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As an editorial board member for a low impact journal, I've been approached to provide comments on whether I think a proposal for a special issue is acceptable or not. I'm quite inexperienced in this role, and it seems rather different from reviewing a paper or grant proposal. I have been provided a list of guest editors as well as a justification statement, however, the special issue is not directly in my field so I can only assume credibility from prior publications (if I can find them).

Have any others been in this situation, and if so, by what criteria did they make a decision on acceptability?

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I have been receiving a lot of invitations lately to review proposals for special editions -- mostly open access. These proposals have been way outside of my area of study (and sometimes discipline). My guess is they scrape the web for potential reviewers and use a shotgun approach -- but that is just a guess.

I ALWAYS decline serving as a reviewer if I am not sufficiently expert on the substantive or methodological issues. I also try to highlight in my review where my expertise may fall short so the editor knows where to fill the gaps.

I suggest you decline any invitation if you are not qualified to review the topic.

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It is difficult to say what would be the best way to deal with this since the way journals set up editorial boards and then use them differ. As a member of a board I would expect you have been chosen to provide expertise within your field. I assume the proposal you received was sent to you from an Chief Editor or equivalent? If you feel you do not have the insights then the simple reply is that you do not have the insights to properly evaluate the proposal.

If, on the other hand, the proposal came from the outside, the appropriate thing to do would be to pass it onto the Chief Editor for further consideration. Again, I am working under the assumption that there is one or a couple of persons in charge of the journal and that they have an editorial board associated with the journal to help the journal in different ways.

So contact the person(s) in charge and explain your standpoint.

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