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Friday, November 30, 2012

Expresso Makes Life Easier for Law Review Editors. How about for Writers?

I wonder if many of you got the same email I did earlier from Jean-Gabriel Bankier over at bepress. I've reprinted most of it below and after the jump. Please feel free to weigh in with comments on whether these are positive developments for everybody or just some of the players in the submission game.

Working with the editors, bepress came up with a host of improvements to ExpressO which will radically improve the submission management experience for editors and give editors confidence that the information about the status of articles in their submission queue is up-to-date.

Here are a just a few of the highlights that are coming for the next submission season:

Integrated Auto-withdraw—when an author accepts an offer to be published through ExpressO, editors of other law reviews will be notified immediately and the submission will be automatically withdrawn from each law review's priority submission queue. Outside of being published, when an author simply withdraws their paper, it will also trigger the automatic withdraw from the pending submissions queue as well as notify the assigned editor.  

Expedite Preferences— editors will be able to set expedite preferences and share those preferences with submitting authors. For example, editors can inform authors that they will give priority to expedite requests from peer law reviews (editor creates list of peers but the list is not shared with the authors). They can also avoid wasting time on articles that have asked for a hundred or more expedite review requests: they do so by choosing a ceiling and then give priority to expedite requests that are distributed to no more than a ceiling number of law reviews simultaneously. Editors will be able to update their preferences at any time depending upon whether they are looking to slate lots of pieces or are pretty much full for the season.

Priority Submission Queue—ExpressO will be introducing many new features to help keep submission queues accurate and up-to-date. Editors will be notified (by email) only of expedite requests that meet their preferences based upon the criteria they have set and shared with authors. A priority submission queue will filter out articles that fail to meet the law review’s set expedite criteria. Also, authors and editors with expiring expedites will be reminded to take action. Authors will be reminded to expedite a new offer/offer extension or withdraw the article. Editors will be reminded to review the submission.   

Certified Expedite Requests—editors will be able to easily confirm the legitimacy of an expedite request. If an author has an open offer from another law review using ExpressO, that offer will be reflected in the editors’ priority submission queue. This kind of transparency will save editors time since they will no longer have to follow up with authors on incomplete expedite requests  or with other law reviews to confirm the offer.

Closed Communication After Rejections—when a law review rejects a submission the author will no longer be able to communicate with that review through ExpressO. 

Fast—our submission management software for law reviews will be substantially faster.

Bepress is proud of the impact ExpressO has had on the legal publishing over the past 10 years, and is dedicated to providing new tools to increase efficiency in law review submission management. Please contact me if you have any questions. I would love to hear any suggestions for what we might do in the future to help law reviews.

Finally, these tools you will need to manage your submissions will be free in 2013.

 

Posted by Dan Markel on November 30, 2012 at 10:27 PM in Article Spotlight, Blogging | Permalink

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The biggest risk with these features are usability and bugs. For example, I've received mistaken rejections -- rejection emails quickly followed up by "whoops, wrong email, we meant to acknowledge your submission." But if that first rejection locks communications with the law review ...

I'm sure the folks at BePress have anticipated and tested for many of these interactions and failure modes. But I wouldn't be surprised if there are others, and the end result is that some law reviews don't look at articles they would have wanted to.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Nov 30, 2012 10:48:23 PM

I don't think the biggest risk is bugs. Rather, it seems that the biggest effect is that Expresso has decided to enact a significant change in the rules of the law review game, namely by imposing a de facto cap on the number of expedites. This might set a new market norm, in which case everyone will adjust. But it might fail, if authors use Scholastica or old-fashioned email to avoid the cap. This is a huge gamble for Expresso because it is in a natural monopoly industry with strong network effects (authors generally want to use the service with the largest pool of journals, and journals generally want to use the service that has the largest pool of authors). Natural monopolies are great when you are the top dog, but they also mean that a seemingly trivial mistake can end up completely and irrevocably destroying your business, because when they unravel, they unravel very quickly, and once the unraveling begins it cannot be easily stopped (i.e. once the authors massively defect, they don't come back even if you undo the change).

