While I have been Executive Editor (EE) of SPE Journal, I have typically ended the year with a brief report about the review process and overall status of the journal. The December issue, however, was largely devoted to the topic of the storage and use of CO2 in oil reservoirs, gas shale formations, coalbeds, and saline aquifers. The EE summary of that issue did not seem to be well suited for a discussion of the status of the journal. Accordingly, I would like to take the opportunity in this first issue of 2012 to give you an update.
One of the frustrations that I have heard, and that I share with authors, is the time required to obtain reviews and make an initial decision on manuscript submissions to any journal. With SPE Journal , we do want to take sufficient time to collect informed opinions about manuscripts, but reviews need to happen in a timely fashion. As an editorial team, we have made a conscious effort at timeliness and we have made significant progress in this area. The ScholarOne manuscript system has helped as well by making it easier for editors, SPE staff, and authors to track manuscripts. Last year (1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011), we averaged 99 days from submission to notification of authors of the first decision on their manuscript. The number of days in review is well under our target time of 112 days and significantly less than our time to decision a few years ago. Our goal now is to maintain times to decision of around 100 days.
The most frequent initial decision on manuscripts remains "Major Revisions." I was pleasantly surprised, however, that we did have one paper this year that was "Accept" after the first round of revisions. Actually, I had to double check everything about the paper because this outcome has occurred so rarely. Our ultimate acceptance ratio remains slightly better than 1 in 3. That is, of the 223 original submissions this year, approximately a third ultimately ended with a positive decision to publish. We do not keep such statistics, but my estimation is that the average manuscript goes through three rounds of review before being judged acceptable.
Our number of submissions this year is down somewhat from the roughly 240 per year over the past 2 years. The number of papers published in calendar year 2011 was 87, whereas in 2010 and 2009 the number of publications each year was 92 and 74, respectively. These changes do not seem to be significant. We are receiving a good number of high-quality papers for review that are ultimately being published. At this point, I should reiterate that we do not have a target for number of papers published, nor do we have a target for acceptance ratio.
An interesting trend that has continued is the submission of relatively large numbers of direct-to-peer manuscripts. These are papers that were not necessarily presented at an SPE meeting and their authors submitted them directly to SPE Journal for consideration.
Returning to the question of author satisfaction, I have advocated an author survey for some time now. I believe that it is important for authors to provide input about their happiness regarding the time needed for review, decision making, and required revision where appropriate as well as the authors’ opinions about whether the revisions requested as a part of peer review actually improved their manuscript. Authors are not associated with their responses so that they are free to give candid opinions. I am happy to say that such a survey is being implemented across the SPE journals in 2012, as it was through much of 2011. Although social science researchers have shown that the public is tired of completing surveys, I urge authors who receive invitations to provide feedback to do so. Survey results provide important hard data about author satisfaction and point out specific areas for improvement.
In closing, I hope that you enjoy this issue and its 25 manuscripts. A full spectrum of topics, from pore-level mixed wettability to history matching to well stimulation, is present.