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For a new paper about media archaeology in the context of scientific publication, I found an interesting topic which is not very well researched yet. As far as I know from research, in the year 2000 academic publication was done sometimes electronic and sometimes with printed material. Also, the Science Direct website was not invented yet.

But what is not given in the literature is, if in that time it was possible to do the peer-review process online or only with individual letters over postal mail service. Does anybody know the details of how the peer-review process was done in the year 2000?

I'm asking with a special question in mind. The idea is to describe the technical development of peer-review from the 1980s until the year 2010 with a focus on the work distribution among group of scientists. As far as I know, the idea behind peer review is that it can be done in parallel. But the scheduling must be coordinated, so my question is, if twenty years ago, this was done over e-mail, over postal letters or with the aforementioned Science Direct platform.

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    Archaelogy? Now yes that I feel old... – Massimo Ortolano Apr 17 '18 at 9:45
  • There are no "mature" professors at your school to answer this question? – Darrin Thomas Apr 17 '18 at 10:39
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    This is probably heavily field dependent. In mathematics, at least in western countries, I think most papers were sent to referees by email in 2000 (.div file and/or .tex file and/or .pdf file). However, I suspect in other fields (e.g. history, literary theory, anthropology, etc.) there was a much lower percentage of papers sent electronically. In any event, in my opinion 2000 is probably not a good year to focus on. I suspect a more "relevant inflection point year" would be 1997 or 1998, and maybe plus or minus a year from this, I don't know, but probably not 2000. – Dave L Renfro Apr 17 '18 at 10:53
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    EditorialManager was released in 2001. I think Peer X-Press was around earlier, but cannot find much on it. My field was essentially fully electronic (email and centralized aystems) by the mid 90s. – StrongBad Apr 17 '18 at 12:33
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    Can it really be called "archaeology" if you can literally ask around what it was like? – user9646 Apr 17 '18 at 16:43
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I can go back as far as 1995, when I started my master's thesis, but if you want to dig like an archaeologist, you should probably go back a bit more.

In fact, in 1995, when we submitted my first work to a conference, we already did it by email (we submitted a camera-ready abstract).

For journal papers, in those years, the peer-review system transitioned from using the ordinary mail to the electronic one, and at the time there was an intermediate solution (at least in my field): you would submit the papers by email and you would receive the reviewer's remarks by ordinary mail (if I recall correctly: you know, memory sometimes fail us dinosaurs!). The peer-review process was managed by the editors by email. Below, you can find a picture of a handwritten reviewer's form which I received, by ordinary mail, in 1998 during my PhD (sadly – at the time – a rejection!).

enter image description here

Manuscripts should have been typeset in a one-column double-spaced format, to allow the reviewers to write corrections between the lines. Note, in fact, point 13 from the form above which says: "I have marked the manuscript and am returning it with this review". Some journals still require this format (which I don't like) nowadays, even though no one sends back corrections in this way anymore.

A few years later (probably around 2000), the first websites for the electronic management of submissions started to appear. I recall that at the beginning these were very fragile systems, which frequently crashed near submission deadlines, when the number of connections increased dramatically.

I don't know what was like before those years, but I suspect that a mixture of phone and mail communications was common.

Notes

  1. As an aside, it might be interesting to note that, at the time, we didn't have personal email addresses for all the group members: there was an email address for the PI and one email address for all the others (indeed, the common email address allowed the group members to know each other's private facts). It took a couple of years more to have a personal email address for each person at my university.
  2. Before the advent of emails, if a researcher wanted to ask for a copy of a paper (while reviewing a paper or for any other reason), they would have sent a letter. Some institutes had preprinted postcards exactly for that purpose. Here is a picture of such a postcard that I found in the drawer of my desk, a relic from another era.

enter image description here

  • I hope they had preprinted postcards starting with "Dear Ms." too... – user9646 Apr 17 '18 at 16:42
  • @NajibIdrissi Actually, I couldn't find any, and I doubt so. It was really another era. – Massimo Ortolano Apr 17 '18 at 16:45
  • Yes, that's what I had guessed. It was more wishful thinking than anything. – user9646 Apr 17 '18 at 16:51
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    When you say ordinary mail, I assume you mean carrier pigeon. – StrongBad Apr 17 '18 at 17:47
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    @ManuelRodriguez: You may want to take a look at What does the typical workflow of a journal look like?. As far as I understand (not being a dinosaur), the main impact of electronic communication is that regular mail was replaced with e-mail. The general structure of the process remains the same. (In fact if you ask me, the structure we have nowadays is a relic from that time and is inefficient in light of modern technology). – Wrzlprmft Apr 21 '18 at 7:53

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