A great editor is fundamental to a journal’s health and success. However, every great editor has to eventually make way for their successor. The transition period between editors can be a complex process, involving contracts, systems, mentoring and above all, careful timing. This article suggests some key points for how to effectively ‘mind the gap’ – how to manage the editor transition from start to finish.
Timing and recruitment
It’s never too early to start thinking about transition planning. It can take a year to manage the whole process - recruiting, appointing and handing over to a new editor - and the longer the lead-in time, the more organized the process can be.
- Check the end date of your term of office in your Editor Agreement. Around a year prior to the end of your initial term, schedule a time to talk to your Taylor & Francis editorial contact to discuss transition planning. Are you keen to extend the term, or is it time to start thinking about the details of a handover? If there is no end date to your current term, consider when would be an appropriate time to move on.
- Speak to your Taylor & Francis editorial contact or Society Officer (where appropriate) about how you can assist with the recruitment. Do you have a candidate in mind as a successor (for example, an Associate or Deputy Editor)? If so, recommend them to the recruitment panel.
- What advice can you pass on to the recruitment team based on your editor experience? For example, have you struggled to manage the increasing level of submissions as a solo-editor and would recommend bringing in a co-editor, or administrative help? Should the journal move onto an online peer review system? Some major changes have resourcing implications, so it’s important to raise your ideas with your Taylor & Francis contact at the earliest stage.
Having worked in the role, you know it better than anyone else. We are incredibly grateful to outgoing editors who are able to share insights with the incoming editor in a face-to-face meeting or over a phone call. Your experience and journal-specific knowledge is invaluable, and sharing this can help keep the journal on track during the transition period and beyond. The new editor might find it useful to know the following:
- Editorial contact details for the Editorial Assistant, Editorial Advisory Board members, Associate Editors, Deputy Editors and Regional Editors. What do their roles consist of? Do board members commit to a certain number of reviews per year? Have you contacted the current board about the change in editor, and do they wish to step down at the same time as you, or are they willing to stay on? Your Taylor & Francis contact can provide an editorial board role guide for the new editor to use.
- Names of your key reviewers and authors. Your Taylor & Francis editorial contact can help you to examine peer review statistics to see who regularly completes reviews for you if your journal uses an online submission system, and analyze top cited authors if the journal is indexed in one of Thomson Reuters’ citation indices.
- The journal’s development plan. This consists of specific actions and a realistic timeline of what you want the journal to achieve during your term as editor. For example, perhaps you have worked to increase the rejection rate, sent off a Social Science Citation Index application, launched a journal award, commissioned a key special issue or hosted a successful 10th anniversary event. Some long term goals (such as working to increase citations) take years to see results and you may inevitably have to pass on some of these to the ‘new you’. Are there any outstanding issues or actions for the incoming editor to take forward, and what are the top priorities?
- Are there any special issues in process (in the planning stages or about to be published) and how will they be handed over to the new editor?
- The official date for the handover. What will happen to papers that you are managing from that date – should they be re-allocated to the new editor, or will you continue to manage them until a final decision is made?
- The key publisher and society contacts: Taylor & Francis can provide an editor handbook detailing the main publisher contacts, the essential ‘need-to-know’s’ about the role, key systems and resources. Ask your Taylor & Francis editorial contact for your journal-specific guide.
- Any future meetings of note. Does the Editorial Board meet face-to-face or via teleconference? Has a ‘meet the editor’ session been held at a conference in the past?
Be honest – what has and hasn’t worked for you? For example, has the new social media editor brought about a new journal audience? Is it time to refresh the Editorial Board?
Systems and training
It’s worth considering a handover process for the systems you have access to. These may include:
- An online peer review system such as ScholarOne Manuscripts™ or Editorial Manager®. What’s the current reviewing process - double or single blind review; a triage stage; or multiple Associate Editors handling papers?
- Is there a journal email account that you can pass on to the new editor? If correspondence is handled within your own email account are there any emails of interest worth passing on?
- The Central Article Tracking System (CATS) – the production database used by the Taylor & Francis Production team, authors and editors to track articles in production and review proofs. You can request log-in details and training guides from your Taylor & Francis production contact.
- Are you able to mentor your 'editor-in-training' whilst you’re still in the role? S/he could manage a number of papers through the peer review process or guest edit a special issue to get an idea of the workload involved.
Sometimes it’s not possible to be well-prepared with editor succession planning if real life gets in the way, circumstances change, or the journal needs to find a new editor quickly. In these situations, consider:
- Submissions quickly build up without an editor in place. Is there a trusted Editorial Board member or Society Officer whom you can recommend to temporarily manage the peer review process if required?
- Would you be prepared to stay on longer than originally agreed in extenuating circumstances until a successor is found? Let your editorial contact know if this is a possibility.
To ed-finity and beyond
Would you like to stay involved with the journal beyond the handover? Perhaps you are still happy to review the odd paper, or wish to remain on the Advisory Board - let the new editor know.
It’s crucial that when you step down from the role that the incoming editor can hit the ground running, continuing the contribution you have made to the journal and ensuring the journal’s future success. The above pointers are just some of the aspects involved in ‘minding the gap’. The Taylor & Francis team have a range of resources available to support you and your incoming editor throughout the transition process, from handbooks to systems guides - ask your editorial contact for more information.