Lucy Gilson on the Reviewing Experience

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[We’re pleased to welcome Lucy Gilson of the University of Connecticut. Dr. Gilson is currently serving as a Senior Associate Editor of Group and Organization Management.]

Much has been written about what should, and should not, be included in a rejected-865417-mreview.  Therefore, I would like to shift the conversation in this blog post to discuss an important topic that I often think get missed in reviewing – that reviewing should be all about the conversation.

Over the years, I have written and been on the receiving end of many reviews. Now that I’m in an editorial role, I am seeing reviews through a different lens yet again. When I think of this experience holistically, I am concerned about the nature of the conversation we are engaging in as educational professionals and scholars. It seems to me that all too often reviews are adversarial in nature. It becomes the reviewer’s opportunity to say everything that is wrong with a paper and pick it apart line by line. Recently I even heard an Editor say, “My role is to accept papers as the reviewers reject everything.”

Now, I am not saying we should be lenient or too easy, not point out flaws in a manuscript, or sugarcoat our reviews. What I am saying, however, is it’s time to start thinking about reviewing as engaging in a conversation with the author(s). As a conversation, reviewing means sitting down with a manuscript and thinking about the experience as one in which a friend or colleague has just entrusted into your care a valuable piece of themselves. A piece of work that they have invested hours in crafting, thinking about, developing, and writing. They know it has flaws – all works have flaws – but they are looking to you, an expert, for guidance and direction. Your responsibility is to engage with them in their work. What did you learn about the work? What have they done well (not the cursory, I enjoyed reading this manuscript, now let me spend two single spaced pages ripping it apart)? Where can you help them extend their thinking? What was lacking? How can these flaws be overcome? What questions did the manuscript raise in your thinking? A conversation does not mean recommending that every paper be accepted or even that the editor requests a revision, it means engaging with the author in their work. Let us as a profession start thinking of the review as a two way conversation with the focus on “talking with” the author rather than at them.

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