The Review of Higher Ed has taken the unprecedented decision to suspend consideration of manuscripts due to a backlog of accepted manuscripts that need to be published over the next couple of years. The supposed reason? They are having a hard time finding reviewers (see here and here).
A simple thought experiment shows why this is false.
Suppose the situation with reviewers suddenly grew so terrible that it took 10 years for each manuscript to make it through the review process to the point where the editors could make a decision. In the meantime, no manuscripts would get a thumbs up for publication due to the long timeline, and Pike would eventually run out of accepted manuscripts. He would then announce that the journal was temporarily suspending publication due to a lack of manuscripts and problems finding reviewers.
A lack of reviewers causes a backlog of manuscripts to occur at the beginning of the journal review process, not the end.
Their backlog has occurred for a very simple reason: Pike and his associate editors have not kept their eye on the pipeline, and they accepted way too many manuscripts given pages available in the journal. I’m baffled why they don’t own up to this and say, “Sorry folks, we should have been more rigorous and rejected some of those manuscripts on the margin, rather than accept them, to keep the journal running smoothly. We seriously screwed up and we apologize, especially to junior faculty who are trying to get tenure.”
This is just Editorship 101. Over the years I had many conversations about the journal process with John Smart (longtime editor of Research in Higher Ed), and I was impressed with his constant concern about the incoming pipeline of manuscripts and pages in the journal. The primary responsibility of the editor is to maintain this balance.
Here’s another way to consider the situation: every education journal is having trouble finding reviewers. Why is the Review of Higher Ed the only one suspending submissions? (Hint: the other journals are run by editors who have their acts together.)
Unbelievably, Pike and Lee portray themselves as the victims here! Of reviewers, of all people! As someone who reviews 25+ manuscripts a year, this is galling. Pike and Lee enjoy the perks of being editors: prestige, usually course buyouts, graduate assistants, paid travel to conferences, etc. What do reviewers get? Nothing. So please don’t blame your free workforce for your lack of management skills.
Pike and Lee have really screwed up the journal, and if they had any sense of honor they would resign.
Higher education scholars should boycott reviewing for the journal until a new editorial team is in place. I just logged into their editorial system and set the dates so that I am unavailable for review for the next five years. I’ll change it when ASHE hires someone who knows what they’re doing.