Posted by: anon | Dec 1, 2012 2:52:05 AM

OK, now here's my wish list as an author.

1. Number of slots the journal is still attempting to fill, updated automatically when an author accepts an offer through expresso (or, cough, some other rival service that plans on charging authors money to use it).

2. Something like real-time information about whether editors are a. reading submissions and b. taking expedites.

3. Automatically-generated average response times, visible on the authors' page, for both submissions overall and for expedites.

4. Publicly-available data about real submissions trends, rather than a link to an internal study from 2006.

I'll wait here.

Posted by: BDG | Dec 1, 2012 12:31:56 PM

A clarifying note: in my item number three, I mean how long the journal takes to respond, and this information would be visible (along with the other information I mentioned) next to or under the journal name on the page visible to authors.

Posted by: BDG | Dec 1, 2012 12:33:09 PM

Isn't every expedite request a "legitimate" one? Authors are legitimately requesting that journal review and decide upon a piece for which no review or decision has been undertaken. I think the use of the term "legitimate expedite requests" suggests that law professors are lying about offers (which they might be, but so are the journals when they claim to read everything that comes through the door).

Posted by: SecondYearProf | Dec 1, 2012 11:19:06 PM

I should add, for the wish list: If an article has been submitted, and days or weeks have gone by without the journal reviewing it (or even acknowledging it), the author should be allowed to make changes to the article. That way, when it does get read, the most recent version of the document is available. Under the current system, an article can sit with a journal for 2-3 weeks before it gets read - during which time the author has no doubt made changes to it, fixed footnotes, added cites, etc.

Posted by: SecondYearProf | Dec 1, 2012 11:22:48 PM

I was an editor-in-chief at a venue that wasn't hugely prestigious and despite that we received far more articles than we could review in a decent and complete way.

I ended up giving substantial priority to reviewing those articles that were emailed to us directly - my logic being that those who took the time to investigate our journal and email us directly rather than just checking a box on expresso were more likely to be interested in publishing with us rather than just using an acceptance from us to facilitate an expedite at a better venue.

Personally I think whether or not expresso is a good thing comes down at least in part to whether or not you think facilitating the non-exclusive submission, non-blind review, student edited system is the way to go. In other disciplines exclusive submission and blind peer review at least creates the possibility that the work is being evaluated on its own rather than the author's c.v. (and by experts in the field rather than law students who, however smart, are not academically equipped to evaluate cutting edge research in every area of legal interest as generalist journals purport to do.

Instead law review editors disrespect the time and work of legal scholars by ignoring most of them and using their c.v. and institutional affiliation and prior publications as a proxy for quality and importance of work (which they are ill equipped to judge). And simultaneously, legal scholars disrespect the time of law review editors by spamming 50-500 law reviews with seriously long articles that, if treated properly, would require multiple people to invest hours of their time in reviewing, even though they have no serious interest in publishing with most of the venues they submit to.

Expresso entrenches that system by creating infrastructure to even further reduce the transaction costs of participating in that institution (except of course the cost to the university that foots the bill for expresso fees, coming from inflated student tuition - should every law school student really be forking over money to three Berkeley professors so their law professors can more efficiently waste the time of law students at other schools?).

Posted by: Anon | Dec 2, 2012 12:56:59 PM

Who on earth expedites to 100 or more law journals? Who even submits to that many? Yeesh.

Posted by: Anonymouse Prof | Dec 3, 2012 1:29:19 PM

This just proves that competition works.

Expresso is doing this because some law reviews are fleeing the horrible horrible system (at least from an editor's perspective) Scholastica.

I'd also point out to the authors that bemoan the current system, (1) law professors are _not_ willing to spend their time reviewing other people's work for publication (that holds true 99% of the time); (2) editors would be able to give more time to pieces if they weren't forced to wade through papers that should have never been submitted to them in the first case (off topic, don't meet basic requirements as set out on the journal's guideline page, etc.).

