Against Scholastica

Like many of you, I’ve an article out in the Spring submission season. (More on that in a separate post later.) Let the agonizing begin! Seriously, where’s the thread?

This year, in addition to ExpressO, email, website submission, Redyip, and printed copies, we’ve a new way to deliver our articles to their ultimate masters: Scholastica. You may have learned about Scholastica when your favorite law review wrote you to inform you that they were exclusively taking submissions through that system, or when your associate dean told you that the institution would prefer not to pay pay more per submission than ExpressO for a substantially similar service.

Here are some key things you might not know:

  1. As far as I can tell only two of the top fifty journals – NYU and Iowa – are exclusive to Scholastica. “Exclusive” for other journals appears to mean “we’d prefer.”
  2. Scholastica is very  hostile to the currently way that legal scholarship is selected — they push double-blind peer review and don’t very much like student editing. This isn’t surprising, because as far as I can tell, none of the developers went to law school, served on a law review, or writes for legal audiences. They are, respectively, a sociology graduate student, a former historian, and a political scientist. There are many things one could say in defense of our current multiple-submission, student-selection, system. None appear on the Scholastica page.
  3. Scholastica asks for your sexual orientation and other demographic information (include a free-form place to talk about “additional comments that demonstrate diversity”) and then provides that information to each submitting journals that request it. Apparently the theory is that journals will want to take identity politics into account when making selection decisions. [For more, see blackman’s post on this topic, which I hadn’t seen before writing this.]
  4. Did I mention that Scholastica is more expensive that ExpressO and infinitely more expensive than emailing the journal directly?

I think Scholastica might be a good deal for journals – it takes care of publishing problems, and it will significantly reduce the flow of submissions. I can also see why graduate students from other disciplines would find our tiny corner of the world to be odd.  But I don’t see why anyone would ever submit through their system unless absolutely forced to, especially when they appear determined to import some unattractive aspects of other disciplines into legal academic publishing, which is already quite ugly.

What I don’t particularly understand is why faculty of the institutions running law reviews which are now exclusive to Scholastica are permitting this radical turn, which almost certainly will result in more concentration of prestige publication in the hands of prestige authors (who have the money to pay for multiple submissions at $5.00 each).  Er.  Reading that sentence again, I guess I understand after all.

That all said, Scholastica, please don’t lose my submission to NYU! I’ve never even gotten a rejection from those folks – maybe this year you can gin one up?

You may also like...

13 Responses

  1. BDG says:

    As the advisor at one of the journals that switched over to Scholastica, I…have no interest in defending them. I urged them not to do it (although I get that they like the features and the free-for-them-ness of Scholastica). Right there with you, bro. Looking forward to the third web site that aggregates submissions and automates the process of posting separately to BePress & Scholastica. And don’t even get me started on managing expedites, which will be even more of a pointless time waster now.

  2. AnonProf says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for posting this. The notion that demographics should play into the selection process seems to me contrary to the notion of scholarship. What’s more, the concept of blind review, which you and others have said Scholastica is seeking to facilitate, is incompatible with demographic assessment of the submitting author. I’m so disgusted with this new process that I won’t be submitting this year, a rarity for me to sit out a submission cycle, to wait for all this to get ironed out.

  3. Mike Madison says:

    My strong suspicion is that Scholastica is attractive to journals and — importantly — to the schools that publish them and partially or wholly underwrite them because “under the hood” (beyond manuscript submission) S. provides a full-fledged online editing *and* publishing platform. Once an S. submission comes in the door, it can stay in the S. electronic environment while it’s cite-checked and edited and “sent” back and forth between editors and author(s). When the process is complete, with a click of the mouse it goes onward to print or website, or, more likely, both. The upshot is that the journal and/or the school can avoid most of any remaining legacy costs associated with preparing materials for publication using law school resources. The good news is that S. as a platform supports publishing by anyone or any group that wants to run a journal. Journals need not be linked to specific schools (universities, departments, etc.). The bad news is that S. is another step in the privatization of research and scholarship. I wrote more about this (including S.) at http://madisonian.net/2012/08/03/new-journal-platforms/.

  4. I found a very interesting topic http://goo.gl/6DOFJ

  5. Josh says:

    I’m the Articles editor for a journal that recently added Scholastica as a submission option. Many of the assertions in the post are unfounded, so I would like to respond.

