By the time you read this issue of SPE Journal, the electronic
peer-review system at SPE will have begun the transition to the Scholar
One/Manuscript Central system from Thomson Reuters. The Scholar One system
currently is used by more than 2,800 journals, including journals published by
Elsevier, Blackwell Science, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and the
European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers. SPE staff members who have
evaluated the alternatives are convinced the change will be beneficial to
authors and editors and that the transition will be relatively easy. An online
help system with video tutorials will be available to help new users learn the
system. Of course, if you have been participating in the peer-review process as
an author or as an editor, you will recognize that the conversion from one
electronic review system to another is just one of many changes that have
occurred in the past several years.
In 2001, when I became an associate editor, the success of the peer-review
system relied heavily on the organizational skills of the editors, most of whom
maintained their own spreadsheets documenting the status of manuscripts for
which they were responsible. At that time, most of the information transfer was
electronic and recommendations were typed into forms, but we still had editors
who did not use email. It was quite possible, indeed likely, that a few
manuscripts would get buried on an editor’s desk and forgotten about for
The initiation of an electronic peer-review system for SPE J.
approximately 6 years ago occurred while Lincoln Paterson was the
journal's executive editor. It was a huge step forward, enabling editors to
check online for the status of manuscripts, to initiate correspondence, to
archive that correspondence, and to generate reports identifying problems.
Recommendations and decisions could all be completed online. The likelihood of
misplacing manuscripts was greatly reduced with the new system, but the
introduction of an electronic peer-review system did not solve all of the
I have discussed SPE J.'s enviable impact rating, which makes it a
preferred journal of publication of high-quality research results. On the other
hand, the review process has not always been as timely as we would prefer. This
is a factor that authors might weigh when considering which journal to choose
for submission. Part of the problem can be attributed to the sheer number of
manuscripts that enter the peer-review system and the number of authors who
identify SPE J. as the preferred journal for their manuscripts.
The editors and staff have recognized for some time that it has probably been
too easy for authors to request peer review once a manuscript has been accepted
for presentation at a conference. In an attempt to weed out the frivolous
submissions, we started requiring that authors provide a justification for
submission to the journal. Unfortunately, a significant number of authors have
provided justifications such as "SPE J. is a good and advanced
journal," which I tend to believe is true but is not a very compelling
reason for us to review the manuscript. In the new electronic review system,
the process of submitting a manuscript for journal review will be separate from
the process of submitting a paper for presentation at a meeting. It will make
our process more similar to those of other societies, many of which only
require extended abstracts or short papers at the conference. A serious author,
whether he or she works at a company or at a university, will not be deterred
by the need to submit a manuscript through the Scholar One system.
Advantages that we should see with the new system include the automation of
email reminders to editors and reviewers. The content and timing of the letters
can be customized for individual journals. Because the process will be
separated from the conference proceedings submission process, we expect a
reduction in frivolous submissions that bog down the peer-review system.
Finally, the ScholarOne system will allow us to make peer-reviewed manuscripts
available "online first," thus reducing the time to publication. We
believe that ScholarOne will speed up the peer-review process and improve
communication with authors regarding the status of manuscripts in the review
process. This will be good for authors and editors alike.
In the meantime, SPE is attempting to reduce the backlog of papers that have
been approved for publication but are waiting in the queue. A typical issue of
SPE Journal has 12 papers--this issue contains 20. Happy reading!