The Editorial Philosophy of THCI
We strive to recognize promise in papers submitted to THCI, to promptly help authors (especially inexperienced authors) develop their papers, and to help publish these papers, either in THCI or elsewhere. This philosophy involves employing a discerning but constructive and empathetic set of senior editors and a high-quality editorial board. Extra care will be applied to differentiating flaws that are superficial from those that are fundamental; too often, review teams confuse the former as the latter. The goals include avoiding rejecting promising papers, avoiding delays in handling non-promising papers, and focusing on research and manuscript development. We aim at developing and publishing a wide variety of HCI-related topics and methodologies, especially the kind of work that may seem less being perfect or complete but can stimulate critical thinking and push the discipline further. The philosophy also suggests quick turnaround time, including recognizing and rewarding well constructed manuscripts and pushing the manuscripts through the review process more quickly.
The editorial philosophy of THCI is, to a great extent, consistent with and contributes to the recent momentum set by JAIS, MISQ, ISR, and several other major IS journals. Together with these journals, we strive to advance the reviews and publications of scholarly work in the IS field.
The Peer Review Process
The review process is designed to support the editorial philosophy. Every effort will be made to ensure that the review cycle is as short and fast as possible without compromising the quality of the manuscript development and the accepted papers.
THCI uses two types of peer reviews: the expedited review and the regular review. The decision of the review type for a particular manuscript is determined by the EIC or guest SE who handles the paper based on the quality of the manuscript at the time of submission and the timeliness of the topic. Thus having the manuscript in good form and quality at submission time can play an important role on expediting the review process. The review criteria and standards are the same for making final acceptance decisions for papers that undergo either the expedited or regular review.
Expedited review is ordinarily conducted by one EIC or guest SE and two experienced members from the boards (senior editor board or editorial board). The board members involved in the manuscript review assess the manuscript and reach a decision. The involved board members do not know the identity of the authors; the authors do not know the identities of the board members; the authors know the identity of the handling EIC or guest SE.
The regular review process uses a two-tier review structure that involves a handling SE and reviewers (editorial board members or ad hoc reviewers). The authors know the identity of the handling SE, and the SE knows the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. At the review level, it is double blind: authors do not know the reviewers' identities and the reviewers do not know the authors’ identities.
Figures 1 and 2 are the data flow diagrams (DFD) depicting the review processes with the estimated average time needed for each stage. Figure 1 is for regular submissions (including conference best paper expansions); Figure 2 is for special issues. The detailed explanations of the review processes follow.
Review Process for Regular Submissions
Regular submissions can be made at any time. The following are editorial steps involved in the review process:
- Step 1. Administrative Check. A new manuscript, labeled M, is checked by the Managing Editor to ensure it meets format requirements, is complete, and is in readable English. If M does not rise to the necessary level of English literacy or academic standards, it will receive an administrative decline decision by the Managing Editor. Otherwise, M is considered administratively qualified and is forwarded to one of the EICs.
- Step RS2. EIC Examines and Assigns SE or a Special Review Panel. The EIC examines M to see if it can receive expedited review. If so, the EIC invites up to two experienced members as a special review panel from the Senior Editor Board (SEB) and Editorial Board (EB) to go to Step RS3.1. If not, the EIC assigns M to an SE to go to Step RS4.1. The EIC selects the handling SE based on the authors’ recommendations, current SE workload, and SE expertise and interests. Although the SEB is the main source for selection, in some cases, editorial board (EB) members or even ad hoc reviewers may be invited to act as the handling SE for a given paper. In some cases, the EIC may ask the authors for a revision before the manuscript is passed on to the special panel to increase its likelihood of being more favorably reviewed.
- Step RS3.1. Special Review Panel Reviews. The special panel reviews M, and produces recommendations and reports that can constructively guide authors to improve the manuscript. The same review panel will continue working on revisions of M, noted as M.Rn, where n is the revision number.
- Step RS3.2. EIC Decides. The EIC produces a report with a decision on M (or M.Rn). The decision options are: (1) accept, (2) minor revision, (3) major revision, (4) decline but invite to resubmit, and (5) decline. The report includes the EIC’s appraisal of M (or M.Rn), constructive suggestions to improve M (or M.Rn), and constructive comments from the members of the special review panel.
