Image by: Carol VanHook

You’ve made it through January, and after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season you’re likely now back into the swing of things and ready to pursue new opportunities in your personal life, career, and role as an editor. It’s that point again - time to start working on your New Year’s resolutions. But have you made them all yet?

This year, you may want to consider adding a resolution that is specific to your journal - make it a priority to find quality peer review software or improve your current system. Why? Because the right software solution can drastically improve the efficiency and appearance of your journal.

Professionalize your journal for authors and reviewers

Authors and reviewers new to your journal want to sense legitimacy and professionalism when they submit or referee for the first time. How you accept submissions and manage peer review will influence the way authors and reviewers perceive your journal and whether they decide to work with you. For these reasons, it’s paramount that your journal have a professionalized web presence and peer review process.

If you’re accepting submissions via email, you may be signaling that your peer review process will take longer than that of other journals in the field with more room for reviews and updates to get lost in people’s inboxes. You don’t want authors and reviewers to feel like they’re putting information into a void when they send in a manuscript, review comments, or a question.

Peer review software can give those working with your journal a greater sense of security by giving authors and reviewers confirmation updates for their activity as well as a place to login and see their work so far. Software can also serve as a hub for communication. For example, Scholastica has a built-in Discussions feature, which allows authors, editors, and reviewers to initiate correspondence about a particular manuscript on Scholastica and know all of their messages will be stored in their manuscript’s work area so communication doesn’t fall through the cracks. If you’re looking to professionalize your journal this year, now may be the right time to start exploring software options.

Update your journal’s website

The new year is also an important time to review your journal website and check for any necessary updates. Your website is the professional face of your journal and authors’ and reviewers’ introduction to your peer review system. You want to be sure that you have consistent information across your site and that your journal guidelines are clear and accessible. Some areas to review include your:

  • Journal masthead
  • Submission guidelines
  • Information on your manuscript review process
  • Open access policy
  • Manuscript formatting requirements
  • Publication guidelines

Make your editors’ lives easier

You and your fellow editors can only be as attentive to the needs of your team as the tools you have at your disposal allow. Do you feel like you have a handle on all of your journal activity? If not, software can give you the aerial view you need. For example, on Scholastica all editors have a central dashboard to work from where they have access to a live feed of journal activity, including when reviewers are assigned to manuscripts and when decisions are made, as well as a place for manuscript To-dos, which just like a to-do list can be used to record personal objectives. You can also send To-dos to others on your team and filter the To-do board by team member to see what everyone is working on.

If you don’t have software yet, the new year is a great time to check out the systems out there and see which may offer your editors the most support. Software features, like Scholastica’s editor dashboard, can make staying organized a whole lot easier.

On the flip side, if you already have peer review software, this year may be a good time to reevaluate how you’re using it. Is your journal’s current process as efficient as possible, or are there ways your software could speed up your workflow that you’re not taking advantage of? If you haven’t had a software training, particularly if you are using a software system established by predecessors, you may want to consider either taking some time to review the help docs and feature updates from your current system or to schedule a training.

Get insight into your peer review process

In addition to giving you the tools to work more efficiently, software can provide your team with insights to track both your progress during peer review and that of your reviewers. Getting insights into your journal’s peer review process can help your editors spot bottlenecks either internally or on the reviewer side and prevent future holdups from happening.

Some key data points you’ll want your software to collect include:

  • Average time to manuscript decision
  • Acceptance and rejection rate
  • Average time it takes each reviewer to complete a review

If you’re already tracking peer review metrics, now is a great time to get your year-end summary together. The sooner you start assessing your data in the new year the better, so your editors can see how your journal is operating as a whole and how individual editors and reviewers are doing, in order to spot bottlenecks and set goals for improvement.

Save money with affordable software

A lot of journals end up tabling the possibility of getting software because historically professional systems have come with a pretty hefty price tag, but that is not the case anymore. While you may be most familiar with enterprise systems like Thomson Reuters’ ScholarOne that come with expensive annual contracts and additional support or update fees, that doesn’t mean those are the only options out there. High quality and affordable software does exist.

For example, at Scholastica we offer journals a modern peer review system with the option to publish open access articles and issues on our platform for just a $10 management charge per submission and no extra fees. With Scholastica, all journals get access to the same quality software at a price that fits their submission volume.

Resolve to do something to improve peer review at your journal this year

Whether you’re just starting to consider peer review software, or you have an established system in place, the new year is a great time to reevaluate where your journal stands. Now’s the time to assess your journal’s online presence and peer review process and resolve to take steps for improvement to keep reviewers and authors coming back and make life easier for your editorial team.

Danielle Padula

This post was written by Danielle Padula,
Community Development