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The editorial team

When creating a scientific journal, it is essential to set up a capable editorial team.

Composing your editorial team

Different committees are involved in the publication of a scientific journal: the scientific committee, the editorial committee and the reading committee. The choice of people is very important because they will conduct the journal. urthermore, credibility is largely based on the names of the researchers who will compose the scientific committee. A good balance between leading figures and operational people within a team is to be preferred.

Scientific Committee

The Scientific Committee has an advisory role. It is composed of specialists within the journal’s fields and offers guidelines for the journal: themes, scientific choices, etc. The scientific committee thus guarantees the journal’s quality. The Scientific Committee also reviews and evaluates articles submitted to the journal or proposes reviewers.

The scientific committee must be listed in the journal and show the affiliations of each member.

Editorial committee

Also known as the editorial board, the editorial committee establishes each policy and carries out all the tasks related to the proper functioning of the journal: reception of submitted articles, organisation of peer reviews, page layout, editing, dissemination, etc.

Reading committee

The reading committee is made up of experts and ensures the assessment of all articles submitted to the journal. The reading committee evaluates the scientific quality of each article and decides on their publication.

Allocating tasks

The different roles

Scientific Committee: the members of the Scientific Committee review the articles or propose reviewers. It also decides on the journal’s orientations: themes, scientific choices, etc.

Corrector: the corrector checks the spelling, grammar and syntax of articles. It also ensures compliance to spelling and grammar standards. This role is often performed by the editorial secretary.

Publishing director : in France, the publisher is, in fact, represented by its director of publication who bears civil and criminal liability for the content published, in the event of press offences under the law of 1881 on the subject of press freedom (defamatory, insulting, racist or xenophobic comments, anti-Semitic remarks, etc.). If the journal is published by a state-owned editor, the legal representative of this publishing organisation is the editor’s publishing director.

PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay
PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Editor: An editor is a person or company that prepares and publishes works in print or digital form. By definition the editor is the one who publishes (i.e. the one who chooses and disseminates the content of a publication), so he is de facto legally liable for all the content that he publishes.

Layout artist: the layout artist is in charge of the page layout of articles, of the cover page, etc. The layout artists for the Centre Mersenne handle all corrections and layouts in LaTeX format.

Editor-in-chief: the editor-in-chief is responsible of the journal’s conception and production. A journal is usually managed by one or more editors who are in charge of the journal’s strategy and organisation.

Guest editor: for a special issue, it is possible to invite a third person to manage the issue.

Reviewer: the reviewer is often a member of the scientific committee. He assesses the quality of all submitted articles .

Editorial secretary : under the authority of the editor-in-chief, the editorial secretary is in charge of the layout of articles, supervises the editorial process from submission to publication, ensures liaisons with authors, manages corrections… The editorial secretary makes sure that all the necessary files are available, requests all publication agreements…

The stages of a peer-reviewed journal

Following is a diagram which summarises the editorial process of an article in a journal hosted by the Centre Mersenne

Flow chart showing the editorial flow of a peer-reviewed journal.
centre Mersenne, CC-BY

See the accessible PDF

How to define an editorial process

Defining the editorial process is essential for an efficient editorial workflow. Every single role needs to be clearly defined in terms of responsibilities. Without a clear process, the review is likely to encounter delays and errors. Following is a list of (non-exhaustive) questions to serve as guidelines:

  • Who decides at each stage: submission stage – who decides to proceed to the next stage or reject
  • How decisions are made: collectively in the editorial board or by a small group, or by one person.
  • Who decides when there are two conflicting opinions…
  • Who will be editor-in-chief? What daily tasks will he manage?
  • Should the journal have an editorial secretary? what will be his job description?
  • Who will ensure compliance to standards?
  • Who gives final approval?
  • Can you define the decision-making process? Is the editor-in-chief the only one with power of decision? Should he systematically consult with the scientific council? Can a member of the scientific council make a decision alone? Should all decisions be collective?
  • Who will arbitrate a dispute with an author?

The COPE website provides decision trees showing many practical and daily situations that a journal’s staff can encounter: suspicions of a biased post-publication peer review, fabricated data in a manuscript, conflict of interest, possible ethical problems in a submitted article, etc. One can also submit a conflictual case on the COPE newsgroup and ask for support.

Submission and reviewing process

The submission and reviewing process is the stage where the journal makes direct contact with the authors. It is important to clearly define the different roles so as not to waste time and disrupt the review process. So here are a set of useful questions for this stage.

  • Does the journal regularly publish calls for papers on defined topics? If so, who writes them? Who disseminates them?
  • Who will acknowledge receipt of the submitted texts?
  • Who evaluates the texts?
  • Who makes the first assessment?
  • Who receives the articles?
  • Who decides?
  • Who does the layout?
  • … 

The selection process

A tool (to be selected) will enable authors to submit. Who will acknowledge receipt of the submitted texts? It may be worthwhile to centralise certain tasks: the editorial secretary or editor will acknowledge receipt and then dispatch to the reviewers.

Once the authors have submitted their texts, an initial assessment will identify the texts to be rejected because incorrectly formed or missing information. For example, the editorial secretary can be instructed to reject all poorly formatted articles (wrong format, too long or too short, in a language not supported by the journal, etc.).

Next, a person will be in charge of receiving the articles and forwarding them to either the editor, if relevant, or to the reviewers. Therefore, it is important to first constitute a diverse group of reviewers to cover all the journal’s fields of expertise. And what is the given timeframe for reviewers to complete assessments? Who will send reminders when deadlines are missed? After how long?

What are the assessment criteria for an article? It could be worthwhile to provide an assessment grid. One can be found in the journal Nouvelles pratiques sociales, specifically intended for reviewers. It simplifies reviewing and helps provide well-argued responses to the authors. Yet who should prepare the grid?

Finally, who should receive the reviewers’ comments once finalised? Who makes the decisions?

Publishing

When the manuscript is approved, a publishing agreement between the journal and the author will be signed, stating that the author agrees to the publication of his article in the journal. A member of the editorial team will make sure any missing files are received from the author.

In case corrections are requested, do the reviewer and the author directly communicate with each other? Or does the author communicate with the editorial secretary or the editor-in-chief?

Who does the layout? Who approves the print order?

Ethical breaches and withdrawals

In case of a suspected breach of ethical rules, who communicates with the author? Who will investigate?

Let’s consider a case where a researcher contacts a journal and accuses an author of plagiarism. Who should be informed? Who takes charge? What is the procedure when investigating plagiarism? Are there any available tools? What is the relevant sanction?

The COPE case studies are very useful when seeking answers to such questions. For each case, COPE provides a summary of facts, advice and a course of completed actions. For example, on the issue of plagiarism: https://publicationethics.org/case/double-plagiarism