February 17, 2016 | Richard Goodman, Managing Editor

Working with your editorial board

Editorial boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but nearly all journals will have one, and they are a fundamental factor in creating a sustainable and successful publication. This post suggests some key points to consider when constructing your editorial board, and engaging with board members on your journal’s activities and decisions.

Building an editorial board

As the editor, it is important to make sure that you have the right editorial board for your journal. There are a number of things to consider when constructing an editorial board, but generally speaking members should meet the following criteria:

  • have research interests in common with the Aims & Scope of the journal
  • be well-respected in the community and be actively involved in research
  • have a willingness to drive journal activities

Not all board members will have the same function, but all will play an important part in ensuring your journal’s health and success.

Are you starting from scratch?

It is likely that if you are starting a new journal, you will already have a few names in mind, but you will also need to consider how you would like the board to function and what your expectations of board members will be. It is a privilege to serve on an editorial board, but it can also be a significant commitment so it is only fair that you let your future board members know what they are letting themselves in for.

Here are some common journal activities that board members might assist with:

  • setting editorial policy
  • reviewing papers submitted for consideration
  • managing the peer-review process
  • submitting their own work
  • suggesting topics for special or themed issues
  • promotion within key communities (e.g., by encouraging colleagues to submit relevant work, or inviting authors to submit at conferences)
  • offering comments and critiques on published content, and suggesting future direction
  • helping to procure contributions of consistently high quality
  • maintaining the ethical standards of the journal

Once you have established how you would like your board members to contribute to the journal, you will need to make sure that they appropriately represent the journal community, both in terms of the topics covered but also the regional demographic of submitting authors and readers.* This is not just important for nurturing the exchange of ideas around the globe, but it will also be essential when you are considering submitting your Journal to the Thomson Reuters Citation Indexes. See the Thomson Reuters Journal Selection Process, which states:

“Thomson Reuters editors look for international diversity among the journal’s contributing authors, editors, and editorial advisory board members. This is particularly important in journals targeting an international audience. Today’s scientific research takes place in a global context, and an internationally diverse journal is more likely to have importance in the international community of researchers.” [1]

One other important point to consider is to suggest an initial term of service.

Contact your Managing Editor for further information and guidance.

Changing of the guard

Every so often it may be appropriate to review who is serving on your board and there may be a number of motivations for you to do so. It is certainly worth investigating board member activity on your peer review site to see who is contributing to the journal, but do also take other factors into account such as participation in journal discussion and responsiveness to email communications. Some reasons for a refresh might be:

  • to provide extra support to board members handling a large number of submissions
  • to remove any inactive board members, or those that have made the decision to retire from the board
  • to cover new subject areas not previously included in the Aims & Scope
  • to cover new geographical areas

When board members do retire, you should always aim to send a letter of appreciation.

Contact your Managing Editor for further information and guidance.

Community matters – engaging the editorial board

As editor, you are not just responsible for constructing the editorial board, but you are also responsible for engaging with the board once it is in existence.

A good editorial board should feel valued and have a sense of ownership over the journal. This sense of community is difficult to achieve, but there are a number of practical steps that you can take to help aid the process. For example, think about producing an editor’s digest to let board members know the latest developments on the journal, or solicit ideas for future improvements you could look at implementing. Creating an online forum for discussion may also help engage the editorial board, facilitating communication and allowing board members to discuss ideas, share best practice, as well as post news and opportunities. Here are some other suggestions:

  • arrange an annual board meeting - you can read tips for getting the most out of your editorial board meeting here
  • share conference attendance information between board members
  • keep an open dialogue either on a forum or social media site

Take home messages

When building an editorial board, there are a number of things to consider but ultimately they should be an engaged and collaborative community that are constantly striving to create an excellent journal with impactful research. Statistics and processes are important and should be reviewed periodically, but it is the human interaction with your board members that will really take your journal to the next level. Meet up, talk over the phone, email, share ideas, opportunities, and involve everyone in the discussion.


[1] Testa, J., “The Thomson Reuters Journal Selection Process”, 2012. http://wokinfo.com/essays/journal-selection-process/

*If you would like to receive some quantitative data in relation to the regional demographic of submitting authors in your research area, simply speak to your Managing Editor who will be able to provide this for you.

Published: February 17, 2016 | Author: Richard Goodman, Managing Editor | Category: Front page, Managing my journal, News and ideas | Tagged with: