JCR in 2021: An Editorial
Our Journal, Our Intellectual Home
The Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) is not only the premier outlet for the best scholarship in consumer research, it is also the intellectual home of the global consumer research community. In sustaining that home, the ideals of the journal include publishing insights gained from a variety of perspectives on critical consumer-relevant issues, from diverse theories and methodologies to substantive domains. As a team of Editors, we see our role as nurturing, building, protecting, and further strengthening our intellectual home. And we want to build up JCR as a platform of insights to the world by better translating our research and showing how it is important to others; we want to invite the broader world into our home, to share the insights created within our walls.
To become the stewards of JCR during a pandemic unlike any we’ve known in our lifetime demands that we think about how community is fostered, even in a socially-distanced world. Does JCR—as our intellectual home—connect us? Is our digital space compelling enough? Do community members find it easy and exciting to stay connected to the new ideas we work hard to develop? Does our intellectual home feel equally welcoming and transparent to all members of our community? COVID-19 has shown us the power and importance of home. In 2020, home renovation has been popular and we, too, have been thinking it might be the ideal time for a little updating.
So what efforts, in addition to the traditional work of editors, will we be tackling? Four things. Four guiding principles. 1) Transparency, fairness, and trust; 2) timeliness and speed; 3) diversity, equity and inclusion; and 4) community building.
Transparency, Fairness, and Trust
We are in the midst of establishing and documenting fair and transparent processes that our dedicated group of Associate Editors and reviewers will follow in evaluating papers. Consistency is key. We will strive for a common and widely known understanding regarding which papers fit with JCR, how to fairly evaluate paper submissions in a consistent manner, and what we, as a field, consider desirable to publish in JCR. As our premier journal, JCR must strive for excellence, rigor, and relevance. These qualities are, frankly, a given for publication in a premier journal such as JCR. But we strive to go further. Many great and important papers have been published in JCR over the years. However, it is fair to say, self-critically, that some papers, while being excellent and rigorous, have been of merely incremental value to our discipline and stakeholders, and at times limited in their relevance to consumer behavior. A JCR-worthy contribution to us meets the standards of excellence, rigor, and relevance, as well as having the qualities of what we consider “great” papers.
Great papers come in many different forms. Conceptual papers may provide a new lens or an elevated perspective on a set of important and relevant issues. Experimental papers may provide key new data (or moderators or boundary conditions) that test and further develop an established theory, or they may introduce and help to understand a new and important contemporary consumer phenomenon. A great paper may provide new insights into consumer culture, connecting sociological theorizing with qualitative or quantitative data. Increasingly so in recent years, great papers also push the boundaries on methodological fronts by using multiple methods on different data types (e.g., large secondary/archival datasets from companies combined with experiments) or by bringing methods from outside of our traditional paradigms into our discipline (e.g., machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing). Fundamentally, as a team of Editors we strongly believe that there is not just one template for a great JCR article, and we welcome—and look forward to celebrating—a diverse set of approaches, topics, methods, and ideas. As such, we do not believe in a single “template” for evaluating papers submitted to JCR. Jointly with our Associate Editors, we will develop a useful typology of different paper styles (which will be made publicly available) and fair and transparent evaluation criteria for each type of paper. We will also work with members of our Editorial Review Board to train JCR reviewers on these evaluation criteria to improve between-reviewer consistency. Finally, we will work with authors to turn their submissions into papers that will advance consumer research in significant ways.
Timeliness and Speed
All premier journals find themselves struggling with turnaround times in the review process. Given that JCR strives to publish findings that have contemporary relevance, it is important that our review process is as expeditious as reasonably possible. We want to be able to publish research findings on current issues while those findings are still cutting-edge and of maximal value to readers. This requires that we take a close look at the review process and the paper requirements to address bottlenecks that delay publication. In a survey of our Associate Editors, the large majority of them told us that JCR papers and reviews should be shorter, and that the review process should have fewer rounds. They also felt that authors should receive feedback from us faster, and, in turn, should resubmit their papers within a shorter time span (albeit with understanding and flexibility with respect to matters in authors’ personal lives). We will implement these recommendations. Given that every paper’s review process involves multiple individuals—one of us as Editor, an AE, usually three reviewers, and, of course, the authors—there are plenty of ways in which delays can creep into our processes. It will require a commitment from everyone in these roles to maintaining as best as possible a speedy, timely review process at JCR.
It is important, however, that timeliness and speed in reviewing does not result in reviewers, AEs, and us doing anything other than a careful, rigorous job. This is all the more important when considered in the context of data integrity. As befits a premier journal, the data, analyses, and any information published in JCR must be accurate. As standards evolve and improve in our discipline and the social sciences more widely, JCR will also evolve and improve. The Journal’s Policy Board is ultimately responsible for setting the policies on data integrity and reporting requirements. As you no doubt noticed, in October 2020 the journal began to use updated policies and new requirements in relation to data collection statements, guidelines for open science and research transparency, rules around providing data upon submission, and guidelines for data archival. As we start out our term as Editors, these new/updated policies will have been in place for just a few months. We, along with our team of AEs, will be watching closely how these policies work in practice. If or when we see a need to make adjustments, we will work closely with the Policy Board on such initiatives.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have come to the forefront in society and must be considered and taken seriously by the journal. These issues require careful consideration of the different realities experienced in our field. It is our belief that a more diverse community of scholars can better investigate and find innovative solutions to the difficult and complex problem facing consumers, marketers, and policy makers today. We will focus on DEI in journal management (by measuring and setting goals for participation as associate editors and on the review board as well as ad-hoc reviewers); in journal content (by more actively encouraging work on under-represented consumer groups) and “inside” articles (by creating greater awareness about potential biases in language, measures, and operationalizations).
Finally, we will focus on community building, especially online. JCR as a brand is much more than just the articles published within its pages. We want to make sure that knowledge is not buried alive but rather lives to influence science, marketing practice, and society. Toward this end, we have revamped and relaunched the JCR website with the goal of better highlighting our community of consumer researchers and the important work we do. On this platform, we want consumer researchers to share their knowledge with other scholars and showcase their insights to the world. We welcome contributions not only from current authors but any consumer researcher—as guest columnists, special topics moderators, interviewers and interviewees, authors of popular press books, creators of pedagogical materials and cases, and more. In short, our website will be our platform to you and the world. The new website continues to publish forthcoming articles and provide pertinent information about paper submissions. As editors, we will also use the website to communicate with you about criteria and guidelines of the review process, data integrity requirements approved by the Policy Board, and DEI initiatives. But, beyond that, it will be a place for you to stay current, stay connected, and find the (freely available) content you need for your work in the field, the lab, or the classroom.
There are pressing issues ahead for consumer researchers. In addition to our traditional focus on buying, consuming, and disposing of consumer goods and services, scholars also are addressing big, macro, consumer-relevant issues facing our world. If there has ever been a time where balanced and reasoned scholarship was needed, and when it mattered that the work was both clean and critical, it is now.
We are excited to be editors of the journal for the next three years. In our time, we hope you see JCR—our home—equitable, energized, engaged, and updated for our future together. Together with you, we hope to make JCR an even bigger and better home for consumer researchers.
Our Journal, Our Intellectual Home