A Day Year in the Life of an Editor-in-Chief

by Lorie Kloda
Associate University Librarian, Planning & Community Relations, Concordia University

I have worked as a scholarly journal editor in some fashion or another for at least 10 years with various titles, but mostly with the open access journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. In my various roles as a peer reviewer, evidence summary writer, section editor, and associate editor, I have gained a lot of valuable experience and skills. And I imagine many librarians who have had these roles or aspire to fill those positions at some point have a rather good conception of what those roles entail.

Since December 2015 (so, a little more than a year), I have served in the role of editor-in-chief, and I thought it might be interesting to provide an insider’s view as to what this involves. Actually, it was an opportunity for me to reflect on my overall responsibilities and the many (many, many) tasks that I undertake to fulfill these. The fact is, I, and most editors-in-chief of scholarly journals, do not do this is a full-time job. We cobble together the time to get this work done and achieve our vision while working in full-time academic positions. At least, if we’re lucky enough to have full-time paying positions. Another fact is that I do the work from wherever I am, usually my office, or laptop perched somewhere in my home on the weekend. In some ways, working with an editorial team is much like working as a freelancer – I collaborate with several people who also have other jobs and with whom I do not share office space or even a time zone.

I cannot realistically present a “day in the life” because on a given day I may actually do nothing related to my role as editor-in-chief. Whereas on other days, I may do a handful of small tasks. Instead, I present an overview of the kind of work I’ve been involved with over the past year in this particular role.

Responsibilities as an editor-in-chief (in no particular order):
• Assist editors in evaluating submissions
• Recruit peer reviewers for the journal, and provide guidance to (and guidelines for) reviewers
• Provide leadership on the direction of the journal through consultation with various stakeholders
• Solicit and provide editorial review for commentaries and other content
• Answer author queries about potential submissions
• Work closely with the production editor to ensure issues are published on schedule
• Manage a team of editors and editorial advisors, as well as writing assistants, an indexer, and copyeditors
• Write editorials
• Liaise with professionals responsible for managing the Open Journal System (the platform on which the journal content is hosted) and ensure the long-term preservation of the content
• Oversee communications, including promotion of the journal and its indexing in various databases, and status in the Directory of Open Access Journals
• Coordinate “features” – content devoted to particular themes, conferences or symposia which appear in select journal issues

The tasks I undertake to achieve the above consist of a blend of activities, mostly emailing, meetings on Skype (with up to 12 people, across 14 time zones), call for applicants and screening of submissions for various positions. I try to track this time, but even so, the numbers don’t capture everything and the work is not evenly spread out over the weeks or even the months.

It should go without saying, but I would not be able to achieve any of my objectives without the dedication and collaboration of all of my colleagues – associate editors, production editor, copyeditors, etc. In the end, the position is extremely rewarding. I often find myself wishing I had more time to devote to the role and to thinking of ways to support the team of editors in producing such a high caliber publication. Hopefully, with more experience, and perhaps magically, more time, I’ll be able to add to contribute even more.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Lessons Learned: The Peer Review Process

by Tasha Maddison
Saskatchewan Polytechnic
and
Maha Kumaran
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library, University of Saskatchewan

We are currently in the final stages of editing a book on distributed learning. We initially received 27 chapter submissions on October 31, 2015 and set up a peer review process shortly thereafter. Each chapter was reviewed by two external reviewers. Our first challenge was to find enough reviewers so that each chapter could be reviewed in a timely manner. We sought reviewers from our immediate network of colleagues and later from acquaintances and individuals that we met at conferences. Finally we had to extend our search and seek out individuals out for that purpose. Once the first few chapters were finalized, we requested assistance from those chapter authors with reviewing chapters, and if they were not available, asked if could they recommended others from their institutions. Reviewers were invited to comment directly on the document and/or provide comments using a template that we provided. It was a learning process for everyone involved; the authors, the reviewers and also the editors. Here is what we have learned thus far in this process:

Reviewers don’t always agree. In cases like these, it is very helpful to have a third opinion and this is where the editors play a critical role. They can ask the following questions and make a decision on the chapter: Does the review seem overly critical, or unjust? Is the reviewer actually providing suggestions help to improve the chapter? Or are they unnecessarily picky? Should the author(s) be given a chance to review and significantly revise their work, or is it feasible to reject it outright?

Lesson Learned: Use your judgement in accepting or intermediating the reviewer’s comments

Reviewers are too nice. There were occasions when reviewers did not make any comments on the document, and/or had only positive comments on the template. Upon reading the same documents, editors had questions or needed clarification.

Lesson Learned: The reviewer’s comments are not the only quintessential element to use towards bettering a chapter.

Reviewers and deadlines. Deadlines don’t mean the same thing to everyone. Some reviewers demonstrate tremendous discipline and always submit their work on time. Others, use deadlines more as a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Editors should count on these potential delays and build in a significant contingency plan for time.

Lesson Learned: Be prepared to be flexible and give reviewers 3 weeks to return their evaluation, but expect at least two weeks lag time for some. Also, build in a time contingency for the entire project.

Reviewers as copyeditors: Reviewers are tempted to take on the role of copyediting when reviewing a text, but the primary job here is to review the content and comment appropriately. The more detailed a reviewers’ suggestions can be, the more helpful it is to the authors, and ultimately, the more successful the final chapter will be. General sweeping statements are not useful. Specific detailed comments are more helpful. If you are a peer reviewer, think of yourself as a most valued intermediary in the process of publishing a chapter. You take the work, and help to elevate it to the next level.

Lesson Learned: Provide reviewers with a template posing specific questions to present their comments and an area where they can include general comments for the editors, which will not be shared with authors.

Rejections after reviewing: Unfortunately rejections are part of the peer review process. It is important that all parties are gracious and respectful if this is the outcome. The reviewers and editors should provide suggestions that strengthen the chapter and have it fit for publication upon revision. The authors should be left feeling that their submission and their participation in the process was worthwhile, and hopefully they too learned a lot.

Lesson Learned: Be prepared to listen to authors’ justifications about their chapter and then make final decisions.

The peer review process, regardless of the fate of the document, should noticeably improve the quality of the final product. Unbiased feedback from experts notes the successes or shortcomings of each chapter’s argument, the validity of results, the flow of the discussion, and the sound foundation of research. All members involved will benefit if they come in with a positive attitude and with a generosity towards accepting criticism.

For more information on the peer review process, check out these recent Brain Work Blog posts:
http://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2016/01/12/peer-review/
http://words.usask.ca/ceblipblog/2015/11/17/how-to-be-an-effective-peer-reviewer/

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.