Managing the Editorial Board

Table of Contents


The write-up discusses issues in managing the editorial board of an academic journal. Journal publishing is vital in disseminating new research and advancing scholarly knowledge across disciplines. By providing rigorous peer review and editing, academic journals ensure the quality and validity of published papers. At the helm of this quality control process lies the editorial board.

Journal Publishing Landscape

Through journal publishing, researchers can share their work with a global audience of fellow experts. This accelerates scientific progress as discoveries are rapidly communicated, challenged, and built upon. Top peer-reviewed journals are hugely influential in determining research agendas, career advancement, funding opportunities, and university rankings.

However, the volume of publishing has exploded in recent decades. With over 30,000 academic journals circulating, the editorial process faces immense pressure. Managing diverse expertise and upholding standards across such a vast enterprise requires efficient coordination by journal editors and editorial board members. Reputable academic journals, such as Science, Nature, and BMJ, have sound editorial board members contributing to their growth and maintaining high standards.

Challenges in Managing the Editorial Board

Managing the editorial board of an academic journal can be a real challenge. Some of these challenges include the following:

  • Handling a flood of incoming submissions while ensuring comprehensive and unbiased reviews
  • Coordinating a global team of editors and reviewers with varying availability and subject expertise
  • Maintaining high ethical standards by detecting issues like plagiarism, conflicts of interest, and results manipulation
  • Balancing the interests of authors, reviewers, readers, and the publisher
  • Adapting policies and processes to accommodate evolving open access publication models

Navigating these tensions requires editorial boards to implement clear communication protocols, structured workflows, and decision-making transparency – no easy feat, given the complexities at play.

Understanding the Dynamics of an Editorial Board

Composition and Roles

An editorial board comprises diverse experts overseeing an academic journal’s publication process. The editor-in-chief or chief editor is at the helm and provides overall leadership and direction. Supporting the editor are associate editors who handle specific areas or article types. Finally, the wider editorial board includes distinguished scholars who lend their expertise to evaluate submissions, make recommendations, and represent the journal in their field. Each role contributes unique value.

The editor-in-chief sets editorial policies, arbitrates decisions, and stewards the journal’s reputation. Associate editors coordinate the review process for assigned submissions and provide specialized input. Editorial board members conduct rigorous, fair reviews and advise on shaping content areas. Understanding this composition and differentiation of roles is critical to unlocking the full potential of the team and helping in managing the editorial board effectively.

Decision-making Processes

Navigating an incoming manuscript’s decision pathways is a hallmark editorial board responsibility. Upon receipt, the editor assigns an associate editor who selects appropriate reviewers.

Once reviews are completed, the associate editor recommends accepting, rejecting, or asking the author(s) to revise and resubmit based on feedback. The editor-in-chief provides the final ruling by weighing the associate editor’s assessment against reviewer comments, scope fit, and other factors.

Ideally, this process emphasizes impartiality, transparency, and upholding standards. All decisions should consider the content reasonably regardless of the author’s identity. Providing reviewers’ anonymous feedback and allowing authors to respond fosters open dialogue.

Holding firm on ethical publication practices—properly attributing sources and ideas, disclosing conflicts of interest, correcting errors, etc.—maintains integrity. Understanding these decision-making dynamics is indispensable for editorial boards seeking to command trust and respect.

Efficient Strategies for Managing an Editorial Board

Effective communication is the foundation of managing the editorial board efficiently. Establishing clear channels for providing updates, soliciting feedback, and addressing concerns ensures all members are on the same page. Scheduling regular meetings gives editors a forum to align priorities, review processes, and make collaborative decisions. With remote work so prevalent, web-based project management platforms help centralize tasks, documents, and discussions.

Communication and Coordination

An editorial board relies on solid communication and coordination among its members. The editor-in-chief should establish clear channels for sharing updates and gathering input via email, messaging platforms, video calls, or in-person meetings. Setting a regular cadence for whole team meetings provides a valuable opportunity to discuss high-level direction, address concerns, and ensure alignment.

Smaller working groups can also convene more frequently to drive progress on specific initiatives. With editors and reviewers often spread across institutions, web-based collaboration hubs help centralize conversations, documents, task lists, and calendars. Integrated tools provide convenient ways to share feedback on manuscripts, manage reviewer assignments, and track decisions.