- Step RS4.1. SE Screens. The SE screens M for subject suitability, presentation quality, methodological rigor, originality, and potential contributions to the field. At the end of the screening, the SE produces the screening report and makes one of the following 5 screening decisions.
- Ready for review - the SE sends M to the reviewers thus indicating that M is in a shape that shows promise and is worth consideration for possible publication in THCI.
- Minor revision - the SE points out need for minor changes that would increase his/her confidence that the review of the paper will yield a positive outcome because s/he believes the paper shows promise.
- Major revision - the SE focuses on substantial changes that would increase his/her confidence that the review of the paper will yield a positive outcome.
- Decline but invite to resubmit - the SE sees some promise or potential in the paper but the paper either lacks sufficient information for the SE to make an informed judgment or is poorly written so that passing it to the review team would likely result in it not being well received or being declined. If the authors choose to resubmit, the resubmission will be treated as a new submission. The same SE may or may not manage the new submission.
- Decline - the SE believes the paper does not make a significant enough contribution and is unlikely to do so even with revisions. The SE report explains reasons for this decision and offers suggestions about how the authors can pursue their research.
This means that M may need to be revised before it is ready for review. M can have up to two revisions (minor or major) during screening. If the second revision for screening is still considered not ready for review by the SE, it will be declined. The same SE handles revisions M.Rn from previous review rounds. The SE screens each revision M.Rn to reach one of the screening decisions. M (or M.Rn) is forwarded to the review team if it has the “ready for review” screening decision.
- Step RS4.2. SE Assigns Reviewers. The SE assigns M (or M.Rn) to up to two editorial board members and possibly one additional ad hoc reviewer and send them his/her screening summary. The selection of editorial board members and reviewers is based on the authors’ recommendations, member workload and interests, and whether a special reviewer may provide additional insights. Whenever possible, the same review team will be used for M.Rn. It is possible but very rare that the SE may decide to assign new reviewers due to the availability, review quality, or other special situations of the original review team members.
- Step RS4.3. Reviewers Review. Each reviewer will determine the strengths and weaknesses of M (or M.Rn). If it is M.Rn, the reviewer will also examine whether it addresses earlier review comments and concerns. Reviewers write a constructive review report to be shared with the SE and the authors. In addition, reviewers can make the following recommendations to the SE: (1) accept, (2) minor revision, (3) major revision, (4) decline but invite to resubmit, and (5) decline.
- Step RS4.4. SE Decides. The SE produces a report with a decision on M (or M.Rn). The report includes the SE’s independent appraisal of M (or M.Rn), constructive suggestions to improve M (or M.Rn), and reviewers’ comments.
If all goes as estimated in the plan, the average time for accepting a manuscript during the first round is 9 weeks for expedited review and 13 weeks for regular review.
Review Process for Expansions of Conference Papers
THCI welcomes expansions of papers from conferences. These papers do not need to be in special issues (except in special cases) and can be submitted as regular papers. During the submission, authors should indicate that an earlier version was presented at a conference. Expansions of best papers that are nominated by conference organizers may involve the organizers in the review process, especially in the case of expedited review. Because such expansions have gone through a review process associated with the conference, they are more likely to be ready for expedited review if they are so judged by the handling editor. Some expansions may need regular review if their quality at the time of submission does not warrant expedited review. Conference paper expansions submitted to THCI will be reviewed with the same quality criteria and standards as regular submissions.
Figure 1. THCI Review Process for Regular Submissions
Review Process for Special Issue Submissions
THCI publishes special issues on, for example, emerging or budding research areas, special research techniques, and other interesting topics that may otherwise not weather well as regular submissions. Special issues sometimes require special expertise of the guest editors and reviewers. Thus it may take longer to find or assign the appropriate reviewers for the submissions. In addition, special issues normally have deadlines, meaning submissions come in at about the same time. This can add work load on the guest SEs both during the screening and the decision steps. The review process is detailed below.
- Step 1. Administrative Check. This step is identical to that in the review process for regular submission.
