Image Credit: Pexels
Image Credit: Pexels

Convincing your publication’s stakeholders that your editorial board needs journal management software can feel like a daunting task, especially when the people you are pitching to aren’t in the trenches of your current peer review process.

You know that your editorial team needs journal management software. You realize that the time your team has been spending trying to coordinate peer review via email and spreadsheets is eating up hours you could be using to build your journal’s readership and submissions volume, and, like the majority of academics, to work on your own research. From your vantage point, all of the benefits of a journal management system are plain to see. But will your stakeholders - whether members of a publisher, scholarly society, or university - feel the same?

Here are steps you can take to convince stakeholders that your journal needs software:

1. Identify the benefits software will bring your journal

Before you start researching journal management software and discussing the need for it with stakeholders, be sure to consult your editors to break down the ways you anticipate software will benefit your team. Having a list of desired outcomes will help you better weigh the pros and cons of different systems and explain your decision to stakeholders.

Consider all of the aspects of your peer review process that software will impact including:

  • Managing incoming submissions
  • Assigning manuscripts to editors
  • Assigning manuscripts to reviewers
  • Coordinating peer review communications
  • Tracking all assignments and deadlines
  • Training new editors

Then consider how software will improve these aspects of your workflow. For example, the right software should allow your editorial team to track and sort incoming submissions more easily and assign them to editors and reviewers quicker. In terms of managing editor and reviewer assignments, software should automate recurring reminder emails and administrative work. Software should also serve as a reviewer database for your journal, where you can keep track of anyone who has previously reviewed for you and easily reach out to them in the future.

Software may also eliminate the need for your editors to train new team members. For example, the support team at Scholastica offers all journals free editorial board trainings and workflow consultations, which extend to new members as you experience editor transitions during the life of your publication.

Alongside your list of editorial benefits, you should outline how having a more streamlined process with journal management software will make working with your journal more appealing to authors and referees. For example, directing authors and referees to a peer review system will likely offer them a more fluid and professional experience working with your journal than they would have trying to manage work via email. Additionally, the safeguard software will offer your editors of ensuring that communications do not fall through the cracks will benefit authors and reviewers by saving them the frustration of dropped or miscommunication.

2. Identify your journal stakeholders and start searching for software options

Before you start exploring software options, be sure to determine all of the stakeholders that will be involved in decision-making. You want to be sure that your software proposal reaches all of the people you need it to the first time, so that you don’t end up having to explain it again.

Once you’ve determined everyone who will be involved in the decision, it’s time to start your search. Doing a quick Google search for “journal management software” or “journal peer review software” is a good place to start. You’ll find links to the options out there, like Scholastica, as well as third party information such as SPARC’s Journal Management Systems listing. Consider any peer review platforms that you have used as an author or reviewer, as well, and add any that you liked to your list of options. Be sure to visit different software websites and schedule calls or demos in order to get all the information you need to determine which system will be the best fit for your needs. Consider the features different systems provide, any contractual obligations your journal may encounter, cost and so forth.

Once you and your editorial team have done your homework and selected a system for your journal, don’t wait to involve your stakeholders. Set up a meeting and draft a proposal to present your software plans to them, including any relevant informational literature about the platform you’d like to use.

For more information on the best way to go about finding software that will work for your journal, check out The Modern Journal: Technology and Peer Review Management.

3. Come up with a payment plan and be prepared to explain how software will pay off

When developing a software proposal, budget is a good place to begin as it’s likely what your journal stakeholders will be most concerned about. Figure out where your budget for software will come from - whether journal funds, grant money, or a small article submission fee - and why your chosen software will be worth the cost.

Outline what your journal and its submitting authors will get from this investment:

  • Will you have more time for promotion - resulting in a wider readership, more submissions for your journal, and more visibility for authors who publish in it?
  • Will you be able to publish more journal issues - helping to bolster your journal’s reputation in its field?
  • Will authors’ experience working with your journal significantly improve - resulting in more authors coming back and promoting it via word of mouth?
  • Will your editors gain more time to work on their own research and building their reputations?

Consider these benefits and how they weigh against the cost of software.

4. Show how your workflow will improve with software

In addition to outlining the cost benefits of software, be sure to offer stakeholders concrete examples of how software will improve your workflow. Revisit the list of benefits you came up with and show how they apply to your peer review process. For example, if your team has historically had a slow time to manuscript decision, explain how having a journal management system will help fix the problem, such as by sending reviewers automated reminders and giving editors the ability to monitor their progress and that of their peers via software analytics.

When outlining software benefits be sure to consider reviewers and authors as well. Show how software will improve your relationship with authors, such as by automating review progress updates so authors don’t have to wait for a decision in radio silence. Additionally, show how software will benefit reviewers, such as by saving a database of reviewers and log of their previous reviews, so editors can see who they’ve reached out to recently and avoid sending referees back-to-back review requests.

5. Give your stakeholders a decision making timeline

Once you’ve put together a software proposal and presented it to your journal’s stakeholders be sure to have a follow up plan. Give stakeholders a firm deadline to submit feedback by - whether they decide the software your editorial board has selected is a good fit for your journal, or that they need more information about it. By establishing a deadline for feedback you’ll be able to ensure that the conversation continues and that an outcome is reached.

Danielle Padula
This post was written by Danielle Padula, Community Development
Tales from the Trenches