This guide is a primer on many aspects of setting up a new editorial office. If you are working with a publisher, then a lot of the decisions will be made for you (on which software to use and how to submit accepted manuscripts for publication for example). However, we have tried to give you a list of the most common tasks you need to understand in getting a journal office up and running smoothly.
Computer with internet access
The computer you use needs a few basic software packages; word processing, spreadsheet, image viewing and manipulation, internet browser, e-mail, PDF viewer.
Microsoft Office software packages will handle Word Processing and Spreadsheets. For Mac users, some manuscripts (especially from Italy) can crash MS Word for Mac. In such instances you could use Open Office, a freely downloadable application that mimics Microsoft Office software in many ways. Whether on a Mac or PC, your software must be sufficiently updated to be able to receive .docx and .xlsx files. Increasingly authors are submitting such files.
Internet Explorer works effectively with all online submission systems. Many Mac users prefer to use Firefox or Safari and these appear to work effectively. Please check with the online system provider as to whether Google Chrome will work. Some online systems insist that you switch off the pop-up blocker. Be prepared to follow their instructions on what you must do.
- For a PDF reader, simply download the latest version from Adobe.
A printer/fax/scanner is usually necessary and combining them into one piece of equipment is space saving. Although an awful lot of things can be achieved electronically, having hard copies can be very useful therefore a printer is essential. For example, proof reading is usually best done on hard copies not on screen.
You will need to think about how your journal processes copyright forms – that will make a difference to the equipment you need. For example: most often the editorial office receives all faxed/scanned/mailed copyright forms, in which case you’ll need a fax to receive these. However, your organization or publisher may not need hard copies of forms in which case eFax services may be best for you, and mailed copyright forms can be scanned and retained, or e-mailed to the publisher. Some publishers are trying out electronic submission of signatures, though this is currently only being piloted as of August 2010. In the future, if this method becomes tenable, then you may no longer need a fax machine or scanner.
Backup hard drive
A backup hard drive is very cheap and can save your office – literally! You can purchase thumb drives and do a manual backup, or buy an external hard drive with more than enough space and do a daily automated back-up. Other options are external backup services that remotely store your backup files so you have a copy in a second location. If you store everything electronically and make no hard copies this is essential.
You will need a telephone, or at least the ability to speak via the internet. From a home office you might want to consider a cell phone. If you chose to work in an internet café for example, a cell phone allows you mobility. Overwhelmingly, communication is handled by email and it is feasible an office phone may receive very little use.
How will your editorial board be structured?
Most journals have an Editor-in-Chief and an editorial board. However, there are several models that dictate the make up of an editorial office. Click here for some examples:http://www.doaj.org/bpguide/set-up/3/
Many journals have policies about how much reviewing the editors are expected to do. Some larger journals fully expect the editors to review a set number of manuscripts per year, and this is detailed to them in their invitation to join the board. Similarly, their presence may be expected at the Editorial Board Meetings.
What will your journal workflow be?
What are the timelines for each stage of the workflow process?
Most editors are not full-time employees the journal. Being an editor is a part of their professional development and service to the larger scientific community and they are happy and willing to do it. However, the journal will not always be their top priority. "Sit down” with your editors and establish their time commitment to the journal i.e. what are they able to give? Then work around the schedules to carve out some time each week (likely more for larger journals) solely dedicated to journal matters. Your editors may have preferred modes of communication (some will prefer e-mail, others telephone), which if you comply with them, may help the journal work be processed more efficiently. It is imperative that Editors check in with their editorial office regularly. Authors increasingly expect, and will demand, a rapid turnaround time to decision.
You must define a reasonable time frame for manuscripts to pass through your peer review process. How quickly your Editor in Chief or editorial board deal with submissions assigned to them will vary according to the journal and its demands. You need to set guidelines with your editorial board on what are reasonable times for them to decide whether new submissions will go to review or be rejected.
Identifying reviewers can be very time consuming but how long do you give each reviewer time to respond to an invitation? Do you send invitation reminders, or just give them one chance to respond? Once they have agreed, reviewers generally get two weeks to review the manuscript but, again, this can vary greatly by journal and subject matter – medical titles, for example typically strive for rapid turnaround. Humanities titles, alternatively, can wait several weeks for an exceedingly detailed manuscript evaluation. Additional questions you need to ask, once a reviewer agreed to provide a critique: How long do you wait after the two weeks is up to remind them they are late? How many follow-ups do you do? When do you give up and attempt to find another reviewer?
