As I start my second year as Co-Executive Editor of this journal, I want to report to you on the progress we have made on the reservoir engineering side of the journal. But before I get into any details, I would like to thank Alan Johnson, who recently departed from his role as Co-Executive Editor (Reservoir Evaluation), for his dedication and many years of valuable contributions to the journal, and wish him well. Alan will stay on the team as a technical editor. I would also like to welcome Cosan Ayan as my new Co-Executive Editor, replacing Alan Johnson. Cosan Ayan has been on the team for several years as a technical editor and review chair, and I am looking forward to working with him this year.
The process of peer review is at the heart of the SPE’s mission, “to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge.” It is a complicated and involved activity. At any given time, there are approximately 1,200 people engaged in various segments of this process (Fig. 1) for our journal. As a result, organization, discipline, and accountability should be essential ingredients of this process.
My goal in 2007 was to expedite the process of peer review. With the increasing number of conferences and technical meetings, we are experiencing an increase in the number of papers that come through the peer review system (Fig. 2).
• First, I recruited 250 new technical editors for the reservoir engineering side of the journal, increasing the force from the historical 100 editors to 350 today. The number of review chairs has also been increased from approximately 10 to 22 today (Fig. 3). The expanded team of editors and review chairs has allowed us to reduce the backlog while increasing the number of reviews from two previously to three now for each paper. The latter will help to enhance the quality of our decisions. I am happy to say that an increase in the number of technical reviewers is also underway on the reservoir evaluation side of the journal (Fig. 4).To manage the increasing load, we took the following steps:
• We are now requesting that each author write a short paragraph explaining his/her paper’s unique contributions and why it ranks high enough for publication when submitting a paper for peer review. This is an important deviation from our previous exercise of accepting all papers for peer review. The new requirement allows the authors to be the first reviewers of their papers, highlighting their significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology.• The progress here has now shifted the backlog problem from the review phase to the prepublication phase because of space limitations. To resolve this new problem, SPE has temporarily increased the number of papers per issue of the journal.
• A special new team of highly experienced technical editors has been created to handle decline-decision appeals, as well as discussions and rebuttals of previously published papers.
• With a new timeline for the review process, we are aiming to complete paper’s review in 16 weeks vs. the previous target of 40 weeks. This is in the process of implementation as some software reprogramming and recoding is required.
• The entire SPE publications process—including our peer review process—is being examined by a consultant with aims of eliminating waste and redundancies. Once completed and recommendations implemented and a leaner and more efficient process is in place, it will allow a more disciplined decision making process and enhanced quality.
• The subscription to the journal is increasing, with the online subscription becoming increasingly popular.
With these changes either implemented or currently underway, I feel that substantial improvement will appear on the horizon. I must, however, warn you that such changes will take some time to take effect. In the meantime, we are planning to examine the journal’s ranking among similar publications and implement an efficient paper tracking system, which will allow for the quick search of the inventory of papers in the electronic peer review system and identify deviations from the timeline. All of these initiative require disciplined team work among all the members of the team—from authors to SPE staff and onto the volunteer teams of executive editors, review chairs, and technical editors. To make this process run smoothly and efficiently, we need every team member, including me, to feel responsible for completing their task at the highest level of quality and on time. It is only then that our professional society can successfully satisfy its mission of collecting, disseminating, and exchanging technical knowledge.
- Behrooz Fattahi