During the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE), the Executive Editors (EE) of the various SPE journals take the occasion to meet as a group as do the Associate Editors and Executive Editors of each journal. Components of the meeting include the statistics for time to make a decision on a submitted manuscript, acceptance percentage, and an overview of peer-review performance. I would like to summarize for you some information about SPE Journal as I believe it is interesting and relevant to the discussion that I began in the September issue on the health of the journal.
For the 12 months prior to the ATCE, the time from submission of a paper for review to the time that the author received the initial notification of a decision was 177 days. Incidentally, the target time to an initial decision for all SPE journals in aggregate is 112 days. In some cases, the initial decision for a paper being presented at a technical meeting is made before the paper is actually presented at the meeting. In this case, the decision is held until the conference is finished. This policy likely increases the apparent time to decision somewhat. A good decision and fast decision are not necessarily the same. I believe that we do a good job in allowing time for the review process to run its course and collect a variety of opinions on submissions. Nevertheless, it takes us about one-half of a year to make a decision regarding publishability in SPE Journal. As we become fully adjusted to the ScholarOne manuscript system, it is my hope that the time to decision will decrease somewhat.
Our acceptance ratio over the past year has been a little better than 1 in 3. That is 90 final decisions of "accept" out of a total of 244 articles that moved through the review process. Accordingly, you should not be surprised when you go to speak with me about the details of your manuscript and I am just a little bit fuzzy on those details! Interesting facts, however, are that over the past year the most common initial decision was "major revision" and no articles were rated as "accept" on the first review. These numbers signal to me that while it is not trivial to get an article published in SPE Journal, there are a goodly number of articles that do make it through the review process even if the reviewers do not like any article that they see for initial review.
An interesting emerging trend is the source of articles for peer review. In the past, manuscripts submitted for inclusion in the conference proceedings of SPE meetings were by and large the only manuscripts considered during review. We have moved away from the policy of reviewing the majority of meeting papers to a method of direct submission of manuscripts for peer review. Last year, about 1 in 4 of the papers in our review system did not originate in an SPE meeting, but were instead fresh submissions. I believe that the rising number of so-called "direct to peer review" articles is a good trend. It signals that authors do not want to wait until their work has been presented at a meeting and that those who might not necessarily attend many meetings want their work to appear in our pages. Accordingly, it may indicate that the community of readers is broadening somewhat.
With this December issue, SPE Journal will have published 107 articles in 2010. This is identical to the number of articles that appeared in print in 2009. While we do have a target to make initial decisions promptly, there is no target for acceptance ratio or the number of articles appearing in print. The printed version of each issue of the journal has resembled a good-sized phone book over the past two years. If, however, more articles were deemed acceptable, more articles would appear in the pages of SPE Journal.
I would like to close by personally thanking those of you who have prepared a review over the past year. Collectively, 693 reviews were submitted in service to SPE Journal. This tally includes first submissions and the revised versions that were submitted in response to reviewer criticism. Having read these reviews, I understand the effort and care exerted by reviewers to maintain the technical excellence of SPE Journal.