Getting Published in Joint Force Quarterly:
The Editorial Process
This section provides an outline of the editorial process involved in publishing an article in the journal and describes how manuscripts are handled by editors between submission and publication.
Table of contents
Criteria for publication
The editors of Joint Force Quarterly evaluate submitted manuscripts with the following criteria in mind: CJCS topical guidance, continuing education for national security professionals, scholarly standards of evidence and argumentation, and readability. The editor defines continuing national security education broadly to address all issues encompassed in the employment, threat, and control of force. Very few submissions are rejected on the grounds that they lie beyond the journal's purview. Far more frequently, manuscripts fail to pass the "so what?" test. Even if everything in the article is accurate and criticism is delivered with precision, does the author recommend clear solutions or arm the reader with actionable information? Be aggressive in seeking out and identifying problems that should be fixed irrespective of Service perspective, conventional wisdom, or published doctrine. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff encourages professional dialogue and criticism! New ideas save lives, resources, and liberty. Articles published in the journal have an exceptionally wide impact across the national security enterprise.
Who decides which papers to publish?
Joint Force Quarterly has space to publish about 20% of the papers that are received each week, hence the selection criteria are rigorous. Many submissions are rejected without being sent for review.
Figures for recent years are shown in the table below:
||No. of Accepts
The judgement about which papers will interest a broad readership is made by the Editor in Chief of Joint Force Quarterly, not its subject matter experts, because each SME sees only a tiny fraction of the papers submitted and is deeply knowledgeable about one field, whereas the Editor in Chief, who see all the papers submitted, can have a broader perspective and a wider context from which to view the paper.
How to submit a paper
Authors should use the manuscript formatting guide to ensure that the level, length, and format (particularly the layout of figures and tables) conforms with requirements, at submission, and each revision stage. This will reduce delays. Articles much be submitted via ScholarOne, our manuscript submission site. Any submissions that come in via e-mail will not be accepted.
All JFQ editors report to the Editor in Chief of Joint Force Quarterly, who sets the journal's publication policies. Authors submitting to JFQ do so on the understanding that they agree to these policies.
What happens to a submitted paper?
The first stage for a newly submitted paper is that the editorial staff considers whether to send it for peer-review. At submission, the manuscript is assigned to an editor covering the subject area, who seeks informal advice from advisors and editorial colleagues, and who makes this initial decision. The criteria for a paper to be sent for peer review are that the topic seems novel, arresting (illuminating, unexpected or surprising), and that the work has both immediate and far-reaching implications. The initial judgement is not a reflection on the technical validity of the work described, or on its importance to people in the same field.
Special attention is paid by the editors to the readability of submitted material. Editors encourage authors in highly technical disciplines to provide a slightly longer summary paragraph that describes clearly the basic background of the paper in a way that enables nonspecialist readers to understand what is being described.
Once the decision has been made to peer review the paper, the choice of referees is made by the editor who has been assigned the manuscript, who will be handling other papers in the same field, in consultation with editors handling submissions in related fields when necessary. Most papers are sent to two or three referees, but some are sent to more or, occasionally, just to one. Referees are chosen for the following reasons:
- independence from the authors and their institutions
- ability to evaluate the technical aspects of the paper fully and fairly
- currently or recently assessing related submissions
- availability to assess the manuscript within the requested time.
Subject Matter Expert (SME) reports
The ideal SME report indicates
- who will be interested in the manuscript and why
- any technical failings that need to be addressed before the authors' case is established.
Although JFQ's editors themselves judge whether a paper is likely to interest readers outside its own immediate field, SMEs often give helpful advice, for example if the work described is not as significant as the editors thought or has undersold its significance. Although JFQ's editors regard it as essential that any technical failings noted by SMEs are addressed, they are not so strictly bound by SME editorial opinions as to whether the work belongs in the journal.
Our goal is to reach a publishing decision as soon as possible with a goal of doing so in two to three months. Because issues of Joint Force Quarterly are planned well in advance of publication dates, it can take up to six months or more for submissions to be scheduled for publication.
All manuscripts are handled electronically through the consideration process. SMEs are asked to honor their prior agreement with JFQ to deliver a report within 30 days and send their reports via e-mail. Decisions by editors are routinely made rapidly after receipt of reports, but can take much longer depending on the number of submissions and workload of the reviewers.
