Arc Humanities Press’s peer-review policy fully conforms to AUP Best Practice Guidelines. The two areas of difference are, in our opinion, improvements on the Association of University Presses’ guidance. Firstly, Arc employs an in-house specialist to manage the peer-review process, to avoid any perceived conflict of interest for an acquisitions editor. Secondly, Arc uses subject-specific series boards or teams of advisers to provide scholarly judgments of each publication and the Faculty Board that oversees the entire publishing program does not perform quality control (a task for these series boards) but undertakes quality assurance, ensuring that the press’s processes are fit for purpose and are applied correctly.
Editorial Boards, specialist advisers, and scholars appointed to carry out peer reviewing are key parts of the quality assurance process. This is supplemented by pre-press and other support for our authors. This is more fully explained in The Publishing Process.
1. Initial Evaluation by an Editorial Board
Quality assurance on academic grounds takes place in two phases: initially when an author submits a Proposal Form requesting the publisher to consider their material for publication, and at peer-review stage. All three presses are willing to offer conditional contracts to scholars. Conditional contracts offer many advantages to authors, as explained in The Publishing Process:
The contract will in many cases be offered prior to the complete manuscript having been written. In such cases, the contract is strictly conditional on the final manuscript passing the peer-review process. However, the initial evaluation phase described above is intended to ensure that contracted books will pass through the peer-review process with flying colors. One of the main advantages of such advance, conditional contracts is that an author knows from the outset who the publisher will be; they will have an acquisitions editor to ask for advice on technical matters; and they are likely to be given a mentor from within the editorial board to assist on content matters. Such support is particularly helpful for early career researchers, and it also means that authors do not have to try and second-guess what they think a future publisher may want.
Since it is undesirable to offer a contract to a work which subsequently fails peer-review, the publisher undertakes an initial evaluation to minimize such occurrences. The publisher invites a Series Board to decide collectively whether a conditional contract should be offered. The Board or (where there is no board or the board considers that an external specialist is required) a scholar invited by the publisher is asked to complete an Evaluation Form and make one of four recommendations:
1) Provisionally accept the proposal and engage the author, conditional on the final manuscript being approved by the independent peer-reviewers
2) Reject the proposal entirely, for reasons of lack of sufficient quality
3) Reject the proposal for this series, since it falls outside its remit (with a brief explanation why)
4) There is inadequate information on which to make a judgement; please send us . . . (e.g., a sample chapter, a recent article by the author on the same topic).
Normally, this evaluation is done within two weeks (except for option 4 when the decision is deferred pending further materials). The Acquisitions Editor will contact the author with the decision. If the decision is option 1, the Acquisitions Editor will present the proposal and financial information to the next monthly Publishers Meeting. If approved there, the work will be contracted.
2. Peer Review
Once the Final Manuscript is submitted, it will be sent for peer review. This is typically done by two scholars: one expert appointed by the editorial board, and one commissioned by the press. The peer reviewers follow a standard form and the anonymized reports are then supplied to the author. Authors can indicate in their Proposal Form any scholars who should be avoided. The Peer Review Questionnaire is quite detailed and ensures that the Board and publisher have firm grounds on which to go ahead to ask for changes, publish the material, or to reject it.