There are times when your journal’s editorial board is running smoothly and then there are times when it feels like everyone is frantically running in different directions, torn between the journal and personal obligations. Sound familiar?
Keeping an editorial team aligned is no easy task, particularly because most journals are comprised of volunteer academics who are already strapped for time for their own research, teaching, and other professional duties. With limited availability for regular calls and meetings, it’s paramount for journals to have a clear online process for communicating and allocating work. Many journals default to email as their primary mode of communication, but email has its limitations. Relying on email alone, teams risk correspondences getting lost or buried in their inboxes. There are also logistical challenges such as having manuscript files stored in different places that all editors can’t access on their own, and misplacing new versions of an author’s submission file. All of this can result in blockers or overlaps in a team’s workflow.
An easier and more effective solution to keep your editorial board aligned is using designated journal management software for all communication and delegation. Whether you have a journal management system or you’re considering adopting one, this blog post will help you start thinking about how you can use software to keep your editorial team on track and save all members precious time.
One of the primary benefits of using journal management software is that it makes it possible for your editors to work in a central location. With software, rather than managing submissions and peer review via email chains stored in different editors’ inboxes, you can accept submissions, store them, and coordinate peer review in one place. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that the software you choose has all of the functionality your editorial team needs. For example, journal management software can help you:
- Receive all manuscript submissions in a central location
- Assign manuscripts to editors and peer reviewers
- Maintain a database of peer reviewers that all of your editors can pull from
- Store email templates for common editorial correspondences such as review requests and manuscript decisions
Being able to handle all journal work on the same platform and automate recurring tasks will help your team stay aligned and move quickly. With the right software your editors may even be able to eliminate the need to communicate via separate email accounts. For example, using Scholastica, editors can start Discussions associated with the manuscript they are working on, and can send Discussions to fellow editors, authors, or reviewers. The original Discussion message and all responses are then stored in Scholastica, and can be accessed by all editors. Recipients receive Discussions to their email and can reply via email or via Scholastica. Thus, with tools like Discussions, if your team wants you can eliminate the need to use email for manuscript-related communication all together. The more centrally stored your communication is on your software platform, the better.
The key to using software to centralize journal work and communication is to make sure your team is using your software platform for as much (ideally all) of your peer review process as possible. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting the most out of your software or you’re just starting to use it, schedule a training with your software provider to walk through the system. They’ll be able to help you determine the best way to apply your editorial workflow to your software so you don’t have to work between it and other online tools. Here at Scholastica, we always offer free trainings.
Once your team is managing all journal work in a central software system you’ll be able to start to get a high-level overview of what everyone is working on. Your software should offer you a window into how manuscripts are moving through peer review on a journal-wide level. To see this in Scholastica, editors can just log into the platform and view their Journal Dashboard. From the Journal Dashboard editors can see the latest activity across their journals, including:
- When manuscripts are submitted
- When an editor sends a reviewer invitation and when a reviewer accepts or declines
- When editors respond to editorial correspondences on Scholastica
- When editors assign tasks to themselves or others
You’ll want to learn what team-wide information your software offers and plan to access it regularly. By keeping an eye on what everyone is doing, you’ll be able to get a better sense of how your team is working together and when people tend to be online doing journal work, so you know when are good times to reach out to them or ask them to complete tasks.
In addition to giving you access to team-wide activity, software can make delegating tasks to yourself and team members easier. Be sure to find out any functionality your software offers for assigning editorial tasks. Most systems will allow you to automatically assign manuscripts to editors. You may also get access to advanced functionality, such as Scholastica’s ToDo Dashboard. The ToDo Dashboard is where editors can write up tasks for themselves or tasks to assign team members. Tools like ToDos eliminate the need to always be sending fellow editors email requests; rather editors can just write-up a quick assignment and share it. In Scholastica, editors also get handy ToDo notification messages to remind them to complete tasks, keeping everyone on track.
Another big benefit your journal will get from peer review software is internal analytics. Be sure the software you choose gives you access to journal-wide and editor specific performance analytics. The main metrics you’ll want to track are:
- Time to manuscript decision
- Acceptance and rejection rates
- Manuscripts per editor
- Manuscripts per reviewer and average time to review
Looking at journal performance analytics is the best way to get a sense of the overall flow of your journal’s peer review process and where you’re experiencing bottlenecks. From there you can take a closer look at your workflow to see where you may be able to improve. For example, you may find you’re assigning too many manuscripts to editors than they have time for or that you’re relying on the same reviewers too frequently and starting to burn them out. In either event you’ll need to find a way to shift the workload to keep things moving forward.
We hope you find these tips helpful! How are you using software to keep your editorial team aligned, or how would you like to be? Let us know in the comments section.