- Editor's ForewordPassing the Torch
This issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature marks my last as General Editor. On December 31, 2018, I will conclude a sixteen-year stint with the Journal: nine years as an editorial board member, and seven as General Editor. Since 2012, I have spent countless hours reading submissions, assigning them to reviewers, reading the reviews, making decisions, copyediting, and proofreading. No one will be surprised to learn that I look forward, just a bit, to having that time freed up for other tasks and pastimes. Yet as I look back on these years, it is not the time spent that first comes to mind but the satisfaction of being involved in a worthwhile enterprise, and gratitude for the opportunity to learn so much about our field, far beyond the limited areas of my own expertise. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve the Journal and the Society of Biblical Literature in this way. And it is with confidence that I turn the Journal over to the care of Mark Brett, who, I hope, will enjoy his tenure as General Editor much as I have enjoyed mine.
When I first began as General Editor, I aimed above all to continue the fine work of my predecessors, the late Gail O'Day and James VanderKam. Gail and Jim were the General Editors of JBL during my years as an editorial board member, and they set a high bar for their successors. In addition, however, I set myself a small number of goals. The first was to move the Journal from a paper and snail-mail system to a web-based endeavor. I did not have the time, space, institutional support, or desire to store physical copies of all submissions, to keep manual records, or to send paper copies by mail to reviewers. Our first attempt was via an improvised database and email system that was helpful but cumbersome. We then experimented with and considered other web-based systems until we settled on Scholastica. As our technical issues have been (mostly) ironed out, it has been possible for us to think about how best to use the data that Scholastica provides in order to get a better understanding of how, and how well, JBL is serving our community.
My hope was that by moving to a more efficient, web-based system, we would be able to achieve a second goal: to improve our time lines, especially the lengthy [End Page 785] time from submission to decision. We have indeed seen some improvement, but there is still more work to be done, especially given the ever-increasing number of submissions. In order to address the problem, while still maintaining our firm commitment to a thorough, double-blind peer review process, I have gradually increased the size of the board; I have also secured more guest reviews by experts outside the editorial board, especially for highly specialized articles. I continue to hope that with such measures our time lines will decrease significantly over the coming years.
Another goal was to maintain and improve the diversity on the editorial board, with the aim of better mirroring the diversity of SBL membership and taking into account the wide range of approaches and methods that are increasingly being deployed in our field. Previous General Editors had already been paying attention to gender diversity as well as to international representation on the board; I have taken care to include African American, Asian/Asian American, and Latino/a scholars, and in the process have come to know the work of many fine scholars whom I had not previously encountered.
On a related note, we continue to monitor the percentage of articles submitted, accepted, and published by women authors. For reasons that I do not entirely understand, the statistics have remained fairly constant over many years. Approximately 20 percent of submitted articles are by women. But it is worth noting that every year starting from 2013 to the present has seen a greater share of manuscript submissions by women compared with the period 2005–2011. It remains my hope that more women will consider JBL as a venue for...