Earlier this year, the publication committee for the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) appointed Simine Vazire, who was previously Collabra: Psychology’s Senior Editor for Social Psychology, as the new Editor-in-Chief for the journal. In this post, we discuss new directions for the journal under Professor Vazire’s leadership.
UC Press: 2020 has been a year of changes for you! Congratulations on your appointment as Collabra’s Editor-in-Chief, and also on your move from University of California, Davis to University of Melbourne!
Simine Vazire: Thanks Jeff! 2020 has been quite the year for all of us…
UC Press: Already there have been a number of changes to the journal, including the naming of new Senior Editors Yoel Inbar (Social Psychology), Kevin King (Clinical Psychology), Andy Perfors (Cognitive Psychology), Don van Ravenzwaaij (Methodology and Research Practice), and Brenton Wiernik (Organizational Behavior). What can you say about the editorial team?
Simine Vazire: I’m very excited to work with the team of new and returning senior editors and associate editors. I’m also super grateful to the outgoing editors, and especially the outgoing senior editors Rolf Zwaan (who was a co-founding editor with me, going all the way back to 2014), Jennifer Tackett, Don Moore, and Victoria Savalei, and the ones who are continuing on, Brent Donnellan (Personality Psychology) and Ben Brown (Developmental Psychology). Overall, it’s a team I’m very grateful to be a part of, though there are ways in which I’d like to try to improve, especially in terms of representation (e.g., on the dimensions of race/ethnicity, gender, geographical region, etc.).
UC Press: What policy changes have you implemented, or do you foresee in the future for the journal?
Simine Vazire: We’ve changed a few things. First, we moved from optional transparent review (where authors could choose whether the peer review history of their paper was published along with their paper) to making it the default—all papers published in Collabra: Psychology from now on will also have the reviews and decision letters published alongside the paper. Moreover, we now explicitly give authors permission to share the decision letters and reviews (including for rejected manuscripts) however they wish. Both of these changes will hopefully make Collabra more accountable—if our review and decision-making process has systematic flaws, it will be easier for these to come to light and for us to address them.
We’ve also moved towards blind review—we don’t share the authors’ names or affiliations with reviewers (and reviewers can choose whether or not to reveal their identities). We don’t expect authors to go to great lengths to remove every trace of their identity (e.g., we fully support preprints and of course if a Collabra submission also exists as a preprint, reviewers could easily figure out the authors’ identities). However, we feel that the journal itself shouldn’t send this information to reviewers—that would imply that we think reviewers should use information about who the authors are in evaluating the manuscripts, and we don’t think that.
Another change we’ve made is we’ve added a few quantitative questions to the form reviewers complete—one question each asking reviewers to evaluate the construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and statistical validity of the research. This helps editors figure out the strengths and limitations of manuscripts, and also serves to remind reviewers that the focus of their evaluation should be on the quality of the research rather than its novelty or interestingness.
UC Press: What makes Collabra: Psychology different from other psychology journals?
Simine Vazire: There are a few big differences. One is that we evaluate submissions based only on scientific, methodological, and ethical rigor—we don’t put a premium on novelty. That said, we do have high standards for rigor—so it’s not that anything goes. But the idea is that we want to reduce the degree to which editors’ and reviewers’ idiosyncratic tastes come into play, and we want to give equal recognition to incremental research, or work that helps correct the record, as we do to research that breaks new ground. We hope this makes it easier for authors to anticipate how their submission will be received at the journal—we don’t want submitting to Collabra to feel like playing the lottery. We want to make the criteria for acceptance as clear as possible, and the reasons for our decisions as transparent as possible.
Some people might worry that this means we won’t consider any paper that doesn’t check every box of methodological rigor, but that’s not the case. Scientific integrity doesn’t require that every study be definitive, it just requires that the conclusions be well-calibrated. We are happy to publish work that is preliminary or inconclusive, if the methods are solid and the interpretations are well-grounded. For some kinds of research, it’s unrealistic to expect a single paper to provide a definitive answer (e.g., for hard-to-collect data), and when this kind of research is presented clearly, with the uncertainty and unresolved questions front-and-center, Collabra may very well be a good home for it.
We also hope to be a home for high quality work that helps to make the field of psychology more self-correcting. This could mean publishing replications, critical reviews, or other kinds of verification or correction work. I’ve always found it baffling that many journals don’t want those kinds of submissions, not only because they are often the studies that use the highest standards (often because there is more scrutiny for this kind of work than for original discoveries), but it’s only by embracing this kind of work that a scientific field can earn the label of “self-correcting” and therefore “credible.”
Another thing that I think is distinctive about Collabra is that it’s open to innovation. Decisions about policy are made by members of the SIPS publication committee, together with the senior editorial team (and, when there are financial implications, with the publisher, UC Press). So far, all of these groups have been very open to change and to trying new things—it’s one of the reasons that taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief was so appealing. For example, I’ve been looking on with envy at some of the things that journals like Meta-Psychology are doing, and I am excited to try some of those things at Collabra (e.g., moving towards an overlay journal model).
Of course Collabra is also an Open Access (OA) journal. I’m glad to see more OA journals in psychology over the years, but it’s still the exception rather than the norm. One thing I want to change as soon as possible at Collabra is moving away from the APC model (where each team of authors is charged a processing fee when their manuscript is accepted for publication). We’re starting to see new models where, for example, institutions (e.g., universities or funding agencies) can pay for membership, or other kinds of ways to shift the cost of OA from individual researchers to institutions. It doesn’t make sense to put that financial burden on authors, and to have a transaction for every accepted manuscript—we need to find more sustainable and just ways to fund OA journals. University of California Press has taken steps in this direction through providing institutional subvention for publication fees to corresponding authors from the University of California system who publish in Collabra and other open-access journals published by UC Press.
UC Press: What kind of papers do you most like to see published in Collabra, and what should potential first-time contributors to the journal do as they consider submitting their work?
Simine Vazire: When I started, I made a couple of videos introducing the guiding principles at Collabra—I think those would be a good place to start if you’re curious to learn more about what we stand for and what to expect. Another important thing to know is that we’re very open to having people contribute in a variety of different ways—as authors, reviewers, editors, or even in unconventional roles (e.g., we have talked about bringing on reproducibility checkers). If you have an idea for how Collabra could be better, or you want to get involved, please reach out! We don’t have strict rules or preconceived notions about what rank or status or level of experience a person should have before contributing in any of these roles, and we would love to hear from anyone who shares our goals and values and wants to help us do better.
UC Press: You have been a central figure for Collabra: Psychology from the very start. Thank you for your contributions, and best wishes for the future of the journal!
Simine Vazire: I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time! I’m really grateful to the authors, reviewers, SIPS members, and the entire community that has made a journal like Collabra possible. There are many journals competing for the privilege of publishing your high quality work, or getting your input as a peer reviewer, and each time an author or reviewer chooses Collabra, that helps shift the incentive structure and the priorities in our field just a little bit.
Collabra: Psychology, the official journal of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science, is a mission-driven, open-access journal from University of California Press that shares not only the research it publishes, but also the value created by the psychology community during the peer-review process. Collabra: Psychology has seven sections representing the broad field of psychology, including the highlighted focus area “Methodology and Research Practice.”