Dr. Stephen Childe is an Associate Professor in Operations Management at Plymouth Business School, and the Editor of Taylor & Francis journal Production Planning & Control (PPC). In this post, Dr. Childe reflects on his experience of planning and publishing special issues, and offers tips for fellow Editors.
What is a Special Issue?
A Special Issue (or SI) is an issue of the journal entirely devoted to a particular topic area. SIs are usually managed by Guest Editors (GE) who oversee the peer review process and the compilation of accepted papers. An SI should contain the latest work on a particular topic, and be a unique and valuable up-to-date reference source for every researcher interested in that area.
Why use Special Issues?
A Special Issue allows an Editor to bring in leading Guest Editors who may be pursuing a novel line of research. Their research contacts can bring new readers, authors and reviewers to the journal, and bring in the most exciting and current papers in the field. This can raise the profile of the journal in the research communities you wish to target. For future authors, an SI helps establish which topics the journal sees as relevant to its scope.
Top tips on utilising Special Issues
Choose the topic
Special Issue topics should be tightly defined and narrowly scoped, bearing in mind that there are thousands of authors out there trying to find the right home for their papers, and who read calls for papers with a wide and optimistic interpretation.
Don’t be afraid to reject Special Issue proposals that take the journal away from its aims. It is hard to reject help being offered, but focus is important.
Clarify the process
Select Guest Editors who understand the academic review / publication process and are motivated to put in the work to find reviewers and communicate with authors. Ensure that Guest Editors are aware of the potential workload and time commitment!
Ensure that the Guest Editor and the Editor agree on the scope of the SI and the criteria for acceptance of papers. When the Guest Editor comes to deal with the papers that arrive, the initial discussions may be a distant memory, so instructions and checklists are important.
Check in with the Guest Editor regularly and make sure papers are being progressed in the expected time. Agree at the outset that you wish to review progress every month. As the Editor you should always be available to help with queries that the Guest Editors may have.
Tune the technology for SIs
Work with your contacts at the Publisher to ensure that Special Issues papers are “labelled” to make them easy to identify as they move through the publication process.
On PPC, all our Special Issues papers have the article prefix “SI” in the ScholarOne Manuscripts system to help keep them neatly together. Check the settings on your own submission system, and talk to your publishing contact about ways to make Special Issue papers easy to identify and keep track of as they move through the publication process.
Highlight the issue itself
Make sure the relevant communities are alerted to the existence of the Special Issue. Use the publisher’s sales and marketing expertise to publicize it; consider re-printing it as a separate publication where appropriate. That way, a Special Issue can draw attention to the journal and highlight the leading work it is supporting, while providing a first-class service to readers.