    I cannot speak for other journals, but we listed Scholastica as “preferred” because we are transitioning our submissions process from ExpressO. This is essentially a trial year for us and we are using both systems. We plan to switch permanently if all goes well. We decided to make the switch after struggling with numerous deficiencies in the ExpressO submissions process.

    Scholastica approached us and several other law journals last year with a proposition to build a new system for legal scholarship. The Scholastica development team made no representation that they were experts in legal scholarship. Instead, they showed us a new system built for general scholarly review and asked us to work with them to tailor it for legal scholarship. To be honest, they were a bit surprised at how different legal scholarship was from other fields. But over the past year, other journal editors and I held numerous conference calls with the dev team, explaining to them what our concerns and desires were as a student-run legal journal. In response, Sholastica has supplemented its system and added numerous features to help us streamline our selection process.

    Sholcastica never pushed double-blind peer review on us. Most of those options are legacy from the non-legal submissions system—what Scholastica thought our review process was like before they actually worked with us editors. And Scholastica still uses these options for non-legal journals (it is not a legal-only scholarship site). In fact, you’ll notice that the main submissions page now has a separate option for law-review submissions. That option did not exist until recently, and it illustrates just how many changes Scholastica has made in response our suggestions and concerns.

    Personally, I viewed Scholastica’s offer as an opportunity to help build a better system—better than ExpressO—based on my own experience with articles selection. From what I have heard, other editors involved felt same way. Of course I cannot speak for authors. If the Scholastica submissions process is unduly burdensome compared to ExpressO, then I suggest emailing participating journals and sharing your concerns, so that we can work with Scholastica to make that process easier for you. But be assured that we journals are working to change Scholastica to fit our method of scholarship, and not the other way around. There is nothing really “radical” about this it all, accept that it saves us articles editors countless hours in database management for the thousands of submissions we receive each year.

  6. Dave Hoffman says:

    One correction to the original post, regarding demographics and whether Scholastica will send it to journals if they don’t want it: From the TOS: “”Some journals hosted on Scholastica request optional demographic information (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) from authors when they submit a manuscript. Optional demographic data collected in the manuscript submission form will be made available to journal editors only, and optional demographic data will be stored with the manuscript submitted to that journal. Journals which do not request optional demographic information at the time of submission will not have access to this data. Authors are not required to submit optional demographic information in order to submit a manuscript to a journal on Scholastica. The choice to request this data is made explicitly by the journal, and use of the data is entirely the responsibility of the journal collecting the data. Scholastica will store the data on the journal’s behalf and allow journals to collect and analyze data, but Scholastica will not sell, trade, or transfer an individual’s personal information to any third party or entity.”

  7. Dave Hoffman says:

    Josh
    Thanks for writing, and I appreciate the feedback, but it doesn’t actually make me feel differently. *They* have expressed the view that double-blind, non-student edited, journals are better, and they would like to give journals the tools to move in that direction. A five dollar submission model itself is a departure – I’d call it radical – from the norm.

  8. Dave, I have been doing some digging on the journals who use Scholastica and ask for race information. An earlier post is here: http://joshblackman.com/blog/2013/02/11/journals-on-scholastica-ask-authors-to-submit-demographic-information-for-diversity-initiatives/

    I will be writing another post once I have final answers from the three journals in question who have asked for this information. So far, one journal said they would not use race during the selection process. Another journal was somewhat evasive with their answers, which I will take as a sign they do use it (unless I hear further clarifications). I haven’t heard back from the third journal yet.

  9. Rob Walsh says:

    Hi Dave!

    This is Rob from Scholastica. We love working with law reviews, and love supporting their current workflow and any experimentation they want to try to improve their workflow. I wanted to quickly respond to a few of your points:

    1. The journals that have confirmed with us they are that they are using Scholastica exclusively are:

    Boston College Law Review (http://bclawreview.org/submissions)
    California Law Review (http://www.californialawreview.org/information/submissions/articles)
    Cardozo Law Review (http://www.cardozolawreview.com/submissions.html)
    Harvard Journal of Law and Technology (http://jolt.law.harvard.edu/submissions/)
    Iowa Law Review (http://www.uiowa.edu/~ilr/contact.shtml)
    NYU Law Review (http://www.nyulawreview.org/submissions)
    Southern California Law Review (http://weblaw.usc.edu/why/students/orgs/lawreview/submissions.cfm)
    The University of Chicago Law Review (http://lawreview.uchicago.edu/page/submissions)
    UC Davis Law Review (http://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/submissions.html)

    2. I would definitely say that we are NOT hostile to the way legal scholarship is done. We’ve actually just implemented a new submission workflow to make for a better submission process to multiple journals for both authors and editors (https://vimeo.com/59165083).

