James Fowler makes an interesting pitch on the POLMETH listserv.
I frequently advocate for increasing the fraction of papers that get desk-rejected without review.
This not only reduces the number of referees that editors need, but it also reduces the cycle time from initial writing to publication for papers that would be a better fit at a different journal.
…My colleagues who worry about increasing the fraction of desk-rejects note that one issue is that some authors will perceive the practice as being unfair — we need to give everyone an equal shot at review and we need to ensure that scholarship does not come to be dominated by a small number of players at specific departments. Those are reasonable concerns.
So why don’t we do this instead: give authors the ability to *opt-in* to a higher desk-reject threshold (say, 50% get rejected without review). In other words, an author can ask an editor to reject the paper quickly if he or she does not think it will succeed.
As someone who doesn’t have any name recognition at journals (trust me, most journal editors have never heard of this blog) I love the idea of desk rejects. Nothing is worse for a junior scholar (or any scholar) than to have an article sit in limbo at a top journal for 9 months, only to be rejected with a single letter where the referee did not seem to even read the paper (don’t worry, I won’t name journal names, JPE.) Oops.
Anyways, I purposefully send my papers first to journals that are known to desk reject. This presumably works in their interest, because they get right of first refusal.
I’m less worried than Fowler’s colleagues about bias towards the big shots. Several econ journals have started attaching author names to the paper. I seem to recall a study (anyone know where I can find it?) that shows that no-name authors get at least as good a chance as big-name authors. I don’t see why editors shouldn’t act any differently than referees.
I think the big losers here would be journal editors, who now face even more work. But I’m presuming here that desk rejecting takes more time than sending out for referee reports (and chasing said referees).
I would say desk rejects, without opt-ins. Who could figure out the equilibrium of that game?
Reader thoughts? Might be useful to state your rough position (junior or senior, oft-published or not).