- Step SS2. Guest SE Screens. This step is similar to Step RS2. The SE screens M to see if it is ready to be reviewed. Revision requests may occur up to two times. When M (or M.Rn) is ready for review, the SE examines whether it can receive expedited review. If so, the SE goes to Step SS3.1. If not the SE goes to Step SS4.1.
- Step SS3.1. Guest SE Assigns Special Panel. The SE invites up to two experienced members to form a special panel from the following sources: other guest editors, if any, THCI’s SE Board (SEB), Editorial Board (EB), or ad hoc reviewers.
- Step SS3.2. Special Panel Reviews. Panel members write constructive review reports to be shared with the SE and the authors. They also make recommendations to the SE.
- Step SS4.1. Guest SE Assigns Reviewers. The SE assigns M (or M.Rn) to at least two reviewers, either from the boardeditorial board or ad hoc reviewer with the SE’s screening summary.
- Step SS4.2. Reviewers Review. Reviewers write constructive review reports to be shared with the SE and the authors. They also make recommendations to the SE.
- Step SS5. Guest SE Decides. The SE produces a report with a decision on M (or M.Rn). The report includes the SE’s independent appraisal of M (or M.Rn), constructive suggestions to improve M (or M.Rn), and the special panel’s or the reviewers’ comments.
If all goes as estimated in the plan, the average time for accepting a special issue manuscript during the first round is 14 weeks for expedited review and 16 weeks for regular review. The expedited review may be 12 weeks if the guest SEs screen better quality papers first (such as during the first 2 weeks of screening) in Step SS2.
Figure 2. THCI Review Process for Special Issue Submissions
Time Frame for Revisions
To preserve precious time of the SEs, editorial board members, and reviewers, and avoid countless rounds of revisions and reviews of non-promising articles, a manuscript goes through at most 2 major revisions during its time with THCI. Major revisions can be either from the screening stage or from the review stage (either expedited or regular).
For major revision requests, the authors need to provide the revision within 6 months (180 days) from the time of the decision, or within a specified number of days agreed upon by the authors and the handling editor. For minor revision requests, the authors must provide the required revision within 2 months (60) days from the time of the decision, or within a specified number of days agreed upon by the authors and the handling editor. If the revision is not submitted within the specified time period, the manuscript is considered voluntarily withdrawn from further consideration at THCI. For papers with a decline but invite to resubmit decision, the authors have one year to resubmit.
The Role of Advisors
Members of the advisory board are appointed by the EICs. The appointments are normally for three years. The primary role of an advisory board member is to provide advice on an as needed basis. Advisors help with setting policies for the journal, proposing editorial board members, and actively marketing the journal.
The Role of Senior Editors
(Adapted from The SE Role at MISQ by Detmar Straub, http://misq.org. Used with permission)
SEs are appointed by the EICs. SEs play an important role at THCI in handling submissions in a timely and quality manner, as well as setting policies and marketing the journal. SEs have the following four types of responsibilities:
- Making final decisions on manuscripts. SEs are final decision makers who conduct the regular review process on submitted manuscripts that are assigned to them. SEs have two goals. (1) To be the advocate and guardian of promising papers that may otherwise be declined by reviewers. There is no perfect research. The real issue is whether the paper can be made exciting enough and at the same time be well-crafted methodologically so that it becomes worthy of publication. The review process is intended to assist authors in presenting their ideas in the strongest possible terms. The best-run reviews bring out the best in a paper, minimize the weaknesses, and define the scope of the contributions. (2) To make sure that non-promising papers do not go too deep in the review process before being declined. In order to achieve these two goals, SEs screen manuscripts carefully in Step RS4.1 in Figure 1 and Step SS2 in Figure 2. Non-promising manuscripts should be declined right away without wasting reviewers’ and authors’ time. If a manuscript is considered ready for review at the screening stage, it should imply that the chance for the manuscript to be accepted eventually is very high. The SE should clearly signal the initial screening impression to the reviewers. Language such as “I like the paper for these reasons…” can be used. Yet reviewers are requested to make independent judgments, share with the SE any fatal flaws they see in the paper, and make constructive suggestions on how to fix flaws in the paper. The SE should maintain continued communication (formally or informally) with the reviewers to ensure their reviews are on time and adhere to the spirit of being constructive. Once the reviewers’ reports and recommendations are in, the SE makes an independent decision after his/her own careful evaluation and taking into account the reviewers' comments and recommendations. In other words, the SE should not be completely influenced by the reviewers, or simply take a “majority vote” on the reviewers' recommendations. This is especially important where the reviewers are split or negative about a good paper. In such cases, the SE should be more inclined to overrule the reviewers if s/he believes there is true potential in the paper. The handling SE will be recognized when an article is published.
