Issue 10, 2010-06-22

Editorial Introduction: The Code4Lib Journal Experiment, Rejection Rates, and Peer Review

Code4Lib Journal has been a successful experiment. With success, questions have arisen about the scholarly nature and status of the Journal. In this editorial introduction we take a look at the question of Code4Lib Journal’s rejections rates and peer review status.

by Edward M. Corrado
Coordinating Editor, Issue 10

Welcome to Issue 10 of Code4Lib Journal. When Code4Lib Journal was first discussed a number of years ago, I thought it was unlikely it would ever come to fruition (even if I was among the first group of people to discuss the possibility during a breakout session at the first Code4Lib conference in February 2006). It took almost two years years after the Journal was first discussed before Issue 1 was published in late December 2007, with Jonathan Rochkind serving as coordinating editor. Those of us who read Code4Lib Journal owe Jonathan a great deal of debt. While many of us talked about creating a journal, in the Code4Lib way, Jonathan decided to do something about it; He oversaw the formation of an Editorial Committee, became our first coordinating editor, and put Code4Lib Journal on the track to become what it is today.

The Code4Lib Journal Experiment

In his Editorial Introduction to Issue 1, Jonathan described Code4Lib Journal as an experiment [1]. Code4Lib Journal was indeed an experiment, and continues to be an experiment today. Since the beginning of 2010, we have had over 21,000 unique visitors to our journal and approximately 56,500 page views from people located in over 140 countries/territories (as defined by Google Analytics). We are receiving more and more article proposals. Articles are being cited in other journals. While Code4Lib Journal continues to be an experiment, I think it is safe to say that thus far it has been a successful experiment.

Code4Lib Journal and Journal Rankings

With this success, Code4Lib Journal’s profile has grown and questions about where the Journal fits in terms of scholarship have arisen. Being a highly-ranked prestigious journal has never been a goal of the Journal – at least not in my mind. We have always been more concerned with with being a useful resource and communication venue for the Code4Lib community than we have been about external rankings. However, with the promotion and tenure process at many academic libraries, I can appreciate why prospective authors would be concerned about this. The two most common questions I have seen in this regard relate to rejection rates and peer review status. These are difficult questions and depending on the context, are of limited, if any, usefulness when describing Code4Lib Journal.

Rejection Rates?

The Code4Lib Journal Editorial Committee has discussed rejection rates on more than one occasion. Collectively we have decided not to attempt to calculate these rates. One reason is logistical. We haven’t necessarily kept track of all rejections in the past, making it an involved process to go back retroactively to calculated the percentage of rejections. However, there is a larger reason than this. There are difficulties and disagreements about what exactly constitutes a rejection and what exactly is a submission in the context of Code4Lib Journal. There are two times in the publication process when an article is formally voted on (although this can also happen at other times as well). The first is when a proposal is submitted. The second is when the final article is being reviewed for publication. Are rejections at either stage a rejection, or only the vote on a final article? The Editorial Committee does not ask for full articles, so what exactly are we rejecting in the proposal stage? If we reject a one or two sentence proposal, should that count as a rejection? If not, should it even count as a submission? Is it a rejection if we ask an author to make changes that she does not agree with and thus decides to publish her article elsewhere? If someone sends us ten complete articles that are clearly off topic, is that ten more rejection submissions that we can use to pad our numbers?

There is another important factor to consider with Code4Lib Journal rejection rates. The Editorial Committee does everything we possibly can to not reject articles after we accept an initial proposal. While we have not published every article that made it past the proposal stage, some of the editors have gone way beyond the call of duty to work with authors to get an article to a point that we believed it was appropriate for our journal. I have seen some editors put so much work into articles published in past issues that they almost should have been listed as a coauthor. Or put another way, unlike what traditional journal ranking metrics assume, our goal is to have a really low rejection rate, not a high one.

Peer Reviewed?

“Is Code4Lib Journal a peer reviewed journal?” is another difficult question to answer. According to Code4Lib Journal guidelines, “We will generally use an editorial process, not a blind peer review process.” [2] Code4Lib Journal obviously doesn’t follow a traditional double-blind peer review process. However, according to Merriam-Webster, peer review is defined as “a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field.” [3] While I haven’t researched other journals, I think it is a fair assumption that the articles published in Code4Lib Journal have had as many, if not more, “experts in the appropriate field” reviewing them compared to articles published in other library and information science (LIS) journals. Anecdotal evidence from some members of the Code4Lib Journal Editorial Committee who have published in other peer reviewed LIS journals suggest that typically there are two peer reviews and comments from the editor. An editor may also bring in a third reviewer if there are questions or disagreements about the article after receiving comments from the first two peer reviewers. This means in our experience there has been between two or three peer reviews and an editor evaluating any particular article. This is by no means conclusive, but I believe it is pretty typical of the field and perhaps true across other disciplines as well.

Code4Lib Journal currently has sixteen Editorial Committee members, fourteen of whom work on articles. While not all fourteen review every article, many articles are reviewed by over half the Editorial Committee – an Editorial Committee which is made up of experts in the field. So while Code4Lib Journal does not have a double-blind peer review process and we claim that we use an “editorial process”, our process clearly fits the dictionary definition of peer review. Will this match your institution’s definition of peer review? I can’t answer that, but you can point your promotion and tenure committee to our Process and Structure Web page [4] for more details about our approach to journal publishing and let them decide.

Notes and Links

[1] Rochkind, Jonathan (2007). Editorial Introduction — Issue 1. Code4Lib Journal Issue 1, December 2007, Retrieved 16 June 2010 from http://journal.code4lib.org/articles/39

[2] See the “Editorial Process” section of: Process and Structure. (2010). In Code4Lib Journal. Retrieved 16 June 2010, from http://journal.code4lib.org/process-and-structure

[3] Peer review. (2010). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 19 June 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peer review

[4] Process and Structure. (2010). In Code4Lib Journal. Retrieved 16 June 2010, from http://journal.code4lib.org/process-and-structure

3 Responses to "Editorial Introduction: The Code4Lib Journal Experiment, Rejection Rates, and Peer Review"

Please leave a response below, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Jakob,

    Congratulations to the 10th Code4Lib journal! I strongly agree with your description of the rejection rates and review process.

    An addition you may want to experiment with an open proposal section and/or open submissions – but having a fairly open editorial committee is even better. Thanks to all of you :-)

  2. Laurie,

    I admit I am one of the tenure-track librarians who just found this page in a search for information for my dossier.

    Aware that the journal is not ranked and not peer-reviewed, I’m looking for qualitative information – has the journal, as a whole, received praise from prominent leaders or publications?

  3. Jodi Schneider,

    Laurie, This question received some discussion on the public listserv. That may be a good place to follow up!

Leave a Reply