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What Should Editors Ask of Referees?

I've previously discussed how frustrating confused referee reports can be for the author, and how the system might actually be made more efficient by allowing authors to (briefly!) respond to these reports before a verdict is reached.  But I think there's a more systematic problem, in that too many referees (seemingly) base their verdicts on bad criteria, such as whether they can think of an objection to the paper. (One otherwise-brilliant philosopher once told me that he has a deliberate policy of rejecting any paper that he disagrees with!  Few would explicitly endorse this, I imagine, but many more may follow a similar rule de facto.)  So I've been wondering what steps a journal editor could feasibly take to try to counteract this.  In particular, are there particular questions that it would be worth asking referees to explicitly address in their report, that would better reveal the truth about a paper's merits?I'd be curious to hear what others come up with.  But here's an initial stab at what I think a report should ideally address:(1a) What (if anything) is interesting and original about this paper?(1b) On a scale of 1 - 10, rate how interesting you expect this paper should be to those familiar with the existing literature on the topic.(2) Are there any egregious errors or oversights that would need to be addressed before the paper was potentially publishable?(3a) How cogent are the paper's central arguments?(3b) Do you expect most [More]

What if Authors could Respond to Referee Comments?

I'm sure any academics reading this can relate to the following experience: despite one referee's glowing report, your paper is rejected on the basis of referee 2's confident "devastating objection," which in fact involves a simple misunderstanding that you could easily correct in a sentence or two, if given the chance.  But of course you are not given the chance: the top journals are overloaded with submissions, so tend to outright reject any paper that doesn't receive uniformly positive peer reviews.It's a frustrating (and frustratingly common) experience for the author.  But it also contributes to the systemic overburdening of journals, as the author now needs to (perhaps make minor tweaks and then) send their paper out to a new journal, which must find all new referees.  It would've been more efficient if the original journal could have disregarded the confused report, and just sought the one replacement referee.How could the journal know that the report was confused?  Well, suppose that before rendering their verdict on your paper, the editors invited you to (briefly!) address the referee reports, indicating any major points of disagreement, and (roughly) what changes you'd make to it if given the opportunity for revisions.  The editors would then make their final decision in light of both the referee reports and the author response.This would require substantive philosophical judgment on the part of the editors, to adjudicate the [More]

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