Monday, February 16, 2009

Reviewing Sports Research

An invitation to the International Symposium on Peer Reviewing (ISPR) found its way into my inbox over the weekend. I probably won't make it (thanks to my kids I've had my fill of Orlando), but it is a topic well worth discussing.

According to the mini-lit review that came with the invitation, only 8% of the Scientific Research Society believes that peer review works well, while one paper called it "a non-validated charade whose processes generate results little better than does chance."

Those statements may seem a little strong, but I do believe that the peer-review system, including sports scholarship, has some serious issues. It doesn't make sense that two qualified reviewers could look at the same paper, with Reviewer A hating it and Reviewer B loving it. There also seems to be a lot of anger and petty jealously involved in the process. I have received reviews of my work that were unnecessarily scathing and quite personal. Finally, I believe that something of an 'old boy' clique has developed in research, with the same people and agendas continually promoted.

It's important for researchers who contribute to JSM to know that we are doing everything possible to correct these issues. To be sure, there will always be a certain amount of subjectivity in the process because we are dealing with human beings. But if you submit a paper to JSM you can be assured that--

1. The paper will be reviewed by at least 3 scholars knowledgable with the topic and approach. If the comments of the reviewers are wildly divergent I will go over the paper again myself and if necessary send it out to yet another reviewer for a clean look. That means up to 5 people are reviewing your work. The more people who review the more of a consistent result we get.

2. The paper will be blind reviewed. The reviewers don't know the name of the person who submitted the paper, which is standard for social scientific research. Rest assured, JSM will not compromise this most basic rule for reviewing.

3. Our reviews are highly qualified in their fields of sports media. Some of the reviewers are seminal figures in sports scholarship; all of them have made sports research the focus of their scholarly work.

4. The reviews of your work will be professional and offer constructive criticism. I not only go through each review to make sure that the comments are helpful in terms of making the research better, but I also look to make sure the review is not personally demeaning. I can honestly say that our reviews have been completely professional and I have not had to edit them in any substantial way.

5. JSM encourages new authors and scholars. Since we essentially created this journal out of nothing there was no agenda to protect; no network of colleagues to promote. We have had a couple of our editorial board members publish papers, but each time the author went through the process described above. In some instances, board members have submitted papers that failed to qualify for publication. The last few issues of JSM have included work from relatively new scholars in the field, and we pride ourselves on being open to anyone who wants to contribute. The only thing that matters here is publishing the best possible research on sports media--period.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions about the review process I encourage you to contact me directly ( We are always looking to make the process work better.

By the way, if you are interested in contributing to the conference the deadline for proposals/abstracts is March 18. More information can be found at the website. The conference is July 10-13 in Orlando.


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