Note: The 124th Annual Meeting of the AHA has concluded, but discussions of the topics and events at the meeting continue. Read on for more in this blog post, and also see our roundup of what others are saying about the Annual Meeting.
Interested in submitting an article to the AHR, but find the process mysterious? At a well-attended lunch-time open forum held on Friday, January 8, 2010, at the annual meeting, Robert A. Schneider, the editor of the American Historical Review, Associate Editor Konstantin Dierks, and a team of editorial assistants revealed the intricacies of processing articles and book reviews for eventual publication in the historical journal.
The editorial assistants help, Schneider said, with the complex process of selecting books for review out of the 3,000 or so books that are received each year, and with the even more arduous task of compiling and maintaining a database of reviewers. The database has to be comprehensive, with sufficient information on each reviewer to preclude conflicts of interest (even such seemingly far-fetched ones as an author and a reviewer having been fellow graduate students) affecting the integrity of the review.
As for articles, nearly 300 of which arrive each year at the AHR‘s office in Bloomington, Indiana, all of them are read by the associate editor, who then passes them on to the editor with a brief comment as a preliminary evaluation and indicates whether the article fits the criteria of the AHR.
The journal looks, Schneider said, not only for excellent scholarship and originality, but also, most importantly, for content that speaks across the profession, transcending subdisciplinary boundaries. If an article is accepted as appropriate for the pages of the AHR, the editor forwards the draft to members of the editorial board along with his own comments.
If the editors decide to proceed further with the article, it is sent to two experts in the field but without identifying the author. These "external" experts provide extended and elaborate comments and suggestions for revisions. By this time, the manuscript has thus accumulated six extremely useful critiques, and an author benefits from these even if an article is not ultimately accepted, declared Schneider.
He also said, in response to a question during the discussion period, that it is difficult to explain precisely how the editors determine whether an article satisfies the journal’s stipulation that it speak across the profession. But the editors can certainly decide whether an article incorporates the "outreach effect" as a foundational element or not.