Peer Review and Publication Standards in Social Work Journals: The Miami Statement

Social Work Research, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Peer Review and Publication Standards in Social Work Journals: The Miami Statement


Social work scholars contribute the intellectual content in, serve as editors and reviewers for, and are the main subscribers to social work journals. Social work organizations or faculty own or control nearly all of the social work journals. Thus, social work scholars are collectively responsible for the quality of the journals in which they publish.

To our knowledge, the profession has only sporadically examined the processes by which it reviews, selects, and brings to print articles in social work journals. Nonetheless, scholars in social work are concerned with the overall quality and impact of social work journals, as well as with the processes of publication and peer review. Although several journals have made incremental efforts to enhance their review and publication processes, fundamental improvements are needed.

At the January 2005 Society for Social Work and Research meeting, a number of scholars concerned about these issues gathered in an open roundtable session, to discuss them, as well as to explore recommendations for improvement. The consensus was that these comments and recommendations be disseminated before the Council on Social Work Education annual program meeting in March 2005.

SUMMARY OF COMMENTS ON THE PEER REVIEW AND PUBLICATION PROCESS

Attracting Quality Manuscripts

Some scholars in the profession argue that accomplished authors do not submit their best papers to social work journals, because they believe social work journals have limited impact. Although some evidence can be found to support this concern, this complex question deserves further study. Regardless, it is important for the profession to promote higher quality submissions to social work journals.

The Quality of the Peer Review Process

Some authors report that social work journals often do not obtain knowledgeable reviewers. Many reviewers do not provide the kind of rigorous critiques that either screen out inferior papers or improve promising submissions. Some authors who publish in journals from multiple disciplines find that reviews done by social work journals are inferior.

Papers are sometimes published without sufficient inspection by reviewers with statistical expertise. Few journals appear to have a statistician examine all papers during the publication process.

The Slow Pace of the Review and Publication Processes

Review and publication processes take far too long. Very few social work journals publish an article within 12 months of submission. Often it is years before a submission appears in print, a problem resulting from the slow review process, the speed of the copy editing process, and a backlog that still plagues several journals. This has adverse implications in a number of areas, including the public currency of the profession's knowledge and the ability of scholars to satisfy tenure and promotion requirements.

Concerns with Copyediting and Influence of Editorial Staff

Certain journals routinely print text errors, and tables and figures are especially problematic. One major publisher highlights certain phrases, sometimes chosen without apparent reason, without consulting the authors. Text changes, including those that change the intended meaning, occur after the author and even the journal editor have seen the "final" manuscript. This same publisher does not circulate galley proofs to authors prior to publication, a practice that sets this publishing house apart from virtually all other academic presses.

Behind in Electronic Publishing

Some social work journals have fully embraced computing/information technologies, but several of the major imprints still operate with paper and the U.S. mail. The result chokes the review process and reduces opportunities for correcting errors as the manuscript takes shape in galley format. Online journals are beyond the scope of this statement, but it is recognized that these publication outlets will become increasingly important. …

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