To the extent authors do want peer review (esp. authors with joint degrees where a significant portion of their scholarship is not law-based), they go to other journals. That's a choice.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 3, 2012 4:33:09 PM

This just proves that competition works.

Expresso is doing this because some law reviews are fleeing the horrible horrible system (at least from an editor's perspective) Scholastica.

I'd also point out to the authors that bemoan the current system, (1) law professors are _not_ willing to spend their time reviewing other people's work for publication (that holds true 99% of the time); (2) editors would be able to give more time to pieces if they weren't forced to wade through papers that should have never been submitted to them in the first case (off topic, don't meet basic requirements as set out on the journal's guideline page, etc.).

To the extent authors do want peer review (esp. authors with joint degrees where a significant portion of their scholarship is not law-based), they go to other journals. That's a choice.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 3, 2012 4:33:14 PM

"(2) editors would be able to give more time to pieces if they weren't forced to wade through papers that should have never been submitted to them in the first case (off topic, don't meet basic requirements as set out on the journal's guideline page, etc.)."

Didn't the Yale Law Journal just publish a 100 page ESSAY?

Folks, the law review system is broken, broken, broken. There's no point in denying it.

Posted by: justme | Dec 3, 2012 10:12:57 PM

Thanks for sharing the information.It's really useful.

Posted by: Randy Guzman | Dec 4, 2012 4:26:40 AM

Hi, I'm Rob Walsh, one of the founders of Scholastica.

I just wanted to note that it's great to see so many ideas about how to make the submission and review process better for law reviews.

At Scholastica, we're passionate about giving scholars the infrastructure they need to push peer-reviewed knowledge forward in all disciplines. Of course, we work with many law journals, and to this end we've solicited feedback from numerous law editors and authors, and I'd like to invite any author to share their ideas with how Scholastica can better help the law review submission process by emailing me at [email protected]

Below, I'd like to quickly mention a couple of ways previous feedback we've received has worked its way into Scholastica to benefit authors, editors, and reviewers:

One commenter mentioned that it would be helpful to see how long it takes journals to make decisions on manuscripts. As detailed in this blog post(http://bit.ly/Vb1jf5), Scholastica gives every journal using the system metrics on their acceptance rate, how long its taken them to make decisions, etc. Therefore, journals have the infrastructure to make these kinds of information public, and we support them in doing so.

Other commenters mentioned the possibility of law reviews implementing blind peer review and the ability for the author to know where their article is in the peer review process(http://bit.ly/11OrQ29). Blind review and updating authors on their review status are both one-click features that journals in Scholastica can choose to use.

Posted by: Rob Walsh | Dec 4, 2012 1:37:18 PM

Thank you, Professor Markel, for making ExpressO a topic of interest on your blog.

I’m both excited and grateful for the opportunity to share a little about how authors will benefit from the changes coming to ExpressO for the next submission season. The letter to law review editors that you were kind enough to share on the blog highlights many of the benefits that editors can expect but, as it was a letter to law review editors, it doesn’t directly speak to what authors can expect.

Similar to the law reviews, authors also get a single place to manage their ExpressO submissions. We are redesigning the tools for managing law review communications so that authors will no longer need to maintain parallel spreadsheets outside of ExpressO. The tools will be mobile-enabled so authors will be able to review offers, request extensions, send out expedite requests and accept offers with just a mobile phone in hand.

One important reason that we are working on making it easy for authors and editors to manage communication through ExpressO is that we know that there is a lot of time wasted, by authors and editors alike, checking on the status of a submission. We believe that everyone benefits when information on the current status of a submission is shared and updated automatically.

Some of the editors I collaborated with on this initiative admitted that they often dismissed an article if they were not sure that the article was still available. Others wasted time on articles that were already committed elsewhere. These are bad for authors and editors alike. Integration of the author and editor communication tools will give editors confidence that articles in the submission queue are still available for publishing. Creating greater transparency on an articles status means that fewer articles will get missed or overlooked. Is this ultimately a benefit to authors? I think so.

