engage in some ‘agenda setting’ by initiating debates and from time to time commissioning symposia generated by our own Boards or accepting symposia proposed by others. Finding the right balance is always a delicate curatorial decision and the figures are fluid. In recent years we have privileged unsolicited articles, given the growing number and quality of submissions. In 2017 we published fewer commissioned symposia in our four issues than in previous years: unsolicited manuscripts accounted for 76 per cent of our published pages, whereas in previous years it had been around 65 per cent.

Whilst the percentage of manuscripts submitted by women authors this past year rose from 32 to 38 per cent, the percentage of accepted submissions by women dropped from 33 to 24 per cent and the figure for published articles fell slightly from 35 to 32 per cent. We believe this is a haphazard dip.

We somewhat arbitrarily divide the world into four regions for our statistical purposes: the European Union, the Council of Europe countries outside the EU (CoE), the US and Canada, and the rest of the world (RoW). We measure by country of submission rather than by nationality of author, simply because it is not possible to accurately obtain the latter information. However, we think the figures convey a fairly reliable picture of our authors and EJIL’s presence in the world. EJIL received submissions from 55 countries during 2017.

Of the total number of manuscripts submitted in 2017, 37 per cent came from the EU, 7 per cent from CoE countries, 12 per cent from the US and Canada and 44 per cent from RoW countries. As in previous years, however, a larger percentage of articles from EU countries were accepted and published: 53 and 47 per cent, respectively. So too, the US and Canada saw a larger percentage of manuscripts accepted and published, 29 and 27 per cent respectively. Fewer manuscripts from the RoW were accepted and published: 12 and 21 per cent, respectively. We will be monitoring this, too. CoE countries made up a small but stable part of accepted and published manuscripts: 6 and 5 per cent respectively.

We encourage submissions from authors outside the English-speaking world, and provide an excellent copy-editing service for all articles accepted for publication. This past year saw a small rise in the percentage of submissions from non-English-speaking countries, from 62 to 65 per cent. We saw an increase in published manuscripts from non-English-speaking countries, 47 per cent, reflecting the large increase in accepted articles in this category in the previous year. The figure for accepted articles from non-English-speaking countries was 41 per cent in 2017 so there will be a dip in published articles from non-English-speaking countries in 2018. These numbers oscillate around 50 per cent.

I have written before about my scepticism regarding Impact Factor, H-Index and the like. There are no sour grapes here: for example EJIL’s H-Index among international law journals as computed by Google Scholar places it number 3 after the American Journal of International Law and the Human Rights Quarterly, and on the William & Mary ranking for impact factor among international law peer-reviewed journals it is typically ranked similarly. My scepticism is based on the bias in the journal database from which these indices are calculated (strong North American bias), and more importantly because of the negative impact that the chase after a higher ‘impact factor’ produces on editorial policy. ‘Famous’ scholars will increase your impact factor to the detriment of the young and upcoming. ‘Sexy’ topics will have the same effect, to the detriment of the esoteric and unusual. And yet if you examine our Tables of Contents over the last quarter century you will see plenty of evidence for our commitment to young scholars and a broad range of topics. Likewise, you can improve your impact factor by simply reducing the number of articles published. Our issues grow in thickness.

The metric we pay most attention to, and which we think is relevant to our authors too, is the number of PDF downloads of EJIL articles. Our open access policy (all EJIL articles are free and accessible after one year from the date of publication) means they have become, for example, a major resource for classroom teaching. The numbers keep growing. For 2017, there were 636,000 annual downloads of EJIL articles, up 28 per cent from the previous year. We hope that despite the unavoidable necessity to be selective in what we can publish, international legal scholars will continue to submit their work for consideration by EJIL.

Time for Change: With Thanks to Guy Fiti Sinclair

Guy Fiti Sinclair joined EJIL as the Associate Editor in September 2012. He agreed to take on the position for one year. Now, after more than five years of excellent service, Guy is stepping down as Associate Editor but, thankfully for us, he will stay on as a member of our Scientific Advisory Board. For his excellent judgment and insight, his dedication and efficiency, his care to detail and towards the authors, his wit and good humour, our most sincere thanks go to Guy and we wish him every success in his academic career.

I also take this opportunity to welcome Johann Justus Vasel on board as our new Associate Editor.

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