The New Zealand Journal of Ecology uses a single-blind review process by default. So, while you and the reviewers can see who the authors are, you as an editor need to ensure that reviewers remain anonymous to the authors. Some reviewers chose to name themselves in their review, and they are welcome to do this if they wish to.
The New Zealand Journal of Ecology currently uses the Scholastica journal management system to coordinate peer-review. There are templates that you can use and modify when communicating with authors and reviewers. These templates use fields to automatically populate relevant information to try and expedite your editorial tasks. For technical guidance on how to interact with Scholastica as a reviewer, please refer to Scholastica’s Editor Guide for full instructions.
The Associate Editors who handle each manuscript through peer-review are trusted to run that review process independently. However, to provide clarity on the process and to increase consistency among members of the editorial board the following guidance applies.
Please use the Scholastica Discussion threads for all communications between authors, reviewers, and the Editor-in-Chief so all correspondence is recorded and tracked. This is important to ensure due process has been followed, and is extremely helpful if a change of handling editor needs to be made.
The Editor-in-Chief will endeavour to match the subject matter of articles submitted to your research interests and check for any obvious conflicts of interest before requesting that you oversee the review process for any article. Regarding conflicts, the New Zealand ecological community is a relatively small one, so it is often hard for editors to be completely independent from the authors, but as long as you feel you an provide an impartial assessment and acknowledge any connections in discussion with the Editor-in-Chief then this is acceptable. Please let the Editor-in-Chief know as soon as possible if you can, or equally cannot, handle a manuscript, at which point the Editor-in-Chief will advise the corresponding author that you will be the handling editor. The Editor-in-Chief will not confirm with the author who the handling editor will be until they hear from you.
The Editor-in-Chief's expectation is that each associate editor will handle two to three manuscripts per year, depending on the demand in your specialty area, unless you have specifically requested fewer manuscripts because of current commitments. A general expectation is that once assigned a manuscript you should be able to start sending out reviewer invitations within a week. It can take a while to find reviewers, so it is best to start this process as soon as possible.
Handling editors will then read the manuscript and decide whether it should go out to reviewers at this point, or given their more specialist knowledge whether it should be rejected outright. If it should be rejected, the handling editor will contact the Editor-in-Chief to explain the reasons for rejection.
For manuscripts that have been rejected by another (usually international) journal, the New Zealand Journal of Ecology allows authors to submit previous reviews along with their manuscript to speed up our review process and to reduce the review burden on the wider scientific community. If the reviews are generally positive, but the manuscript has been rejected based on its local interest, handling editors may be able to use these reviews instead of or alongside any new reviews.
Manuscripts that go out for review
In choosing reviewers for an article, please consider coverage of both the area of ecology covered by the manuscript and the analyses (particularly statistical) by the reviewers. The journal expects that all papers will receive two reviews, so you can build a review team that between them can cover all aspects of a manuscript. The journal also encourages the use of a third reviewer if handling editors know of a good graduate student or early career researcher who may also be interested in reviewing it to gain experience in the peer review system.
Please ask reviewers for a 4-week turnaround on the manuscript. If it is not possible for them to review the manuscript within that time frame, or at least within 6 weeks, please try an alternative reviewer. You will undoubtable face occasions where reviewers continue to promise but fail to deliver. Sadly, there is no correct course of action here, and it is up to you as to how best to proceed. If you encounter unexpected delays due to issues with reviewers, updates to the authors on progress would be appreciated.
Providing feedback to reviewers
Providing anonymous copies of the reviews for each manuscript to all reviewers of the manuscript is a practice used by some members of the Editorial Board. This sends a strong message to reviewers that their contributions are valued as well as giving them an opportunity to learn through reading other reviews on the same manuscript.
Unfortunately, there is no automated means to do this through the Scholastica system, so it will require you to manually do this. Therefore, there is no expectation that handling editors do this if they do not have time.
Responding to the authors
If you think the manuscript is likely to be acceptable for publication in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology following either minor or major revision, please contact the authors directly, providing them with the reviewers’ comments and your own and requesting that they revise the manuscript and resubmit it within 4 weeks (or advise you if they need a longer period).
Please be as positive and constructive as possible in your response to authors (particularly students who may be submitting their first scientific paper), while making it clear that they need to pay serious attention to any comments when revising the manuscript. You should take the opportunity to modify any reviewers comments to ensure they are relevant and are provided in a constructive and supportive manner.
Evaluating revised manuscripts
When you receive the revised manuscript, please evaluate whether the revisions adequately address both your concerns and those of the reviewers. If the revisions were minor, then you do not need to send the manuscript back to the reviewers and can make a final decision yourself. If revisions were major, you will most likely want to send the manuscript for a second review by one or more of the reviewers who has already seen it.
Accept and reject decisions
Once peer-review of a manuscript is complete, please contact the Editor-in-Chief with a final recommendation to accept or reject the manuscript. The Editor-in-Chief will then provide a final decision having checked that correct processes have been followed.
For accepted manuscripts the Editor-in-Chief will contact the authors with a provisional acceptance alongside any final revision that are required. Then once those editorial changes are done, the manuscript will be formally accepted and sent into production.
The journal is conscious that editors provide their time voluntarily, and that the journal simply cannot function with editors who kindly give their time. Recognising that this is voluntary service the journal expects that editors will prioritise their work and life over editing duties. However, we also have a duty to our authors to provide a timely review process. Therefore, please only accept manuscripts that you genuinely have the time to handle, otherwise you can better help the journal by declining.
If it transpires that you are struggling to commit to handle manuscripts or that you cannot efficiently handle manuscripts, a conversation with the Editor-in-Chief about your continued role as an Associate Editor will be begun. Situations change in life, so such conversations are not intended to be accusatory, but simply to act as a point of reflection as to whether you can better help the journal by moving aside to give others with more time the opportunity to experience editorial work.