Welcome to “What I wish I’d known when I first started editing a journal,” an occasional series where Taylor & Francis journal editors share what they’ve learnt and what they wish they’d known before they became a journal editor.
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Maintaining a human touch
Neil Powe, Managing Editor of the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
Being an editor is a rewarding yet challenging job with much of the work occurring through the electronic online automated system (ScholarOne Manuscripts). Whilst the efficiency of processing is significantly enhanced by such systems, and feedback from the authors and reviewers is mostly positive, it can be difficult to maintain a personal approach.
Some reviewers refuse to operate with the online automated system. For example, one reviewer sent me an email saying he was happy to undertake the review, but only if contacted by a human being. The review we received from this referee was excellent and worth the extra effort. It is nice when authors/reviewers contact you directly, providing the human touch themselves.
Help from reviewers is very much appreciated and getting this across in an online automated system can be difficult. The system sets default deadlines, which work for many but not for all. They serve an important role in terms of speeding up revisions and the submission of reviews, but they are essentially generic and sometimes arbitrarily determined. All deadlines can easily be altered by editors or the Editorial Office. It is important to gain an understanding of the default automated emails which are sent by the system. These should be checked for their relevance and modified as required.
Submitting a paper to an international peer-reviewed journal can be a nerve-racking experience and authors should be encouraged to contact you, where a few words from an editor can make a big difference. When sending out decisions, it also needs to be remembered that the contents may be very significant for the individual receiving it. In summary, it is important to find ways of maintaining the human touch using the online automated system.