Writing Clinic: After Submitting the Manuscript, Part 1
Michael Gerchufsky, ELS, is the managing editor of Consultant. E-mail him with thoughts on this post at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In previous Writing Clinic blog posts, part 1, part 2, and part 3 of “Choose Your Topic Carefully,” I recommended a few first steps to contributing an article to Consultant. In part 1, part 2, and part 3 of “Choosing an Approach,” I discussed the array of possible article formats in the journal and other tips for approaching the writing of an article. I also advised about contacting the editor and performing a literature search.
This post and the next few will describe what to expect after submitting a manuscript to Consultant.
After you have completed the manuscript, including all the extras, and send the email … then what?
The first step at our end is editorial consideration and review. That’s followed by peer-review, editing, and the revision process.
The editorial team will perform an initial assessment of your article to ensure that it’s a good fit for Consultant, and to make sure all of the extras are included, that the graphics are of sufficient quality, and so on.
We’ll also closely consider the subject matter to answer questions like these:
• Have we or any other primary care sources recently run an article on this topic or a similar one?
• Does the topic meet the needs of our publishing calendar? (For example, a sunburn article in January isn’t the best idea.)
• Does the submission appear complete, current, original, and appropriately targeted?
If it passes initial editorial muster, the next step is the peer-review process. The editorial team here will share your article with a hand-chosen panel of your colleagues, who will volunteer their valuable time and expertise to offer advice about the submission’s strengths and weaknesses, whether it meets the needs of the journal’s audience, etc. This process can take some time, even months, to get right—that is, for the editorial team to find the best reviewers with an interest in or expertise in the subject matter; for those reviewers to agree to and find the time to assess the manuscript package; and for the editorial team to assess the reviewer's comments, queries, and recommendations and integrate them into a draft. Couple this with the extra workload placed on so many physicians and other health care providers (and editors!) during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, and you'll quickly realize that a rapid turnaround is the exception, not the rule. So I ask for your abiding patience during the process.
(Incidentally, I am always seeking volunteer peer-review panelists. Consultant receives dozens of manuscripts for consideration each month, and we can always use help in having them peer-reviewed. Contact me at email@example.com if you are interested!)
There’s a robust debate in the medical publishing community about the best peer-review process — whether double-blind, single-blind, or open.
We at Consultant use a double-blind peer-review process. That is, we generally remove your name and identifying details from the article before sending it to reviewers; likewise, we don’t share the names of the reviewers with contributors unless the reviewers ask us to. Our reasons for this approach aren’t for the sake of secrecy per se. Instead, we feel this approach maintains the integrity of the peer-review process. Because the medical community can be a small world, there is a chance that a reviewer would know you personally, or at least know your name; this could (consciously or unconsciously) affect the reviewer’s objective approach to the paper.
Using a standardized form, the peer-reviewers offer their opinions and observations based on a number of criteria. These include questions about whether the article appears to be the author’s original work, whether it reflects the most recent clinical findings, and whether the writing is clear and clinically correct, objective and unbiased.
Depending on how the article stacks up against these criteria, the reviewers choose from among three recommendations: Accept the article; have the author revise the article and then have it reconsidered, or reject the article for publication.
When we have received the peer-reviewers’ feedback, we’ll then get back in touch with you to describe the decision and what comes next.
And that’s what I’ll discuss in my next blog post here. As always, thank you for reading.