Saturday, 23 January 2010

snow's all gone

Yep. The snows have melted. The ice on the pond has broken up, and the 15 dead fish removed and ‘recycled’. The final toll was 18 fish, at least one of which was killed by a marauding heron. Except for two of the fish, the remainder were all 8 to 12 inches long. These were BIG fish. I console myself with the fact that this was the coldest winter in over 100 years (apparently), and I now have an excuse, in the Spring, to go and buy replacement fish (smaller ones, though, as the cost of these things would have been in excess of £300 for the larger ones).

Life has been quiet since Xmas. I submitted a grant proposal, actioned yet more from the relentless stream of submissions to the journal, went to Germany to give a talk, prepared NIH reviews, bought train tickets, booked hotels, failed (I believe) to secure a sizeable discount on new coffee machines (yes, plural coffee machines), and no doubt failed at many other things too. The Xmas lull was lovely - I did no work for a few days and would have gladly continued the life of leisure. I am already looking forward to next Xmas. By which time my latest acquisition will most likely be long gone. I’ve decided that beards are over-rated, high-maintenance, and no replacement for the joy of handing over hard-earned cash for new gadgetry.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

quick link to give aid

Clicking on the logo above will take you to a page in iTunes from where you can donate to the relief effort with a single click. 100% of the donation is passed on to the Red Cross. The fact that this is the American Red Cross, and not the UK version is immaterial. They don’t care through which channel the money arrives. If you prefer not to go via iTunes, you can go directly to their website.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

cognition: the year in review

Three days into 2010 and I’m already having to think about the journal again... It’s time to get up from beside the fireplace and stop gazing out at the falling snow...

As promised, here are some facts and figures regarding the journal Cognition. This is the journal I edit, together with 6 Associate Editors without whom it would be impossible to manage the journal.

Last year we received 842 submissions. That’s 18% more than the previous year, and almost 50% more than when I took over as Editor-in-Chief back in 2006. Of those 842 submissions, I unintentionally dealt with so many that I’m embarrassed to actually write down the figure here. Collectively, we triaged 36% of manuscripts (i.e. we did not sent them out to review but politely declined them), and we accepted just 21% (we were clearly feeling rather generous in 2009, as we had accepted only 19% in 2008). The average turnaround time between submission and decision (excluding triage cases) was under 3 months, and the average lag between accepting a manuscript and publishing it was also under 3 months. Of course, there were some cases where, for one reason or another, the manuscript languished for up to 6 months, but generally this was because of difficulties in soliciting reviews (often, the reviewers whom we first approached were too busy to accept the invitation to review the manuscript - in fact, almost 40% of the reviewers whom we approached were too busy. This is probably one of the highest such figures in ‘the industry’, but reflects the quality of the reviewers whom we approach). And speaking of reviewers, we approached 1661 different reviewers (and we invited some of these more than once - one reviewer, a member of our ‘editorial board’ completed an incredible 9 reviews in 2009! This particular person did receive a personalised email from me, though a medal might have been more appropriate!).

Despite the relatively fast turnaround, authors who had the misfortune to be handled by myself (let me disambiguate that: it was their manuscripts I handled...) did suffer slightly longer delays: on average, their manuscripts languished up to 4 weeks on various queues (waiting until I decided to handle it myself rather than pass it on to an associate editor, waiting to go out to review, and then waiting for a decision letter once all the reviews were in). But in fairness to myself, this average delay was brought about by two mitigating factors: First, I did travel a fair bit in 2009 (I was away from home for what amounted to the equivalent of two entire months!), and when traveling I can’t clear those queues. And second, and despite not wishing to write down the precise figure, I made on average just under 9 ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ decisions each week of 2009. And that doesn’t include ‘revise and resubmit’ decisions! So it’s not hard to see why there were (and will continue to be) occasional delays. In fact, the statistics show that the rate at which I make those final accept/reject decisions exactly matches the rate at which I receive new manuscripts to handle. Which is just as well, as otherwise the queues would build up and the delays would get longer and longer.

Occasionally, people ask me how I manage this. Ideally, my workload would be around a third of what it actually is - it’s this high because of the huge increase in submissions we received this year, and the inevitable lag between when we get such increases and when Elsevier can put more money into paying for more associate editors (each editor receives a modest ‘honorarium’). Next year, I’ll be able to take on two more associate editors (thank you, Elsevier!), and this will make a big difference as they will reduce my load by almost 50%. But still, it remains the case that I surprise even myself with the workload. It is very clearly the case that I would not have remained sane were it not for an understanding family, understanding colleagues (including a really remarkable set of associate editors without whom I could not conceive of doing this job), fantastic collaborators (without which my research would grind to a snail’s pace), and equally fantastic friends. To all of these people, I say ’thank you’.

Hmmm. It occurs to me that perhaps I am not sitting by the roaring fire, gazing out, over my laptop, towards the snow-covered garden and iced-over pond. Perhaps I did go mad after all, and I am living out a delusional fantasy from the confines of a padded room somewhere in deepest Yorkshire. In which case, it’s not a bad life after all!

Happy 2010!