What the decision letter means
All articles published in Joint Force Quarterly go through at least one round of review, usually two or three, sometimes more. At each stage, the editor will discuss the manuscript with editorial colleagues in the light of SMEs’ reports, and send a letter to the author offering one of the following options:
- Accept with no further changes required from the authors.
- Accept in principle once the authors have made some revisions.
- Reject because the SMEs or editors have raised considerable technical objections and/or the authors' claim has not been adequately established. Under these circumstances, the editor's letter will state explicitly whether or not a resubmitted version would be considered. If the editor has invited the authors to resubmit, authors must ensure that all technical comments have been satisfactorily addressed (not just some of them), unless specifically advised otherwise by the editor in the letter, and must accompany the resubmitted version with a point-by-point response to the comments. Editors will not send resubmitted papers to the reviewers if it seems that the authors have not made a serious attempt to address all criticisms.
- The paper is rejected with no offer to reconsider a resubmitted version. Under these circumstances, authors are strongly advised not to resubmit a revised version as it will be declined without further review. If the authors feel that they have a strong case for reconsideration they can appeal the decision in writing. But in view of JFQ's extreme space constraints and the large number of papers under active consideration at any one time, editors cannot assign a high priority to consideration of such appeals. Manuscripts cannot be submitted elsewhere while an appeal is being considered.
- Editors’ letters also contain detailed guidance about the paper’s format and style where appropriate (see below), which should be read in conjunction with the manuscript formatting guide when revising and resubmitting.
In replying to the comments, authors are advised to use language that would not cause offense when their paper is shown again to the SMEs, and to bear in mind that if a point was not clear to the SMEs and/or editors, it is unlikely that it would be clear to the nonspecialist readers of Joint Force Quarterly.
If JFQ declines to publish a paper and does not suggest resubmission, authors are strongly advised to submit their paper for publication elsewhere. If an author wishes to appeal against JFQ's decision, the appeal must be made in writing, not by telephone. JFQ’s editors are unable to assign high priority to consideration of appeals.
Authors often ask for a new SME to be consulted, particularly in cases where two SMEs have been used and one is negative, the other positive. JFQ is reluctant to consult new SMEs unless there is a particular, relevant area of expertise that was lacking in the SMEs already used. Authors should note that as JFQ is an interdisciplinary journal, SMEs for a paper are chosen for different reasons, for example a technical expert and a person who has a general overview of a field might both referee the same paper. A SME might be selected for expertise in only one area, for example to judge if a statistical analysis is appropriate, or if a particular technique that is essential to underpin the conclusion has been undertaken properly. This SME’s opinion must be satisfied for the manuscript to be published, but as this SME may not know about the field concerned, an endorsement in isolation from the other SME(s) would not constitute grounds for publication. Editors’ decisions are weighted according to the expertise of the SMEs, and not by a “voting” procedure.
Hence, JFQ prefers to stick with the original SMEs of a particular paper rather than to call in new SMEs to arbitrate, unless there is some specific way in which the SME can be shown to be technically lacking or biased in judgement.
If JFQ's editors agree to reconsider a paper, the other original SME(s) will have the chance to see and comment on the report of the SME who is the subject of the complaint. New SMEs can often raise new sets of points, which complicates and lengthens the consideration process instead of simplifying it.
If an author remains unsatisfied, he or she can write to the Editor, citing the manuscript reference number. In all these cases, it is likely that some time will elapse before JFQ can respond, and the paper must not be submitted for publication elsewhere during this time.
See this information document for a full description of what happens after acceptance and before publication.
Formats and lengths of papers
Space in JFQ is extremely limited, and so format requirements must be strictly observed, as advised by the editor handling the submission, and detailed in the manuscript formatting guide.
Copyediting of accepted papers
After a paper is accepted, it is copyedited to ensure maximum clarity and reach, a process that enhances the value of papers in various ways. JFQ's copyeditors are happy to advise authors about the format of their papers after acceptance for publication. Their role is to
- edit the language for maximum clarity and precision for those in other disciplines. Special care is given to papers whose authors’ native language is not English, and special attention is given to summary paragraphs.
- ensure that the paper is at the length specified by the manuscript editor (including number of figures).
- ensure that the terminology and notation conform to NDU Press's guide style.
- ensure that the figures and tables are clear and will fit in the space available.
Our copyeditors send authors the edited text for approval before it is typeset. This enables most queries to be resolved before proof stage.
Original papers are assigned to an issue 4 weeks before publication, at which time authors will receive an e-mail notifying them of their scheduled publication date.