Guidelines for reviewers

Human Systems is an international journal formed with the intention of fostering and extending systemic consultation. It was conceived out of a shared perception that emerged during discussions between the Kensington Consultation Centre and the Leeds Family Therapy and Research Centre. We discern radical changes taking place in the ways that practitioners conceptualise their work. An outline of the scope and intentions of the Journal is provided in the first 'Perspective' of Issue I (1990), a copy of which is posted on our website. The Journal is intended to play an active part in the development of systemic consultation by helping its readers to be aware of the changes taking place, and opening up new ideas and possibilities as rapidly as possible.

 We believe the Journal will best achieve its objectives if it operates in ways that reflect current thinking in the field. We therefore have to ask referees to add some further considerations to their usual criteria of quality. We wish as far as possible for the Journal to have the character of a conversation. The papers we publish do not have to be definitive statements of how things are, but may serve as provocations, inspirations, a way of sharing problems, illustrative reactions, warnings or exhortations. So the core judgement of the referee is whether the publication of the paper will help achieve the objectives of the Journal. In commenting on a paper, please first indicate to what extent the basic idea contributes, at least potentially, to these objectives. Then your further suggestions about the paper will be helpful.

 As with any conversation, there are also criteria of quality. The presentation should be honest, with every effort made to help the reader to acquire the ideas and information as easily as possible. The ethical and anti-discriminatory basis of the work should be explicit in the paper. Inevitably there will be papers that are potentially worthwhile, but the way they are presented will prevent the reader from getting the benefit from them. In some cases papers are so obscure that even the referee cannot form any kind of judgement. I would like to make suggestions about the framework within which you might formulate your comments.

 EDITORIAL DECISION

 The Editor has a number of options with each paper:

 1. Immediate acceptance with priority for rapid publication.

 2. Immediate acceptance with no more than typographical corrections.

 3. Acceptance subject to certain changes. The author is told what is required, and guaranteed publication if these requirements are shown to be met. The decision about the revised paper is made by the Editor.

 4. Request to resubmit. The author is told in some detail about necessary changes, and the revised paper will then be refereed again. In these cases the Editor has some duty to ensure that if the revised paper now achieves the specified changes, the referees do not introduce major new requirements. This category covers a broad range. At one end, are papers that need some specific further material before a judgement can be made. At the other are those in which the core material seems to be important but the presentation is so deficient that it is not possible to make any judgement about the paper at all.

 5. Resubmit in a different form. Sometimes what a paper has to offer is not of sufficient substance to justify a full article. In this case the author might be advised to rewrite it in some less demanding format such as a commentary, or a technical note.

 6. Rejection. This category is used even for papers with some merit if it seems unlikely that the author will be able to reach the standards of the Journal, and so it would be unfair to ask them to work on a resubmission. Other papers will simply not have anything useful to say. A paper can be perfectly good but not relevant for our Journal. Occasionally a paper will be based on work that is ethically unacceptable; in this case our policy is that, however interesting the findings, the paper will not be accepted.

 Sometimes a referee may feel that the author is entitled to have their view heard, but that alternative considerations are also important. In such cases the most appropriate action may be to publish the paper, and to have a commentary to follow it. This could be provided by the referee or they may suggest someone else to do it. If you encounter such a case, do let the Editor know.

 PROCEDURES

 Referees are asked not to make explicit suggestions about the fate of a paper in their notes to authors. The Editor will make the final judgements based on reports from two referees, a reading of the paper, and an awareness of the current pressure for space in the Journal. Your main comments should generally be in a form that can be transmitted directly to the authors. Comments to the authors should be in a form that continues the conversation, and helps them to a wider perspective on their work, whatever the final decision. You may or may not choose to identify yourself in these comments. You may also wish to send additional (perhaps more pungent) advice separately to the Editor.

 Papers are sent to referees as far as possible without identifying information. Similarly,- the Editor will not identify referees to the author, but comments can be signed if the referee so wishes.

 In order to give referees feedback, our normal practice is to send each referee a copy of the other referee report and the Editor's decision letter.

 Finally, the effective operation of any journal rests on the quality of the work done by its referees. We therefore hope that you will regard the success of Human Systems as being worth supporting by your efforts, knowing that we, and our authors, are extremely grateful for the work that you do. This also means that I must ask you, if you take on the job of refereeing a paper, to give it a high priority so that authors are not kept waiting, and we can maintain our objective of rapid publication. I will therefore be happy to have your comments by Email if you find that convenient.

 Peter Stratton, Editor.