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Between journal duties, professional work, and outside obligations, academic journal editors across disciplines are stretched to the limit, making it no wonder that few will be able to uphold their editorships indefinitely.

At one point or another your journal will likely be in the position of taking on a new board member, whether out of a need to spread out your workload or to fill the place of an editor who is moving on. Whatever the situation your board finds itself in, having a plan to quickly and efficiently bring on new editors can smooth the transition and, in many cases, spur positive innovations for your journal. Here are some tips to help onboard new editors:

Develop an editorial processes guide

Prior to bringing on a new editor, the members of your board focusing on editor onboarding should take the time to think about your journal’s particular editorial processes and the questions a new editor will likely have about your workflows. Here are a few questions to start:

  • How do you handle desk rejects and revise and resubmit requests?
  • Who coordinates author correspondences - does each author work with one editor or multiple editors?
  • How do you keep track of versions of author edits during revisions?
  • What is the process for making final article decisions and who’s involved?
  • Who shepherds articles into production and publishing?
  • How do you keep track of each manuscripts stage in the peer review process?
  • How do you coordinate internal communications and how do you organize and archive communication with editors and reviewers?
  • Will your new editor be involved in all articles, or do separate editors handle different content such as book reviews or conference papers?
  • What internal analytics and financials do you track for your journal and who produces annual reports?
  • Where are your previous journal reports saved?
  • When do you have editorial board meetings and what is the process for suggesting journal initiatives at meetings?

The questions go on and on!

Have your editors think back to their onboarding experiences and the information they needed to know, particularly information that they wish they had had sooner. From there begin to compile a list of questions your new editor will likely have. You can use these questions to either create a Q&A sheet to offer your new editor or a more formal guide outlining your journal’s editorial processes and how they intersect. A processes guide could take the form of a typed outline, a slide deck, or even a document with a visual flowchart showing your journal’s order of operations. If you decide to invest the time to create a processes guide, be sure to use an easy-to-edit format so that you can modify the guide when necessary and continue to give it to new editors. Offer your new editor this guide before he or she begins working on your journal, to give your new editor the opportunity to review it and approach your board with any additional questions. Your new editor will likely be relieved to have this outline, rather than having to scramble to learn everything on the job.

Make sure your new editor can pick up where the previous editor left off and that he or she knows where to look for help

In addition to a processes guide, be sure to ask your departing editor to get together any saved documents, correspondences, or reports pertaining to projects he or she was last working on. Offer these files to your new editor in organized digital or paper folders with explanatory notes if necessary, so that he or she can easily pick up unfinished work.

If you have a large editorial board or are a part of a society or university press journal with many people to keep tabs on, you might also consider creating a “whom do I ask?” sheet to give your new editor along with a Q&A or processes guide. A “whom do I ask?” sheet should include the names, contact information, responsibilities, and areas of expertise of anyone your new editor may need to get in touch with while at your journal. If you remember to update this sheet when necessary, it can be a useful one-time project you can offer all new journal, society, or press members to keep your organization connected and save everyone the time of redirecting calls and emails.

Give your new editor technical training

If you use journal management software that your new editor is unfamiliar with, it’s a good idea to either give your editor a chance to poke around the platform before beginning their day-to-day work, or to schedule a time to train him or her to use it.

If you’re planning on giving your new editor a full software walk-through, you may want to check in with your software provider to see how they can help first. Your software team may be able to offer user training to new editors to save you and your co-editors the time. Scholastica, for example, offers free user training as well as email and live chat customer support to all users, which editors can take advantage of at any point.

Be sure to also direct your new editor to the help documents and customer support your software provider offers.

Brainstorm and implement ideas for journal improvements

It’s important to acknowledge that in addition to a change in board members, editor transitions, particularly in the case of a new Editor in Chief (EIC), will likely result in ideas for changes to your journal overall.

A new EIC will be looking at your workflow with fresh eyes and may spot ways to make peer review and publishing more efficient, whether by changing up the way your editors work or the journal management software, or lack thereof, that you are working with. New editors may also have ideas to enhance the brand positioning or content structure of your publication, from your journal website design to the topics your journal covers and the sections and mediums you use to cover them.

For example, in a recent interview about her journal’s digital promotion and publishing initiatives, Deborah Bowman managing editor at Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (GIE), talked about GIE’s move to accept videos along with article submissions. Bowman said the idea to include videos in the publication came after a board changeover, when the journal’s new EIC decided it would be a good idea to ask authors to send visual examples of the procedures they were describing in their papers. GIE’s article videos have been a huge success for the journal and demonstrate the innovation that can come of discussing room for journal progress during editor transitions.

Once all of your editors are on the same page in terms of the structure and positioning of your journal, you may also find that a board changeover is a good time to take on new marketing or promotional initiatives such as starting a blog or author podcast series.

Embrace the transition

Editor changeovers can be a busy and stressful time for new editors and current board members, but they can also be an exciting opportunity to make your journal’s internal organization, editorial processes, and promotional efforts even better than before. New editors can bring fresh energy and ideas to the table for journal development. Treating editor changeovers as a time to re-evaluate journal processes, both in order to better explain them to your new editor and to spot areas where you may be able to improve your publication, can make the process easier and more innovative overall.

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