Harvey and Hirshleifer (2020) highlight how current norms are for journals to often follow the “Union Heuristic” – require authors to follow all referee suggestions and all referees to sign off for a paper to be published. They argue that this heuristic may lead to (a) innovative research not being published; (b) excessive paper length; (c) wasted author effort on analyses that add little value; and (d) burdens on referees, as papers are rejected at late rounds and then have to start the process again with new referees.
Our most important responsibility as a journal is not to blindly follow the Union Heuristic ourselves. When issuing R&Rs, we will do our best to scrutinize referee suggestions carefully, and advise authors if we believe the benefit is not worth the cost. We make mistakes, and sometimes may fail to give fully clear direction. Thus, we are open to authors asking us, within a round, if a particular analysis is essential.
In addition, we are trialling the following Accelerated Review Process (“ARP”) for papers that have been reviewed at other journals. This process will apply in the following two cases:
- A paper receives an R&R at another journal. The authors resubmit the paper but are rejected at a later round due to the “union heuristic” (e.g. one referee signs off but another does not, or there is a single referee who recommends rejection because the authors did not respond to every comment). Or, the paper may be rejected due to reasons unrelated to the “union heuristic” (e.g. a referee bringing up new concerns at the second round, which should have been raised at the first round).
- A paper receives an R&R at another journal. However, the referees request substantial revisions that the authors feel would worsen the paper or have little benefit. The “union heuristic” is explicitly applied, or nothing is said which implicitly means they have to address all comments.
In these cases, authors may use the ARP. To do so, the authors should follow the following steps:
- In Step 2 of the submission process, select “New Submission” as “Type of Submission” and “R&R Elsewhere” as “Category of Submission”
- Include all referee reports and decision letters from all rounds at the last journal.
- Include the paper, which they may choose to update since the last decision, e.g. to incorporate suggestions that they believe are value-adding.
- Include a cover letter explaining which suggestions they are willing to address, and which suggestions they do think they should not address, accompanied by explanations. In simple terms, the cover letter in Case 1 is “the appeal letter you wish you could write”; in Case 2 it is “the response document you wish you could write”.
The assigned Editor will review the document, potentially seeking advice from other members of the Editorial Board, but with no external referees. The Editor can issue one of three decisions:
- Accept as is
- Revise and Resubmit
Under decision 3, the editor will explain which comments in the prior reports the authors should address, guided by the authors’ cover letter. In rare cases, the Editor may add additional suggestions but only if there is something crucial that the referees missed. The next round is up or out: the Editor will decide whether the authors have satisfactorily addressed the concerns, without external referees.
Additional details follow below:
- The ARP is valid for papers that received an R&R at the American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies and Review of Financial Studies. It is only valid for the last journal the authors submitted to. For example, if the authors were rejected at a late round at Journal A, and then submit to Journal B and are rejected, they are not eligible for the ARP using the reports from Journal A. (Of course, if they receive an R&R for Journal B, they may use the ARP with the reports from Journal B).
- The standard submission fee of €300 is required. Since no referees are involved, we hope to reach a decision within two weeks. Accordingly, there is no “fast-track” option.
- Papers rejected from the ARP may still be submitted to the RF without prejudice. It would be treated as a regular submission and handled by a new Editor who will have no knowledge of the prior correspondence.
- Sometimes authors may be rejected at the first round due to the application of the Union Heuristic (e.g. split referees). During this trial period, we are not opening up the ARP to such submissions, only to those that have received R&Rs. Authors are welcome to submit such papers as regular submissions, and include the correspondence at prior journals. The Editor will send the paper out to referees, as with any regular submission, but may consider this correspondence in his/her decision.
Harvey, Campbell R. and David Hirshleifer (2020): “Up or Out: Resetting Norms for Peer Reviewed Publishing in the Social Sciences.”