Too Much of a Good Thing
From: PSCF 46 (December 1994): 219.
The time between submission and publication of regular Papers has reached thirty months. Peer review, manuscript revision, galley preparation, and printing typically consume about nine months. The remaining delay stems from the backlog of accepted manuscripts. Shorter pieces such as Communications, Letters to the Editor, and Book Reviews normally appear within six to nine months of receipt. It is clear that regular Papers have lost all sense of timeliness by the time they reach the reader.
One reason for the backlog is the increasing size of manuscripts. Prospective authors often ignore the twenty page double-spaced (6000 word) limit proscribed in our Manuscript Guidelines. Two recent submissions were each split into three separate articles in an attempt to circumscribe this limit. It has been suggested that reviewing standards be stiffened, that we limit our pages to ASA members, increase the size or frequency of the publication, or use only commissioned articles. Each of these ideas has merit, but must be balanced by the need for Perspectives to be open to all who consider questions both as specialists in their profession and as amateurs dealing with the broader philosophical, ethical, or theological questions linked with science. The combination of professional and amateur poses challenges for reviewers and editors alike. There is no magic bullet that transforms an expert in quantum physics into a philosopher or sociologist. We must encourage broad thinking yet at the same time be willing to put in the time to gain the proper background. Prospective "amateur" authors should have their papers read by specialists in the field before submitting their papers for consideration for Perspectives.
Our diverse readership will best respond to articles that are attractively written and sized to be read in one sitting. We need to find a path that falls between superficiality and the formidable rhetoric of a biochemical or philosophical piece. Perspectives cannot be an alternative to publishing in specialty journals. The editorial staff will insist that authors adhere to the stated manuscript length and continue to help them communicate to a lay audience. Prospective authors should check to see if their topic has been covered in Perspectives in the last decade or by manuscripts already received.
Discussions of the subject of origins continue to be active. Often prospective authors do not approach this controversial area with a sense of history or careful attention to what has been published in Perspectives or the scientific literature. Another possible resource to check is the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) of the Internet News Group "talk.origins." We welcome your response.
J. W. Haas, Jr.
Wenham MA 01982