    What we are doing is providing more flexibility to the way journals can work **if they wish to**. The “if they wish too” is important. These are all optional settings – many journals keep their process the same when they start using Scholastica, and that’s great. We also think it’s great if journals want to experiment with new ways of reviewing their submissions, and we want to give them a one-click system to support such experimentation.

    There are many legal scholars who want to improve the legal submission process, and we want to support such efforts – you’ll see that our post that you linked to provides links to legal scholars who expressed interest in the sort of optional functionality that we provide, which is why we wrote the post: to show how our system is flexible based on what the journal wants to do.

    3. Most journals don’t want to reduce submission volume – they want a better way to manage their existing volume. Many journals receive tens of thousands of emails during a submissions cycle: submission emails, expedite requests, withdraw notices, etc. Scholastica gives them a way to manage that volume so they spend more time reading articles and less time organizing emails and attachments.

    We’re not an angry group of iconoclasts at all – we’re excited about working with law reviews, and excited to improve scholarly publishing. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have at rwalsh [at] scholasticahq [dot] com.

  10. Dave Hoffman says:

    [Rob from scholastica writes – and asks me to post]
    Hi Dave!

    This is Rob from Scholastica. We love working with law reviews, and love supporting their current workflow and any experimentation they want to try to improve their workflow. I wanted to quickly respond to a few of your points:

    1. The journals that have confirmed with us they are that they are using Scholastica exclusively are:

    Boston College Law Review (http://bclawreview.org/submissions)
    California Law Review (http://www.californialawreview.org/information/submissions/articles)
    Cardozo Law Review (http://www.cardozolawreview.com/submissions.html)
    Harvard Journal of Law and Technology (http://jolt.law.harvard.edu/submissions/)
    Iowa Law Review (http://www.uiowa.edu/~ilr/contact.shtml)
    NYU Law Review (http://www.nyulawreview.org/submissions)
    Southern California Law Review (http://weblaw.usc.edu/why/students/orgs/lawreview/submissions.cfm)
    The University of Chicago Law Review (http://lawreview.uchicago.edu/page/submissions)
    UC Davis Law Review (http://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/submissions.html)

    2. I would definitely say that we are NOT hostile to the way legal scholarship is done. We’ve actually just implemented a new submission workflow to make for a better submission process to multiple journals for both authors and editors (https://vimeo.com/59165083).

    What we are doing is providing more flexibility to the way journals can work **if they wish to**. The “if they wish too” is important. These are all optional settings – many journals keep their process the same when they start using Scholastica, and that’s great. We also think it’s great if journals want to experiment with new ways of reviewing their submissions, and we want to give them a one-click system to support such experimentation.

    There are many legal scholars who want to improve the legal submission process, and we want to support such efforts – you’ll see that our post that you linked to provides links to legal scholars who expressed interest in the sort of optional functionality that we provide, which is why we wrote the post: to show how our system is flexible based on what the journal wants to do.

    3. Most journals don’t want to reduce submission volume – they want a better way to manage their existing volume. Many journals receive tens of thousands of emails during a submissions cycle: submission emails, expedite requests, withdraw notices, etc. Scholastica gives them a way to manage that volume so they spend more time reading articles and less time organizing emails and attachments.

    We’re not an angry group of iconoclasts at all – we’re excited about working with law reviews, and excited to improve scholarly publishing. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have at rwalsh [at] scholasticahq [dot] com.

  11. Orin Kerr says:

    Rob sure sounds excited.

  12. Gerard Magliocca says:

    My understanding is that most journals just hate ExpressO and want an alternative. Why that is I don’t know.

  13. Wanderer says:

    I voted with my feet; I hope everyone else does too.