Streamlining Review Processes

The peer review process is the engine that drives quality control in academic publishing. Optimizing the workflow can accelerate decision-making while upholding rigorous standards. This requires balancing multiple factors:

  • Establishing structured criteria for evaluation helps reviewers consistently assess manuscript quality.
  • Strategic matching of reviewer expertise to paper topics ensures meaningful, informed feedback.
  • Setting clear deadlines through the review system minimizes delays for timely decisions.
  • Requesting additional reviews for borderline manuscripts reduces the likelihood of errors.
  • Prompt follow-up with reviewers encourages on-time response and retains goodwill.

Automated manuscript tracking systems provide dashboard views of pending reviews, late responses, and editor workloads to identify bottlenecks. While technology alone cannot remove all inefficiencies, it provides invaluable visibility. Pairing these insights with process improvements and incentives drives faster reviews while upholding quality.

Leveraging Technology for Managing the Editorial Board

Digital Tools and Platforms

Modern software solutions and online platforms can assist in managing the editorial board by streamlining communication, organizing workflows, and providing data-driven insights. Popular manuscript management systems like Editorial Manager, ScholarOne Manuscripts, and Evise help manage the submission, peer review, and decision-making processes.

Features like automated email/notifications, document sharing, reviewer assignment, and real-time tracking of manuscript status enable editors to coordinate tasks seamlessly across geographically dispersed teams. Integrations with reference managers like Mendeley also assist in organizing citations and bibliographic metadata.

Cloud-based systems further facilitate remote collaboration among editors, reviewers, and authors. Some platforms also provide analytics dashboards and metrics to gain valuable insights into submission volumes, review times, acceptance rates, and more to help editorial boards benchmark performance and identify improvement areas.

Data-driven Insights

Data analytics and metrics are pivotal for evidence-based decision-making and strategic planning in academic publishing. By tracking quantitative parameters around submissions, peer review, publications, citations, altmetrics, etc., editorial boards can:

  • Assess existing policies and workflows to reduce review/publication times
  • Identify reviewer performance issues like declining invitations or late reviews
  • Determine research domains/topics attracting more submissions
  • Benchmark against competitor journals and industry standards
  • Set informed goals around acceptance rates, diversity of authors/editors, and readership reach

Technologies like editorial management systems, citation databases, and data analytics tools greatly facilitate data capture, analysis, and visualization to uncover actionable insights. Training board members on using such systems is key to leveraging data analytics effectively.

Best Practices in Managing an Editorial Board

Upholding ethical standards is paramount for maintaining integrity in academic publishing. Managing an editorial board must include actively promoting policies to detect plagiarism, reveal conflicts of interest, and ensure adherence to rigorous publication guidelines. This section discusses some best practices.

Ethical Considerations

Plagiarism detection software should be utilized to screen all submissions for duplicated text or ideas without proper attribution. The board must also require authors and reviewers to disclose any conflicts of interest or potential biases fully. Strict confidentiality of manuscript contents pre-publication must be enforced.

Clear publication and authorship policies should be established. Criteria for authorship order, acknowledgments, data transparency, and availability of materials/code for reproducibility must be articulated. Adherence to ethical codes of conduct set by organizations like the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is ideal.

Diversity and Inclusion

Seeking diversity in editorial board composition can introduce traditionally marginalized perspectives and amplify underrepresented voices. Consider membership across disciplines, career stages, geographic regions, races, ethnicities, genders, and other demographic factors.

Managing the editorial board

Inclusive publication practices involve special issues highlighting research from minority scholars, reduced submission fees for researchers from low-income countries, and reviewer guidelines to eliminate biases. Such initiatives facilitate equitable participation in global academic dialogue.


As explored throughout this article, managing the editorial board is crucial for upholding quality standards and ethical integrity in academic journals. By implementing clear communication channels, streamlining review workflows, leveraging digital tools, and embracing inclusive policies, editors-in-chief can empower their boards to make fair, transparent decisions and amplify diverse scholarly voices.

To recap, some key strategies covered include:

  • Establishing regular meetings and setting clear expectations for roles and responsibilities
  • Optimizing peer review processes through organized reviewer assignments and deadline tracking
  • Adopting manuscript management systems and metrics-based analytics for data-driven insights
  • Detecting plagiarism early and managing conflicts of interest through disclosure policies

As the academic publishing landscape advances, editorial boards must stay up-to-date on ethical best practices. You are encouraged to engage with scholarly societies, attend publishing conferences, and participate in ongoing conversations around improving transparency, diversity, and inclusion.

By actively collaborating with the research community, editorial boards can continue elevating academic discourse and contributing high-quality, ethically sourced knowledge to the world. The strategies outlined here are just the first steps – we can advance research dissemination with perseverance, innovation, and integrity.

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