Next, how long after the reviews are complete does the editor need before their decisions are made? Then how often will you remind them about the tasks they need to perform? These decisions will greatly affect the time lines and flow of manuscripts from submission to decision. For authors, time to first decision is often a criteria used to determine to which journal they will submit. Minimizing all these times, while giving your editors and reviewers enough time requires some juggling!
Who will do your copyediting?
For those of us with publishers this part is easy – they will! The level of copyediting is not, however, extensive and you may be required to polish up a manuscript before submitting it to production. If your journal has a profit-share model, you will be under some pressure to ensure manuscripts are in the very best possible condition ahead of submission in an effort to keep copyediting and typesetting costs down. Undoubtedly, you still need to be checking the quality of the copy editing at the proofing stage.
There are alternatives to copyediting yourself, or relying on the publisher. There are freelance copyeditors – link to the freelancers database.
Do you have a style guide?
A manual of style is an invaluable resource for answering those "How do we do….?” questions. The style guide is created in partnership with the production team and will guide everything from the layout of different types of articles through to the structure of reference citations.
Some useful resources to consult include the following manuals of style include:
CSE Scientific Style and Format (http://www.resourcenter.net/Scripts/4Disapi07.dll/4DCGI/store/item.html?Action=StoreItem&Item=13693&LoginPref=1),
Modern Language Association (http://www.mla.org/store/CID24/PID363),
Chicago Manual of Style (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html),
American Psychological Association (http://www.apastyle.org/),
American Medical Association http://www.amamanualofstyle.com/oso/public/index.html),
These are generally large tomes full of the most intricate details of style. They are also usually not free, though some are and some will be made available through your library or publisher.
Most journals will make a shortened style and requirement guide (also called the Instructions to Authors or IFA) that is unique to their journal based on one of these larger guides. Many journals in biomedical fields adhere the minimum standards as outlined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements. Many journals simply state that as long as your manuscript adheres to these guidelines the article will be sent for editorial assessment.
For making your own unique style guide you may wish to specify that it is based on one of the guides (so that authors can refer to the guide for particular issues) but then give guidance such as font size, line spacing, page numbers, separate pages for figures and tables etc. These are things that make it easier for your reviewers to read your manuscript. And keeping reviewers happy is important!
Most journals have particular requirements regarding their reference lists. A word of advice: if you use a template that is available in one of the reference managing software programs, the work is done for a large proportion of your authors.
For a more complete explanation on reference managing software, and links to examples, click here: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software).
What are your artwork requirements?
You need to be able to print good quality artwork and the authors need to send you publication quality art. It is extremely hard to "improve” quality if the initial submission is weak. Find out from whoever published your journal what "good” quality artwork is. You must then specify this in the style guide or instructions to authors. Typically, such specifications include: the minimum number of dots per inch for artwork; the type of acceptable file formats and the preferred color model (eg CMYK is better for printing; RGB is better for viewing online)
Where will your office be based?
Working from a home office
E-mail and the internet have made it possible for not only the editors but other journal office staff to work from home. It has also meant that the tradition of the editorial office moving to wherever the new Editor-in-Chief is located is no longer necessary. This has given Managing Editors the ability to develop with their journals professionally, offering the capability for the editorial staff to remain with a journal when the Editor-in-Chief completes his or her term. Drawbacks of home offices are when you have staff, especially junior staff, to supervise. You may also realize that a home office is very isolating, so find a good network of other Managing Editors (through the ISMTE!) and set-up networking/socializing times.
Renting space externally
There are opportunities, if you have the budget, to rent external office space for your editorial office. This can be useful if you have several staff members and all need one place to be.
This may seem obvious, but it isn’t going to be long before you are wondering what to do with all those copies of your journal. Hard copies are great for the occasional request from an author, and also for your own reference, but ultimately you are going to need storage space for them.
Will you need editorial assistants?
Is your journal big enough to require staff? If so, then the question of office space becomes important. How will this affect your workflow?
Who will cover for you when you are on vacation?
If you are an office of one, then what will happen when you go on vacation? Can the journal survive your absence for 2 days, 1 week, 2 weeks?
How will you track manuscripts?
Do you have template letters?
Most of the software systems have templates letters built in, but in all likelihood you will want to personalize the. Coming soon for members only: examples of template letters that you can adopt.
How will you process copyright forms?
Most often the editorial office receives all faxed/scanned/mailed copyright forms. However, your organization or publisher may not need hard copies of forms in which case eFax services may be best for you, and mailed copyright forms can be scanned and retained, or e-mailed to the publisher. Some publishers are trying out electronic submission of signatures, though this is currently only being piloted as of august 2010. In the future, if this method becomes tenable, then you may no longer need a fax machine or scanner.
Will you be directly depositing articles to PubMed or does your publisher do that?