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01 May 2007


Jeff Yates

I think that non-blind peer review would improve law reviews. In considering what constitutes non-blind, we have two possibilities: (a) some journals already use a system whereby the reviewers know the author(s), but the author(s) dont know the reviewers; this is good in that there isn't a chilling effect on the reviewers, but I'm not sure if I get the upside of revealing the authors (b) a true double blind system is probably preferred, but even that is largely lost in the social sciences, since papers are routinely publicly presented by authors and posted online (e.g SSRN); and then there's the google situation. In short, while blind is better, non-blind would probably do better than the present system. I think that greater involvement of faculty in the editorial decision process might also be an improvement.

Second, simultaneous submission would be hard. We'd have to perhaps accept a "lesser" peer review process (e.g. fewer reviewers, namely 1 or 2) or a more expansive set of reviewers (lots of law review students). We might imagine a situation in which we allow for limited simultaneous submission; I think that some law reviews are working with a process similar to that. Alternatively, a review could use in-house review and then peer review at the second phase. There are a number of variations that could be explored.

Jason Czarnezki

Two queries in response to the above comments:

(1) Would non-blind peer-review marginally improve law reviews?
(2) Could a peer-review system be created that allowed for simultaneous submission?

Jeff Yates

We had a fairly interesting discussion on this issue earlier this spring when I was guesting and I suppose that my thoughts on the benefits and costs of peer review vs. law review are best set forth there. However, I'd like to touch on a couple of new topics on this matter:

A) Is peer review in the law reviews feasible for law schools? I've heard that it would be problematic (costs, time, etc.), but I'm not sure if I buy that conclusion. Seems as though law reviews have a lot of free (or low cost) labor. Also, we must assume that it wouldn't be *simultaneous* peer review submission; hence, the total N of submissions would likely be much lower. Where would the reviewers come from? I assume law profs would do this gratis as part of their professional duties. Some journals pay for this work, but not many. I assume that law students could also be brought in on certain submissions; the social sciences have no problem using grad students.

B) Some peer review journals have taken to reviewing submissions "in-house" and then culling from those submissions the ones that are deemed appropriate for peer review. I have to imagine that this cuts down on peer review costs a lot, although some of these costs are shifted to the editors who have to make an (abbreviated) justification for their decision in the letter. This obviously lends itself to potential problems, however I think that it largely simply cuts short the process that occurs anyway.

I am quite sure that I am not the only person who has received (unanimous) very positive peer reviews (explicitly recommending R&R or Accept) on a journal submission, only to have the editor overrule the vote in favor of rejection (and it's happened more than once). I think that I'd prefer to have this happen after just a week or two (which is the typical turnaround time at journals who do in-house reviews) rather than wait four months for what is essentially a determined outcome.

But I digress and need coffee - I'll be quite now (for a while).

Michael Heise

Unless the law reviews incorporate *blind* peer-review into the article selection process, I fear that problems will arise. (And while even blind peer-review is not problem-free, it would surely improve traditional law reviews.)

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