The role of editors and the editorial workflow

The role of editors

The editor of a journal is the person responsible for its entire content. Owners and editors of medical journals have a common endeavor—publication of a reliable, readable journal produced with due respect for the stated aims of the journal and for costs. Owners and editors, however, have different functions. Owners have the right to appoint and dismiss editors and to make important business decisions in which editors should be involved to the fullest extent possible. Editors must have full authority for determining the editorial content of the journal. The concept of editorial freedom should be resolutely defended by editors even to the extent of their placing their positions at stake. To secure this freedom in practice, the editor should have direct access to the highest level of ownership, not to a delegated manager.

In iMedPub we encourage editors to go further. We encourage editors to take the strides of their journal to drive it through the way of success. Thus, editors are responsible of the contents, but also of promoting the journal, recruiting manuscripts and spreading the diffusion.

Responsibilities of the Editorial Board

The Editorial Board should assist in a variety of aspects of running the journal. Their responsibilities may include (but are not limited to):

  • Provide scientific credibility for the journal
  • Submitting articles
  • Administering peer review or serving as a peer reviewer
  • Advocating the journal at meetings and conferences
  • Advise you on policy matters
  • Commissioning non-research articles

Structure of the Editorial Board

The journal's Editorial Board should consist of 25 to 50 members. Depending on their level of responsibility, you may wish to allocate the following roles: Deputy Editor, Executive Editor, Associate Editor, Managing Editor, Section Editor, Research Editor, Statistical Advisor or Advisory Board Member (note that this list is in hierarchical order).

Recruiting new Editorial Board members

When identifying new members to join the Board, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Recruit a 'steering group' who will actively assist in the day-to-day work (peer review administration), such as a Deputy Editor or a Managing Editor.
  • Invite a mix of ‘big names’ who will bring credibility to the journal, and established but junior colleagues who are likely to be able to take on a greater workload.
  • Divide the field into its major subdivisions and ensure each there is representation of each area on the Board.
  • Involve people from the leading research centres in the field.
  • Involve people of various nationalities and/or languages, and both genders.

When recruiting new Editorial Board members you should clarify the type and amount of work you expect them to contribute. It is also important to quantify each aspect - for instance, you might ask them to suggest two non-research articles to commission each year, and to referee an average of one research article each month.

Monitoring and maintaining the Editorial Board

An Editorial Board should not be static; it is good practice to review the contributions and performance of each Board member every couple of years, and then take the opportunity to:

  • Restructure the Board giving more active members increased responsibility.
  • Give less productive members the chance to retire, creating vacancies for new members (this is common practice and should not cause offence).
  • Thank all continuing members for their ongoing contributions; you may also wish to ask them to suggest new colleagues who might be suitable for the Board.

It is also important to keep the Editorial Board involved in the journal and up to date with the latest developments, not least to foster enthusiasm for the journal. We recommend sending regular updates on journal performance to your Board. This can range from details of the submission/publication rates, to information on particularly highly accessed articles or a specific article you would like to highlight.

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