I recently received the following from an Elsevier editor at a prominent journal.
Dear Prof. Levinson, I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to decline the invitation to review the above paper. As an author who has a paper submitted to Transportation Research Part A, you should know how important is it to have good and prompt reviews. This is possible only if reviewers accept the invitation to review papers. As a very experienced past editor in chief told me once “if you wish your paper to be reviewed, you need to do your share for the journal”. I believe this is a fair comment. Hope you can reconsider your decision. Best wishes,
It would be a shame if you ever submit to this journal again, the editors might not look favourably.
I have edited, for free, i.e. engaged in unpaid labour, for Elsevier’s Transportation Research part A 31 times according to my incomplete records. I have published in this same journal 15 times over the course of my career, usually with coauthors, providing free content which Elsevier resells.
I think I have done my “share” for the journal, owned by one of the most profitable companies in the world.. But sure, if that’s how they want to play it, I am done. I am out. No more Transportation Research part A submissions from me. I won’t stand for this kind of guilt-tripping combined with implicit threat, this distorted version of ‘pay to play’. The editors of the other Transportation Research parts have never been quite so blatant about demanding this for that. I said “no,” that should have been the end of it.
To be clear, when a reviewer declines a new paper to review, the editor can ask nicely again if they need to. It is even more important on the second round. As an editor and founder of two open access journals: Journal of Transport and Land Use and Transport Findings, I know finding responsive reviewers can be difficult. I wish there were more open access journals in transport, so we could spread the wealth.
But I also know what I don’t know. I don’t know the other demands on the reviewers time. I don’t know whether they have sick or disabled family members at home, have a book coming out, face project or proposal deadlines, are recovering from earthquakes or natural disasters, have retired, are physically ill, have a conflict of interest with the paper, or are reviewing for 100 other journals, or anything else.