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I am about to submit a paper, and in the submission portal, I am asked to request an editor among the pool of available ones. Unfortunately, none of the available ones have worked on the topic my paper contributes to. How should I choose one? Any help?

EDIT: there are suitable editors, but they‘re not available because they’re currently handling a large volume of submissions.

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    If you broaden the sense of your topic (say, from underwater basket weaving to basket weaving), do any of the editors fit? What if you broaden it even further (say, to weaving anything)? Further, to anything related to any sort of textile? Still no? Then why this journal?
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 16 at 16:51
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    Thank you for your comment. The journal is certainly a good fit—it just so happens that all the editors that would be most suitable to handle my paper cannot handle any more papers right now, and none of the ones that are left are a good fit.
    – EoDmnFOr3q
    Apr 16 at 16:57
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    @EoDmnFOr3q: If all the editors most suitable for your paper are not handling new submissions at the moment, that's a good sign that the editorial board thinks they are getting too many submissions in your area and will apply higher standards in your area at least for the time being. Generally and cynically speaking, you want a journal that applies lower standards to your area than they apply to other areas, not the other way around. Apr 16 at 17:37
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    Ah, thanks for adding the clarification that it's not that there are no editors that would be suitable but that the ones that would be are overbooked. Agree with AlexanderWoo; the other editors are probably sick of getting the spillover from those over-saturated areas outside their expertise.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 16 at 20:01

2 Answers 2

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If you are submitting a paper and none of the editors have worked on the topic the paper is about, then it's a signal to look at another journal.

Most academics have a list (mental or otherwise) of editors in their research area and journals where those editors can be found. When I pick a (journal, editor) pair, it's based on the following factors (in this order):

  1. The editor has done work related to the topic, or knows my work and has been supportive in the past.

  2. Other papers similar to the one I wrote have appeared in this journal.

2b. This editor has handled those papers (in math, sometimes journals say which editor a paper was handled by, and other times they don't).

  1. The journal level seems appropriate for the paper based on my self-assessment of the strength of the results, comparison to other papers that have been published there, a sense of whether the ideas in the paper are currently "hot" or not, etc.

Getting the right editor is even more important than getting the right journal. Surely among all the people who have worked in the area of your paper, some are editors somewhere and you could find them.

Most journals nowadays receive far more submissions than they can publish. If there's no sympathetic editor, then your paper might not have much of a chance to be accepted, especially if quality is at all borderline. Note that a journal might have published work related to your topic in the past, and the editor who handled those papers might have moved on. In that case, previous "fit" of the journal and topic does not correlate to current "fit." Instead, it would be better to find the same editor, at a different journal.

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One of the commenters states

If all the editors most suitable for your paper are not handling new submissions at the moment, that's a good sign that the editorial board thinks they are getting too many submissions in your area and will apply higher standards in your area at least for the time being. Generally and cynically speaking, you want a journal that applies lower standards to your area than they apply to other areas, not the other way around.

While the implicit suggestion is correct (i.e. find another journal), the reasoning seems to me a bit Ptolemaic, in the sense that it tries to find a convoluted explanation for a rather simple mechanism, overblowing the importance of the editors (the earth) in comparison with the apparent centre (the peer reviewers) and completely misses the global centre of the universe (your publication).

Since you did your best possible effort and you are submitting to journals that are on-topic with your research, you cannot do anything other than assume that the editor will accept and promptly send your paper to peer review.

Therefore, you simply want to have a decent editor that can forward your paper to decent peer reviewers. If the suitable editors of a certain journal are all booked, it means their peer reviewers pool is likely to be exhausted as well.

Find another journal, where a suitable (i.e. from the area of interest) editor has the time to skim through your paper and the peer reviewers have time to look at it. All reasoning about higher/lower standards and acceptance rates are speculation and a bit out of place, the statistics will be simply biased by the fact that "foreign" editors will probably refuse to care for your paper, if it is out of their expertise, simply letting it rot in the "assigning reviewers" queue or rejecting it immediately.

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    "you simply want to have a decent editor that can forward your paper to decent peer reviewers" - but one issue is that if the paper ends up with an editor not in your area then they don't know appropriate peer reviewers. So, you can end up with a referee who is not predisposed to this kind of work (because, they chose to work in a different specialty area) and therefore in the part of their report where they explain the significance of the research, they will likely undervalue it relative to a referee in your subfield. Apr 17 at 12:38
  • @DavidWhite"If the suitable editors of a certain journal are all booked, it means their peer reviewers pool is likely to eb exhausted as well." where suitable editor = editor from the area
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 17 at 13:05
  • No idea why someone downvoted your answer. I thought it was helpful, reminding the reader to think about the reviewers, which my answer didn't mention at all. Apr 17 at 15:31

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