On editors, pre-arranged and otherwise

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has an interesting manuscript submission process.

Apart from allowing NAS members to "contribute" a paper from their own lab that they've gotten peer-reviewed themselves, there is a curious distinction for more normal submissions.

The pre-arranged editor track permits you to find a PNAS editor before you submit it. Presumably a friendly editor.

In the best case it is similar to a pre-submission inquiry practiced formally or informally at the GlamourMags. In the worst case, an end run around "pure" peer-review via the Insider's Club.

(The end run being as benign as simply avoiding the desk-reject and as pernicious as getting a gamed peer-review.)

But is this any different from other journals? GlamourEditors require some buttering up. They brag in unguarded moments about how much they've "worked with" the authors to make the paper awesome. So many of those papers end up functionally identical to having a pre-arranged editor who has agreed to handle the manuscript.

In pedestrian-journal land, one can easily go Editor hunting. If a host of journals sort-of fit, and the IFs are indistinguishable, then it behooves the authors to seek a journal with a friendly Associate Editor. And to ask for that person in the many submission systems that permit such requests.

So really, how does the PNAS system really differ?

In fact, you might see that as being more honest and transparent.

9 responses so far

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Totally agree. I just wish that my hand-picked PNAS editors had actually shown some favoritism! Both times I pre-arranged, I had to take the papers to other (good) journals to get them published.

    😛

  • Bashir says:

    I suppose some editor selection can go on anywhere. I thought I recalled PNAS having some issue with a paper not really going out for review and having to be retracted. Essentially a member giving a friend a vanity pub. Gave the impression that members could put things in with minimal review (not to say that it they all did). Maybe I am misremembering, it was 5 - 10 years ago, something to do with plants? I'm drawing a blank.

  • JJ says:

    I tried the pre-arranged edidtor once... But the papers are first sent to the editorial board to see if they are glamour enough for PNAS... My paper was rejected before getting to the pre-arranged editor...

  • Pinko Punko says:

    The anti-global warming crowd likes to use this one to directly suggest that PNAS papers are not peer-reviewed for buddy editors and contributions. People don't seem to mention that all reviews are handled through the main editorial office, so even for Contributions, reviews have to be sent in to the office, and the will get looked at. I think PNAS probably does a decent job.

  • @Pinko
    It's been getting better with the recent removal of the ability of members to submit things on behalf of their non-member friends. While I'm sure that most of the complaints by the anti-global warming crowd are just politics, there have been real cases of nonsense getting published there thanks to a friendly Academy member, such as Donald Williamson's unsupported work on the origin of the caterpillar/butterfly by hybridization between worms and insects -- apparently just because the late member Lynn Margulis loved any theory involving symbiosis and hybridization and made sure it got published.

    But DM's point is while PNAS has long been viewed skeptically but much the same thing goes on in the glamour mags -- even openly. The 1953 Watson and Crick paper wasn't peer reviewed -- their friendly Nobel Laureate friend Sir Lawrence Bragg told the editor of Nature to publish it right away, so he did. Of course, that was a real groundbreaking discovery, but we only know that in hindsight.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    The real scandals have generally been associated with crazy (usually) old (usually) men and women who are NAS members directly communicating garbage: Pauling, Duesberg, Margulis.

  • usud says:

    PNAS is a marketing bulletin, not a scientific journal.

  • Nilanjana says:

    Two more names to be added to the list of old men favouring their buddies are eugene Nester and Roger Beachy who keep on assisting one of their Indian buddies to publish papers in PNAS that get rejected from much lower impact factor journals even having IF 5

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