Personal statement on reviewing and being reviewed

My policy on reviewing


I am always happy to review papers in the field of Philippine studies, Australian studies, linguistic anthropology and writing system research. I am unlikely to agree to review papers on grammar or applied linguistics, even if they intersect with languages that are familiar to me.

Mannheim Principles

Before deciding to review a paper I follow the Mannheim Principles and I will sometimes ask the editor(s):

a) Have you already read this paper?

b) Having read it, on what basis (in very general terms) do you consider that it deserves expert evaluation?

c) If it passes review by all reviewers, do you commit to publishing it?

In the event that there are negative or non-committal answers to any single one of these questions, I will decline to review the paper. This is not to be rude. The Mannheim Principles are designed to prevent everyone’s time being wasted. If an editor sends a paper out for review without assessing it, this is a misuse of voluntary labour. Similarly, when papers pass review and yet are not published, this is also wasting the authors’ and reviewers’ time.

Journals that I will not review for

Otherwise, there are only a few circumstances in which I will decline to review a paper: if it is beyond my expertise, if I have already reviewed an unusually high number within the year, if I have already reviewed several papers by the same author, if the author/editor does not provide access to the data that the paper relies on.

I will not review papers in journals owned by Elsevier, unless the publisher commits to releasing the paper (if passed) as full open access at no cost to the author or the author’s institution.


I stand by my review comments so I’m happy to be identified by name to the author at the editors’ discretion.

My policy on reviewing ARC grants

The ARC system is in dire need of reform. I endorse the process proposed by Nick Enfield, and above all the cheap reforms proposed by many academics, summarised by ARC Tracker here.

ARC grant-holders are contractually obliged to review up to 20 grants per annum! To do this effectively they would be doing nothing but reviewing grants while neglecting their own grant to which they also have contractual obligations. This is clearly not workable. I will review half this amount, after factoring in my FTE level. Needless to say, any project that strays from my FoR codes will not be accepted.

I will not review projects submitted by any investigator with credible allegations of misconduct against them from colleagues or students. This is not an ideal or principled stand since I realise that it simply becomes someone else’s problem. However, having reliable knowledge of unethical behaviour means that I will be unable to produce an unprejudiced review.

My policy on being reviewed

Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him

I will never waste anyone’s time by submitting a paper or grant application that I believe to be sub-standard. So if it turns out that the work that you’re editing or reviewing is objectively terrible, that’s because I’m a terrible scholar, not a terrible person. Please assume good faith and take licence to be as critical as possible.

I will address all peer revisions, or give full explanations as to why I haven’t in a given instance. I am happy to make further necessary editorial changes after peer revisions are already incorporated into a draft, but on ethical grounds I will not modify core content or analysis because these requested changes will not have been assessed by reviewers.

My position on peer-review models

Peer review is by no means perfect, but I believe the best model available is the group-consolidated method promoted by eLife that addresses two of the biggest drawbacks of classical models: pace of review and quality control. You can read about the eLife review process here. I’m also very much in favour of post-publication peer review.