Journal Editorial Review Boards: Q & A With Alex Zablah

Zablah, head of Haslam’s Department of Marketing, was recently recognized with the 2024 Journal of Marketing Outstanding Reviewer Award

June 18, 2024

In addition to teaching and conducting research, faculty members often take on additional service roles in their chosen discipline. Among these, many serve on the editorial review boards of academic journals.

Alex Zablah, marketing department head, Gerber/Taylor Distinguished Professor and Kinney Family Faculty Research Fellow at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business, was recently selected as a winner of the 2024 Journal of Marketing (JM) Outstanding Reviewer Award. JM is the marketing discipline’s top scholarly and professional journal. Out of its 180 current editorial review board (ERB) members, Zablah was one of just 14 chosen for the Outstanding Reviewer distinction this year. 

Zablah began reviewing for JM on an ad-hoc basis shortly after obtaining his Ph.D. from Georgia State University in 2005 and joined the journal’s ERB in 2017. He estimates that he has reviewed 111 papers for JM since 2008. This is his second time receiving the journal’s Outstanding Reviewer Award; in 2021, he and fellow Haslam faculty member Kelly Hewett both received the honor.

Haslam’s marketing department head has served and/or currently serves on the editorial review boards for numerous other journals, including the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Service Research, Journal of Retailing, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Business Research and Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management. From the latter, he received a Best Reviewer Award in 2013.

Here, Zablah answers a few questions about serving on editorial review boards.

How many editorial review board members typically work on a given journal, and how are they selected?

The number of ERB members varies by journal, usually as a function of the number of submissions a journal receives and the quality of the journal (which impacts turnaround times). Each editorial team chooses its ERB members based on the review needs in a given topic/method area and based on the qualifications/reputation of the individual scholar. Almost always, ERB members are authors who have been published in the journal. Recently, journals have started keeping a scorecard to evaluate the quality of the reviewers and how constructive their feedback is. This scoring system often factors into journal reappointment processes.

What are the duties of a journal reviewer?

Typically, three reviewers are assigned to each paper submitted to a journal. The submission is managed by an associate editor who evaluates and integrates reviewer feedback to provide a recommendation (reject/accept/revise) to the editor and to offer the authors meaningful, actionable guidance. All reviewers evaluate the papers separately. Usually, you see convergence around major issues across reviewers; however, recommendations for how to address limitations in the research often can and do vary across reviewers, which is where the associate editor and editor become “tiebreakers” to provide the author team with direction.

When reviewing a paper, what I focus on the most is whether it advances a novel idea that is likely to change how a marketer, policymaker, consumer, etc., thinks about a particular issue. If there is some novel/interesting/thought-provoking idea, I see it as my role to provide feedback that can help move this idea toward publication. That often involves providing guidance on how to improve theorizing, refine testing of the ideas through empirical work or improve the persuasiveness of their manuscript through additional/improved analyses.

The Outstanding Reviewer Award announcement from JM cited your constructiveness, thoroughness and timeliness. What, in your opinion, are some other qualities of a good reviewer?

A good reviewer is committed to helping authors publish ideas that are novel/have the potential to change how others think (without trying to change the core idea/message the authors are trying to communicate). This certainly ties in with having a constructive mindset.

Similarly, a good reviewer must focus on the science and be open to new ideas, even if those ideas differ from what they might believe. If a paper is scientifically sound, even if it contradicts what the reviewer may personally hold to be true, they are fair in their evaluation of the work and help shepherd it to publication.

Another critical attribute of a good reviewer, in my opinion, is respect for the work the authors have put in to create and submit the research for review. This respect manifests in investing adequate time to read and evaluate papers and to provide thoughtful, constructive feedback. This can be summed up as: “review others the way you would want to be reviewed.”

Finally, a good reviewer must be knowledgeable on the topic/method being evaluated, aware/sensitive to what they may not know and willing to consult the literature when in doubt.

How does the role of reviewer relate to your passion for mentorship?

Reviewing and mentorship are certainly related in that they both focus on helping others develop their work/career as scholars. Reviewing, to me, is a very meaningful way to contribute to advancing the science of marketing and to the marketing academic community. It’s important and time-consuming work, but also fun, especially when the feedback you and other reviewers provide helps advance a paper toward publication. I’ve learned a lot from very conscientious reviewers over the years and have tried to pay it forward by devoting the time and energy needed to provide constructive reviews.


Stacy Estep, writer/publicist,