Editorial Boards

The editorial board (sometimes known as an advisory board) typically consists of a group of prominent people in the journal’s field. Having an editorial board is very important: they act as ambassadors for journals. To some extent the quality of a journal is judged by the members and academic credentials of its editorial board.

Objectives of the editorial board

Aside from providing prestige, the role of the editorial board is to advise and support the editor. Functions may include:

  • Identifying new topics for commissions, special editions and advising on direction for the journal—giving feedback on past issues and making suggestions for both subject matter and potential authors
  • Provide content by writing occasional editorials and other short articles
  • Approaching potential contributors
  • Peer review; also help to identify peer reviewers and provide second opinions on papers (i.e. where there is a conflict between reviewers)
  • Identify appropriate conferences for editors to attend
  • Endorse the journal to authors, readers and subscribers and encourage colleagues to submit their best work.

Recruiting board members

Editorial board members must be peers whose judgement is highly regarded within the journal’s main discipline; or their decisions may not be regarded as valid. Publication number and academic aptitude are the top factors for editorial board membership.

Identifying potential candidates

Potential candidates might be recruited from authors or peer reviewers that have worked for your journal or from recommendations by other board members.

When recruiting potential board members, it is useful to provide them with a brief description of the role, outlining the responsibilities, and clearly stating that this is a voluntary position with no remuneration related to the post.

A good working relationship is needed between the editorial board and the journal. The board works for the journal. It is worthwhile nominating people to the board for a period of time, which is renewable depending upon performance. A term of office of three years is fairly normal for many journals. You should maintain an up-to-date list of board members, including their particular areas of expertise, and keep notes on how useful they have been in the past.

Internationalizing your board

The size of editorial boards varies across journals and between disciplines and there is no perfect number, but what is particularly important is to globalize your editorial board as much as possible to promote the journal across multiple regions, including developing countries.

Editorial staff

Editors are ultimately accountable for the quality of their journal’s content. Editors are responsible for identifying important ‘hot topics’, sourcing high quality manuscripts, handling day-to-day paperwork, and organizing the flow of manuscripts (i.e. from author to referees and back and finally to the publisher).

The two most important attributes of a good editor are (1) having a detailed knowledge of the subject area and (2) being organized. Depending on the size of the journal, the number of editors can range from one or two people to many more.

Common roles and responsibilities of journal editors include: 

Editor-in-Chief

The most senior editor who has overall responsibility for the journal.

Associate editor

A managing editor who commissions articles; coordinates peer review; liaises with authors, reviewers and board members; writes short editorials, news and research highlights, and carries out heavy developmental/technical editing of manuscripts.

Manuscript editor

An editor responsible for lighter copyediting of manuscripts.

Web editor

Responsible for the online content.

In reality, many of these roles have overlapping responsibilities, especially in small journals where one person may be responsible for running the entire journal.

If there are other editors, expect to have regular interaction with them as you are working with them as a team. It is important to have people who you trust to carry out whatever is required to get the papers peer reviewed, edited and published with consistent levels of quality and timekeeping. Some editors may be specialists who only deal with certain journal topics; some may manage specific regions of the world and others may only handle certain types of articles.

Editorial board meetings

Editorial board meetings are useful opportunities to meet with some or all of the editorial board members to brief them on issues, take questions and also gain ideas for policies and upcoming journal editions. They can be done face to face, or via telephone or video conferencing.

Where board meetings are not possible, try to arrange to meet with board members on an individual basis at conferences or other events. Meeting board members is a key way of networking and building and strengthening the relationship with your editorial board.