February 11, 2015 | Professor Elliot Shubert, Editor-in-Chief, Systematics and Biodiversity

What I wish I’d known when I first started editing a journal

How teamwork and an online submission system helped one editor


Taking over a journal can be challenging but there are saving factors, including online submission systems. Discover how simple changes helped one editor, and how being an editor isn’t a “one-man show.”


I took over from the previous editor “mid-stream” in 2007; that is, while proofs were being processed for an issue. Meanwhile, I had new manuscripts being submitted and manuscripts in the review process. This was before the journal was on ScholarOne Manuscripts, so I was dealing with postal and email submissions. I also discovered after I had been on the job for several weeks that the previous editor had over 30 manuscripts in various stages of incompletion. It took me eight months to sort everything out - I had authors clamoring because their manuscripts had been “processing” for six months or more.

The saving grace came when we changed publishers and Taylor & Francis came on board in 2010. The first thing T&F did was connect the journal with ScholarOne Manuscripts. This instantly reduced my email correspondence, provided online submission, a depository for all manuscripts, and the capacity to manage the journal online. Of course, it also resulted in an increase in manuscript submissions from 31 in 2009 to 83 in 2010. Submissions have been averaging 90 per year, which is more than adequate for a journal that publishes 30–40 papers per year.

Being wiser now than I was eight years ago, I would have asked more specific questions of the previous editor regarding number of unprocessed manuscripts in his possession and in the possession of Associate Editors. I would have tightened up the journal’s remit sooner to eliminate non-robust papers and I would have increased the number of Associate Editors sooner (6 in 2007 and 16 in 2015).

However, it is the end result that matters most. I am proud to say that the journal has consistently improved. High-quality scientific manuscripts are being submitted, manuscript reviews are to a very high standard, and the journal ranks in the upper 30% in its JCR category. Being an editor of a scientific journal is not a one-person show. A successful journal requires a committed editorial team (Associate Editors and Editorial Board), a fully functional and supportive publisher, and a cadre of many reviewers to ensure scientific quality and accuracy. Working together, we can make a difference.

Published: February 11, 2015 | Author: Professor Elliot Shubert, Editor-in-Chief, Systematics and Biodiversity | Category: Front page, Managing my journal, News and ideas | Tagged with: