Whether you are editing a small pamphlet that interests a very few members of a learned society, or you are involved in the editing of a large, peer reviewed scholarly journal, being editor or co-editor of a journal will really boost your career profile. Here are some issues to consider when taking on a role such as this.
Not all journals are equal
As you’ll find when having your publications ranked by the REF audit exercise, not all journals have the same reputation. As editor, do not automatically expect to gain great respect in your field by working on a very small publication. While editing an informal non-peer reviewed publication is a good place to start, your career will really only be enhanced by working on a more prestigious peer reviewed journal.
Peer review is the system by which the content of each journal is assessed to ensure that it’s good enough for inclusion. Each article is read and commented on by the editor, editorial board or other experts in the field, to ensure that the research is rigorous and accurate. The fields of both science and the humanities employ this system.
As editor, you will be expected to create each issue of the journal. You will work alongside publishers to bring this issue to fruition, but the overall responsibility rests on your head. You will need to decide on the theme of the issue, then commission content, take the lead in judging that content, but also send it out to be reviewed by others, and then prepare the final, polished version.
Your duties might also include improving the marketing and design of the journal and helping publishers to expand its range and attract a new audience.
Problems you may face
The main problem that journal editors face is one of time management. Do not underestimate the time that this job will take. It can be onerous, especially if you also have a heavy teaching load or are publishing your own work at the same time. You may be provided with secretarial support or administration assistance from, say, a postgraduate in your department, but this is increasingly rare in these cash-strapped times.
Meeting your publication schedule is important, otherwise you will begin to lose subscribers. However, you are reliant on the contributions of others and this is why time scales can often go awry. Make sure that your editorial board have a firm idea of how long they have to review an article and that you give your authors firm deadlines too. The vast majority of communication regarding your journal will be done via email, so be a prompt and regular emailer.
Another issue that may cause problems is working with a particular piece of editing software. Give yourself time to become familiar with this, probably without any formal training. This job may sound daunting, but it is worthwhile because of the career enhancement it provides. It is an excellent role for established scholars to undertake who wish to improve their profile further. Not only is it prestigious, but also allows you to get your name known, providing new networking opportunities.