- Helping expedited review. SEs who are involved in manuscripts with expedited review provide timely and critical opinions on the manuscripts to assist EICs to make decisions. The involved SEs will be recognized when the expedited review articles are published.
- Vetting and managing special submissions. SEs are expected to proactively seek good papers through direct contact with authors at venues such as conference sessions or seminars. If the SE believes that the likelihood that a paper will eventually be published is significantly higher than the normal odds, s/he should encourage the author(s) to submit to THCI. However, the SE needs to make the authors aware that such a paper must go through the regular submission process and there is no guarantee that the paper will eventually be accepted. With the approval of the EICs, SEs can be involved in handing special submissions (such as Research Commentary articles, special issues, or expansions of best papers from conferences) including determining the shape and form of the review process. People outside the SE board may be called upon as special SEs for this responsibility.
- Steering and promoting the journal. SEs participate in setting policies for the journal, proposing editorial board members, attending the journal's board meetings, and actively marketing the journal whenever or wherever
The Role of Editorial Board Members and Reviewers
(Adapted from The Reviewer Role at MISQ by Detmar Straub, http://misq.org. Used with permission)
Editorial board members are appointed by the EICs. Editorial board members normally function as designated reviewers, although there are situations where they are invited as guests to handle particular papers.
The reviewer (designated or ad hoc) works in close cooperation with the SE, who incorporates reviewers' assessments to make the final decision. A reviewer's role is to make an independent judgment by carefully reading the paper to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Before sending the recommendation and review report to the SE, the reviewer is encouraged to share his/her thoughts about the paper informally with the SE so that, if at all possible, a consensus of editorial opinion may be reached.
Reviewers should have a positive and constructive spirit in reviewing a paper. Reviewers would not have been asked to review a paper unless the SE saw promise in the paper. Hence, reviewers should provide detailed comments and reasonable suggestions for improvement.
Reviewers are recognized annually for their contributions in the final issue of that annual volume. They will also be eligible for the nomination of the annual best reviewer award at THCI. Outstanding reviewers will be invited to handling special submissions or to the SE board.
Ethical Responsibilities for SEs, Editorial Board Members and Reviewers
(Adapted from The SE/AE/Reviewer Role at MISQ by Detmar Straub, http://misq.org. Used with permission)
Submissions and all other review documents to THCI are solely for the purpose of evaluation. An SE, editorial board member or reviewer may not share them with any other parties for other purposes. The manuscript under review is not citable, and its contents remain the intellectual property of the authors until such time as it is accepted for publication and the authors sign a copyright transfer to AIS.
Accepting an SE/editorial board member/reviewer position also indicates an acceptance of conditions in relation to suspected or alleged instances of unethical behavior related to THCI that are either identified by or brought to the attention of the SE/editorial board member/reviewer. Specifically, the conditions are that the SE/editorial board member/reviewer (i) will keep the incident confidential unless otherwise advised by the EICs, (ii) will report the incident to the EICs as soon as possible, and (iii) will take no other actions himself or herself unless otherwise advised by the EICs.
Archiving and Subscription
All THCI published articles are available on the AIS e-lib website. To promote readership of THCI, the EICs have secured permission from the AIS Council to open the journal's articles to all interested readers for free during the first two years of publication, 2009-2010.
AIS Homepage (http://aisnet.org/)
AIS SIGHCI Homepage (http://sighci.org/)
JAIS Homepage (http://aisel.aisnet.org/jais/)
CAIS Homepage (http://aisel.aisnet.org/cais/)
MISQ Homepage (http://misq.org)