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June 30, 2022

Reviewer Roundup 2022 – Getting a better dataset

Writing about web page https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/FAQ#reviewers

The editor talks about one of those tasks that invariably ends up being tackled during the summer – data clean up!

Some time ago, I went through the database of all our registered reviewers for Exchanges. You see, one key bit of information we ask of each reviewer is to provide is a few keywords covering their areas of expertise as part of their profile creation. In Open Journal System (OJS) parlance this is known as their reviewing interests. Reviewers can update, revise and amend these at any time by logging on to their profile, although I suspect in practice few actively do this unless promoted [1]. When my editors and myself come to look for suitable reviewers to examine a newly submitted manuscript, one of the first things we do is consult this reviewer database. In this way we hope to find someone with matching or closely related reviewing interests; although given the variety and variance in topics we tackle on the journal more often than not we have to do

Sadly, due to the way OJS operates it is entirely possible to create a new reviewer profile without this information being completed. It’s a technical oversight I’ve long hoped might be fixed, but for now it means over time as our database of reviewers swells, some will be running with incomplete profiles. Technically functional, but lacking that crucial interest information we need! Even more frustratingly as editor, there’s no easy way for me to press a couple of buttons and locate all the reviewing accounts which lack this information [2]. Which is why once again I’m deeply grateful to resident ITS OJS Guru Rob T for managing to capture it for me.

As last time there were quite a lot of accounts lacking this information, albeit not quite so many. I’m hoping that represents the improvement in the dataset from when I last ran this exercise. So, as of a few minutes ago I’ve written to all of these reviewers asking if they could take a couple of minutes to provide this missing, vital information. It’ll not only make our lives easier, but will also help ensure we’re more likely to ask reviewers to consider papers which correspond closely to their research and professional expertise.

There’s also been a couple of knock-on benefits from this process, alongside hopefully a better reviewer dataset [3]. Firstly, in offering instructions on how to update this information in the mailshot, I noticed the guide we provide on our FAQ was slightly outdated by the most recent system update. So, that’s now be rectified and clarified. Secondly, ever since I ran the mail merge to send out the messages my laptop has kept pinging every 30 seconds for quite a while. This is mostly bounce back messages from dead, defunct and otherwise formerly functional email accounts. Which means one of my follow up tasks will be to go through these ‘dead’ accounts and inactivate them as reviewers, so we don’t keep fruitlessly messaging them [4].

The end result though – hopefully – a tranche of improved reviewer data, some elderly accounts pruned and a better working experience for everyone involved! I can see I might try and make this an annual event at the start of each summer! Check back in June/July 2023 to see if I do…

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[1] I could be wildly wrong of course; this is only an assumption. But I know personally how rarely I update profile information about myself on any system unless something or someone prompts me to do so.

[2] The management information on OJS HAS improved in leaps and bounds, but it is still years behind where it should be. This isn’t a problem for us to resolve easily, as it relies on the open-source developer community to recognise that editors using OJS, NEED a whole lot more, better and more intuitive ways to query the data held by the system.

[3] I suspect I’ll also be dealing with a smattering of emails from academics asking me to delete/deactivate their accounts (it happened last time) too. Not sure this classes as a benefit though.

[4] An additional frustration with OJS is it doesn’t inform me when I send system emails which accounts are bouncing. I believe the WUP chief and tech sees these messages, but I’ve never been able to. Hence, this is one of the few times when I can really discover which OJS profiles on Exchanges are now effectively defunct.



June 13, 2022

Reviewer Roundup ‘22

Follow-up to Refreshing Exchanges' Reviewer Database from Exchanges - Editorial Reflections from Warwick's Interdisciplinary Journal

Reviewers are a vital part of the Exchanges team - and making sure our records for each of them are up-to-date is just as vital.

Today I’m working on one of those tasks that’s been sitting in my to-do list for sometime: going through all the registered reviewer records to see which ones haven’t added any reviewer interests. Long-time readers will recall I did a similar task a few years ago, and the result was a wave of researchers upgrading their records, albeit alongside some who decided to request we remove their contact details – as is their right.

You would think tools which permit functionality like ‘display all reviewer users’ where ‘researcher interest is a null field’ would be the sort of thing baked into a journal management system like OJS. But, as with so much of the platform’s management information systems it’s not really been as well developed as say the core editorial workflow controls. The most recent update we applied to the platform did – I am pleased to report – provide some much-improved managerial tools that I’ve been pleased to make use of on more than one occasion. It is now possible for example to output a .CSV file containing the names of all users within a certain group. So, I guess from where I’m sitting, we’re halfway there[1].

However, in this file the reviewer interests information is not among the information which can be outputted. This is a shame as a simple Excel function would have enabled me to filter all 700+ registered reviewers down to just those lacking any listed research interests. Which means I had to go to speak to my technical guru in IT Services and crave a boon from them! Thankfully, this the lovely OJS Technical Lead was able to deploy a little back-office Python scripting to quickly draw out exactly the data I needed. Kudos, as on so many occasions, to them. It’s no reflection on them that this obvious functionality is lacking from a editorial user perspective. Maybe I can wish for it to appear in a future update…[2]

Following a little data clean-up - names with non-British characters seem to have been rendered oddly in the output file for one – all that remains now is to prepare my mailshot text and send it out (BCC of course) to all our reviewers via a mail merge. Based on the experience last time, I suspect we’ll have one of three reactions from those were contact:

(1) Email bounceback, indicated a defunct account

(2) A request for us to remove the account

(3) An update to the record made by the user[3]

Option 3 is my desired outcome of course, but I suspect I’ll be dealing with a fair bit of (1) and (2). Users can inactivate, or remove their reviewer registration themselves, but if they ask, I’ll happily adjust their account as requested. For those dead accounts though, I’ll need to go through and check they weren’t actively involved in any recent reviews before, with regrets, removing them from our reviewer’s list.

Hence, if you are one of our reviewers, and you get a message from me this week to update your account details – don’t feel singled out – you’re just one among many we’re asking to help us to help you – and direct the right kind of reviews in your direction!

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Endnotes

[1] Livin’ on a prayer or not

[2] I shall not hold my breath on this one.

[3] If you want to jump the gun and update your details - you'll find instructions here: https://exchanges.warwick.ac.uk/index.php/exchanges/FAQ#reviewers


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