In the SPE Journal Executive Summary for September 2010, I wrote about metrics to assess the health and vitality of a journal. I noted that SPE actively measures journal reader satisfaction but does not question authors about their experiences with publishing, for instance, in SPE Journal. I am happy to report some progress on this front. The Executive Editors of the various SPE journals agreed that an author survey made sense. Thanks to Glenda Smith, SPE's senior manager for technical publications, a draft survey has been prepared. I expect that the survey will be implemented sometime later this year. It is likely that the corresponding author will be asked to give us their opinion during the final review of article proofs that occurs just before publication. Authors will not be associated with their responses, so they are free to give candid opinions. Survey results will provide important hard data about author satisfaction regarding the time needed for review, decision making, and revision where appropriate, as well as the authors' opinions about whether the revisions requested as a part of peer review actually improved their manuscript. Hence, a high degree of participation by authors is important for an accurate assessment.
An interesting question resulted from discussion with the other Executive Editors. I will use SPE Journalstatistics to illustrate. The most common decision rendered on a manuscript is "major revisions." Our ultimate acceptance ratio (i.e., following revisions) last year was a little better than one-third. Conversely, two-thirds of those who hoped for their work to be published in SPE Journal received a negative decision. What is the opinion of these authors about peer review? Some manuscripts go through a round of revision and reevaluation and are ultimately declined. Clearly, authors with a negative decision are not likely to be as pleased as authors whose work was ultimately accepted. It was felt that authors whose work ultimately met with a negative decision also had valuable perspectives to share. It is worthwhile to solicit their opinions about the reviews their works received, the decision process, and the timeliness of a decision for their manuscript.
Accordingly, we are defining appropriate questions that get to the heart of the quality and timeliness of reviews for the authors of declined papers. We are also struggling with the nature of the timing of the survey. It seems to be a poor idea to say in a decision letter, "Your work was rejected, but please complete this survey now to give us your opinion." It also appears to me that it will be more difficult to get a significant response rate from this segment of authors. Obtaining representative data may be a struggle. If anyone has ideas to share in this regard, I would be happy to receive an email from you.
Because I brought up the topic of acceptance ratio, I would like to remind you that we have no target for acceptance ratio. While we do have a target to make initial decisions promptly, there is no quota for the number of articles accepted and appearing in print.
I will close by saying that I hope that you enjoy this month’s issue, in which we have 20 papers for your consideration.