Thursday, December 29, 2011

And a Happy New Year to you too, Fartknocker!

Dr. Hubert P. Hunklepfuffer
Editor in Chief
Quarterly Review of Hamster Husbandry

Dear Dr. Hunklepfuffer,

I am indeed in receipt of MS 2011-3.1415 which has been submitted to Q. Rev. Ham. Hub. for review, and I am preparing my review. I do indeed appreciate the time and effort that goes into maintaining a high quality academic journal and the importance of rapid turnaround times on submitted manuscripts.

But Santa's Thundering Testicles, Hunk - didja have to send out a reminder on Christmas Eve?!? Fer Realz? I mean, sure, I get it, the reminder is automatically generated by your publishing software "Bollock$.one". I'm not sure that makes it any better. While you are snuggled all warm in your bed, your computer comes down my e-chimney to leave a lump of poo coal in my stocking. A big-ol' "Bah Humbug! Get back to work" to go with that "We appreciate our reviewers' time and expertise" bullshit in the (also computer generated) form letter that asked me to do the review in the first place.

Just for that, I'm sending in my review late.

Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern
University of Tuktoyaktuk


  1. Yeah, I'm not too sympathetic here. You have the choice not to check your e-mail on Christmas Eve, and some of us catch up with our editorial tasks across vacations and holidays because we get no course releases for editing a journal.

    Also way to punish the author for what you perceive to be the journal's faux pas.

  2. Also, now that we're in publishing (couldn't take the misery, found greener pastures that still let us weave hamster fur and keep up with reginal studies), we kinda sympathize with Pubdude. After all, s/he's sending you these messages on Christmas Eve, probably frantically trying to get everything lined up for the next issue that's due to the printer in a week, etc. And what F&T said: someone on the tenure clock is depending on your review. As someone who flogs recalcitrant reviewers regularly, please don't be a jerk about deadlines. However, we are surprised Pubdude didn't explicitly give you until after the end of the break to finish your review, and a bit of "really? You're flogging me now? Get a life!" is very much in order.

  3. Could've used the Gary Busey term "butthorn."

  4. Relax all. Of course I'm going to do the review. Probably over the 'holiday' while I have time. Old Hunklepfuffer does a yeoman job at the journal, and the authors-in-waiting are both more senior than I am.

    Just thought I'd take a few potshots at a particularly Grinchy computer generated reminder, for the amusement of my fellow Miserians.

    On the other hand, if folks want to throw down over the value (overstated in my view) of the modern frenzy of incessant publication, bring it.

    Aethelfrith: why is it that journals seem to want page proofs turned around in 48 hours (on 30 seconds advance warning), after taking months to decide whether to publish a paper and more months to typeset it?

    Strelnikov: What can I say, I came of age with Beavis and Butthead.

  5. O I can answer that second-to-last question: because the production machine (paid staff, all) does not stop for anyone (including unpaid editors and authors). We give 2 weeks for proofs, though.

    As to the modern frenzy of incessant publication, it's a wonder anything gets published at all given how much volunteer labor it depends upon.

  6. "Strelnikov: What can I say, I came of age with Beavis and Butthead."

    Busey uses "butthorn" in the 1988 cop flick "Bulletproof", where he playes the poor man's Martin Riggs (the lunatic cop character played by Mel "Jews run the World" Gibson.)

  7. @F/T: "We give 2 weeks for proofs, though."

    Sounds like you run a very reasonable outfit - some science journals could learn a thing or two from you.

  8. Short answer: we don't run them.
    Long answer: approval and typesetting are rarely done in-house. Books and journals farm out reviews to other proffies once the acquisitions editor weeds out the crud (like what someone learned about the nature of God after their cat died), but, let's face it, academics procrastinate. A responsible publishing house will flog reviewers gently with intern-generated letters, but not all houses are good. Typesetting is done either by a cadre of grad students who haven't a clue what InDesign is because the silverback in charge makes them use WordPerfect (just like him), or is outsourced to someone with a clue about book design, who may or may not have other clients. Thus, because the house can't control these things precisely, they think it reasonable to take their sweet time.
    Blatant hypocrisy? Sure, you could call it that. We wouldn't argue. It's snowflakery if anything is, and we're kind of glad to not be part of an excuse-making press.
    Side note: there's a highly regarded reginal studies journal that's infamous for taking a year to return a decision on your submission, then another year if you revise/resubmit, then a third to actually be published. There's been some talk of boycotting said journal, since three years is an awful long time to wait if you're on the tenure clock. Yes, they expect 24-48 hour page proofing, if we recall correctly.
    Side note 2: as F&T mentioned, there's a lot of slave labor in publishing. The journal where we did our grad work was run almost entirely by grad students as part of their scholarship—and let's not even go into intern "abuse." Most academic presses can't afford editorial assistants, so it's entirely possible that the initial screening of your manuscript, all correspondence, and your contract was all done by a grad student intern. Great for the interns (no coffeefetching for you!), but there is something a little unseemly about granting a masters student the power to reject manuscripts from silverbacks.


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