Journal editors and football referees

We have recently submitted a paper “Editors publishing in their own journals – a systematic review of prevalence and a discussion of normative aspects” and here are a few additional thoughts that did not find their place in the article.

First, we concluded in the paper: “According to our findings, the prevalence of editors publishing in their own journals varies greatly among journals. However, except for some clear cases, it is difficult to conclude that compromised peer review for the benefit of editors publishing in their own journal is widespread and therefore would represent a serious threat to the scholarly community.”

So why do some editors in chief, associate editors, and editorial board members submit research papers to their journals? They must know that such practice will be perceived by many as unethical leading to bad reputations for them personally and their journals. Do they indeed expect preferable treatment in own journals and knowingly risk their reputation?

It might be that some (many?) of them do not expect a preferable treatment as such. In a recent Croatian football scandal, a director of one football club gave a lot of money to the main manager of football referees not because he wanted a preferable treatment, but apparently because he only expected a fair treatment;-) If your starting point is that your football club is not among those who indeed receive preferable treatment because of their political, mafia-related or whatever connections, then in order to protect your club, you bribe the main manager of football referees who would then delegate objective referees for the club’s matches. Your team will not suffer on the field because of biased referees; it is then all about your players to show their quality in a fair game without serious interference from biased referees.

I guess you already know what I am about to say. If your starting point is that many journals are run by biased editors who, for example, hate cars, bicycle helmets, or have strong attitudes about “emotionally charged topics” or any controversial issue, why would you then submit your paper to such journal when desk rejection is almost certain? If your paper is miraculously sent out for peer-review, biased editors will make sure they invite reviewers they know would be negative toward your paper. Then you can expect a biased “review” even with personal insults.

So what do you do? You submit your papers to a journal where you will receive a normal treatment without serious negative biases. You don’t expect a preferable treatment; you expect a normal collegial treatment. I am not sure whether some researchers reason in this way. I haven’t although I published in a journal where I am a member of editorial board.

I am increasingly worried that cancel culture has entered a lot of scientific fields and that in future many researchers will face a dilemma: keep submitting to “hostile” journals and getting rejections OR start submitting even more to journals where you serve as editor in order to receive a “fair and collegial” treatment.

Author: Igor Radun

Igor Radun is a university researcher, PhD (2009) and docent (2015) in traffic psychology. He completed two post-doc abroad (Chalmers University of Technology 2011-2013, and Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University 2013-2015). He has received a recognition medal (Ansiomitali) for traffic safety work from the Ministry of Transport and Communications in 2019 and twice (2017, 2019) the H. J. Eysenck Memorial Fund Award. He serves as editorial board member in the major journal in his field: Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. I am on Twitter:

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