As the central marketplace for law reviews and authors, we believe that ExpressO is also in a unique position to address the world of expedite requests that editors described as broken. News of an offer from a peer law review, delivered in the form of an expedite request, once served as a proxy of quality. Unfortunately, the expedite process has developed an extremely high noise-to-signal quality. Our goal is to make expedite requests valuable again as a proxy of quality. We believe that this will benefit authors. It is common that more information can make buyers and sellers both better off in markets; consider for example the recent study by Steve Tadelis (chief economist at eBay) and Florian Zettlemeyer showing that more information about used cars improves the proceeds for sellers by inducing more competition among buyers (even for low quality cars). We also believe that authors will make better decisions when expediting to law reviews once they see the preference of law reviews where they have submitted their manuscript and can communicate with them accordingly. Ultimately authors also benefit when editors have the time to give articles the attention they deserve.

We look forward to hearing the reactions from the community of authors and editors as they use the new ExpressO tools this coming season. We hope and believe that you will like them.

If you or your readers have suggestions for how to make the service more valuable for authors and editors please send them to Jennifer ([email protected]). We are always interested in learning about how to improve the service for authors and reviewers.

Posted by: Jean-Gabriel Bankier | Dec 4, 2012 6:51:20 PM

A bunch of terrible ideas rolled up into one. Who wants to show all their cards to student editors? Why would ExpressO facilitate students' requests when they are inexperienced and know virtually nothing about publication? Gamesmanship is part of the game for authors, and it's foolish to take that away from them. And what nonsense to show students that an expedite is legit as long as authors have submitted the piece through ExpressO; what if it's accepted by a journal that's exclusively on Scholastic or one that has its own submission website? And to allow authors to specify preferences for expedites!! Pellease!, you're talking about people who never heard the word expedite until last year, when they were second years, and now they're going to set parameters for submission. This is even move foolish than the 75 page limit students saddled us with a few years ago.

Posted by: AnonProf | Dec 4, 2012 9:45:06 PM

AnonProf:

Law professors are the ones that keep the status quo going. As you mention students are just short timers and have neither the ability nor incentives to change the system.

If you want to move to a peer review, professional edited journal system, you need only to get your colleagues to agree. Students will have no mechanism whatsoever to resist the change.

I suspect though, as the Anon who posted on Dec 3, 2012 4:33:09 PM, pointed out, that law professors are quite happy with being the only discipline in academy that isn't expected to serve the field by participating in the peer review process, and one of a very small handful that can do simultaneous submissions.

Posted by: brad | Dec 5, 2012 6:38:27 PM

The fact that editors will be able to know the exact expedite deadlines, even when authors do not wish to reveal them, and even if these deadlines are extended following personal correspondence with editors - will be extremely - extremely - harmful to authors.

Posted by: Anoff | Dec 6, 2012 1:39:05 PM

To continue my previous message, here are two examples:

1. ABC Law Review extends an offer which expires on Dec. 11. For various reasons, related to submission strategies, the author needs an answer by Dec. 9. So the author requests an expedited review by Dec. 9, mentioning the ABC Law Review offer. However, the system enables the editors of other journals to see that the specific offer expires on Dec. 11. Of course, the author cannot lie about a pending deadline, but he or she can specify a date by which they need a response. The system, by telling all journals the exact deadline of all offers, deprives all authors of this opportunity.

2. ABC Law Review extends an offer which expires on Dec. 11. Other journals are notified about this deadline. In the meanwhile, the author personally asks the editor in chief of the ABC Law Review for an extension, and an extension is granted. However, this is not updated in the system. If the author sends an update - it will be inconsistent with the viewable records of other journals and therefore "illegitimate." If the author is unable to send an update (or does not do so for fear of an illegitimacy flag) - the other journals may believe it's futile to review the paper after the original deadline.
They reject the paper, and authors are no longer able to contact them.

Posted by: Anoff | Dec 6, 2012 1:51:36 PM

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