One way to relieve the reviewer load within a specific journal is to have stronger editorial process, where expert editors reject more manuscripts without review (perhaps because the subject matter is outside the journal remit, has obvious design flaws and statistical errors, or does not make a significant advance in the field; Leather et al., 2014) rather than assigning reviewers to relatively low-quality papers that have little chance of eventually being accepted.
This is particularly pertinent given the increasingly pervasive practice of ‘over-shooting’ on the quality of the target journal for first submission. Much has been written about the relative merits of editorial review versus peer review as different approaches to evaluating scientific literature (e.g. Steinhauser et al., 2012).
We believe there is strong merit in using both in a complementary approach to balance the ‘gatekeeper’ role of good Editors in rejecting obviously flawed work, and the ‘facilitator’ role’ of good Editors in weighing up a consensus of reviewer criticisms and author responses.
Yes, there will always be issues raised about subjectivity, but this has been balanced to some extent at ICD by having a broader team of seven Senior Editors who can make final decisions on manuscripts, rather than just the Editor-in-Chief making all decisions. Ultimately it is important to remember that good Editors are selected for their skills and perceived objectivity in the first place, and that there is a constant ebb and flow in the dynamics of editorial boards which means that weak Editors are quickly weeded out, while good Editors rise to the top (Editors are not shy about giving their opinion if someone is not working out in the role!)

Don’t be a zero-sum reviewer

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