Image Credit: Samson on Unsplash
Image Credit: Samson on Unsplash

The latest research, recommendations, and implementation practices in international business are moving fast. So to be a leading journal in that field, as in so many others, publishing timely articles quickly and taking steps to maximize their discoverability is essential.

For over 20 years, AIB Insights, one of three journals published by the Academy of International Business, has been at the forefront of topical research on theoretical, empirical, practical, and pedagogical issues affecting the international business community. AIB Insights provides an outlet for short-form articles, which, combined with smart processes, has enabled its editors to publish new findings in record time.

In an effort to provide even more rigorous assessment of papers, the journal transitioned from an editorial review process to double-anonymized peer review in early 2020. At that time, to keep up their publishing schedule, AIB Insights’ editors knew they would need to develop smooth external review workflows and find peer review software that would enable them, their authors, and reviewers to work as efficiently as possible. They also decided to pursue opportunities to expand the journal’s reach to attract more readers and submissions. After assessing software options, the team decided to move to Scholastica’s peer review system, digital-first production service, and Open Access journal hosting platform. Since making the transition, they’ve been able to maintain their speedy publication times, expand from four yearly issues to five, and grow their readership.

In the interview below, AIB Insights’ lead editor William Newburry discusses how they approached the transition from editorial review to peer review, their experience working with Scholastica, and future journal development plans.

Q&A with William Newburry

Q. Can you share a bit of background about AIB Insights for those unfamiliar with the journal?

WN: Sure, so to give the full picture, AIB Insights is one of three journals published by the Academy of International Business, which is the largest and top professional organization for international business professors globally. They meet annually around the world, and they also have regional chapters.

Two of the Academy’s journals are very academic-focused, so they’re written by academics for academics and publish traditional long-form studies. AIB Insights is a bit different in that it’s more applied in nature and accessible to practitioners, professors, and MBA students. Our articles are utilized often in classroom settings actually. We use the term ‘actionable international business insights’ sometimes when we’re describing the journal because we want it to offer insights to people in the real world on how they can improve their business acumen and operations.

Q. What has AIB Insights’ evolution been like up to this point, and what led you to move to a double-anonymized peer review process?

WN: AIB Insights has been around for over 22 years now, and, in that time, it’s certainly evolved a lot. In the early days, it started out as short summaries of articles written by the editor and some contributors and then gradually ramped up to be a true editorially reviewed publication.

I’ve been with the journal for about three and a half years. I was an associate editor to start and became the Editor in January of 2022. About two years ago, we made the decision to switch from being an edited journal to a peer-reviewed journal, which was, of course, a big change for us.

Now, in addition to editorial review, all papers are reviewed by two or three external members of the international business community in a double-anonymized fashion. It gives opportunities for more objective feedback and a stronger review process in terms of ensuring the high quality of all our articles.

Q. How did you go about establishing a new double-anonymized peer review workflow, and what made you decide to use Scholastica’s peer review software?

WN: Thankfully, because we have two journals in the AIB system that use peer review models and we have the same managing editor for all AIB journals, we had a lot of great resources to work with already, so we weren’t starting entirely from scratch. But, we still had to develop our own policies and processes.

We were able to recruit some well known scholars in the international business field for our editorial board who helped in the transition process and started by establishing foundational guidelines like our instructions for authors and reviewers. Then we started looking for a platform to manage the peer review process, and, at that point, we decided to also look for dedicated hosting. Before, the articles were just published on AIB’s website.

Scholastica stood out because it has all the features we need to manage peer review and is very user-friendly. Everyone my co-editor Elizabeth Rose and I have talked to has said it’s more intuitive than many other review systems they’ve seen. The system helps sort of run things by itself. It’s clear what authors need to do to submit, the process for accepting and doing reviews is intuitive, and editors can easily find and assign reviewers and keep track of manuscripts with the different tagging options. The integrated email and decision letter templates are also helpful. Of course, we customize decisions as needed but having the ability to build templates as a base in the system makes things a lot easier.

Some of our journal issues are general articles, and we also do many on special topics. For special issues, we usually bring in guest editors new to the system, and the process for adding them to Scholastica has been very smooth. We have a great managing editor, Anne Hoekman, who handles all of that for us, and onboarding guest editors and assigning manuscripts between them has worked well. People like the system, and it runs like it’s supposed to so we can accomplish everything we need.

One thing we recently implemented is adding an article-type dropdown field to our submission form as part of the form customization options Scholastica offers. So now, when authors submit a paper, they can indicate whether it’s for a special issue or a general submission. That’s helped us a lot because special issue articles are automatically tagged, so we know which kind of review process they need to go through right away, and we add another tag for the specific issue topic.

Q. AIB Insights has maintained impressive publication speeds. How have you kept that up, particularly after moving to double-anonymized peer review?

WN: Speed is definitely a key consideration for us. One thing that differentiates us from the other AIB journals is that our articles are shorter and more applied. They’re about 2,500 words versus 10,000 words and generally don’t have very complex methodologies. So that helps us review more quickly. But we still have equally rigorous standards. Articles need to be well-written, and all findings have to be justified. We maintain the quality of a leading journal while publishing articles MBA students, practitioners, and people in the office place can quickly digest and put to use.

We tend to give reviewers three weeks, then we make a decision and send comments shortly after. We usually need another round of revision from the authors and give them about a month for that. All these steps are much quicker than traditional journals, which means we can get articles on timely topics out more quickly. For example, we did an issue on COVID-19 almost two years ago that we compiled in a few months time. We have a new journal issue on geopolitics coming that we decided was especially important in light of the war in Ukraine and events in other parts of the world, so we’ve fast-tracked that. We put out a call for submissions this summer due in September, and our goal is to have the issue out in early 2023.

Scholastica has also been a big help with sticking to quick review timelines because it is so easy for everyone to use, and it makes work flow smoothly.

Q. What has your experience using Scholastica’s production service and OA journal hosting platform been like, and how are you working to grow AIB Insights’ readership?

WN: Production and publishing have also been easy. Our managing editor sends manuscripts to Scholastica’s production team once they’re accepted, and they typeset the articles very quickly and manage proof review working directly with the authors. So that process is very smooth. Then the hosting platform enables us to publish the articles online as soon as they’re ready and compile them into issues later.

I really think this kind of rolling publishing is the current, not the future. Even though academic articles can take longer in the review process, the goal is to get them out as quickly as possible because data gets old over time.

Another thing that’s good about Scholastica is it enables us to automatically send new content to Crossref for DOI assignment with metadata. All our articles are also automatically indexed by Google Scholar so they can get picked up in searches. We can tell that our visibility is going up as we watch article access stats, which the system also provides us. It’s still relatively early, but we do see steady growth in the two years since we’ve been on Scholastica.

Q. What areas of journal development are you focusing on next that you’re most excited about?

WN: We’re always looking for new special issue editors and reviewers to work with to have a diverse review process, and we’re also expanding the publication. When we switched to Scholastica almost two years ago, we did four issues a year. This year we moved to five, and next year, our goal is to publish six a year to become a bi-monthly publication. So far, the five issues a year have been going well. Of course, we’ll need to keep working to attract more papers and ensure we have enough content that survives peer review to publish six strong issues, and we seem to be on track for that. We also plan to apply to be indexed in Scopus to help increase our exposure.

Right now, we’re really looking at how to have a broader impact in and outside the academic world. I won’t be the Editor when it all gets done, but it’s exciting to be part of the process. I think we have a lot of good improvements lined up.

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