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Recruiting an Editor in Chief for your new journal

There are many things that contribute to the success of a new journal and all are important. Firstly there is a sound concept that not only reflects emerging research trends but also takes into account potential future changes in scientific direction as well as all competing titles. Next you have the systems that you will use to drive your journal and ensure that you are providing a user experience for your authors and readers that matches, or exceeds, that of your competitors. Added to this, and possibly most crucially, are the people that you recruit to lead and manage the journal, none of which are more important that the Editor in Chief. All too often people overlook the importance of finding the right person for this role and this can be a costly mistake. The Editor in Chief should be the driving force of the journal and the person that does more than anyone else to ensure its success. With that in mind here are 5 things to look for when appointing the Editor in Chief to maximize the chances of your new journal earning its place amongst the top titles in the field.

Academic Qualifications
This may seem obvious but your chosen Editor in Chief needs to be as academically qualified and internationally respected as possible. There is a tendency not so much to overlook this aspect but to unintentionally overestimate the academic qualifications of people that we already know. We all have Professors that we idealized as students and likewise every institution has a senior person that we all assume is the best in the field but it is important not to take these assumptions at face value. The academic qualifications of your chosen Editor in Chief will not only determine how the rest of the world views your journal but their network of contacts will be crucial in recruiting papers for the first few issues. It is vital to take an impartial look at each potential candidate’s statistics including, H-index, number of papers, number of co-authors and number of international co-authors to get a true idea of their suitability for the role. You may find that the person you had in mind is not nearly as qualified as you may have thought compared to the Editors of other world class journals.

We have already stated that the Editor in Chief will need to do more than possibly anyone else to drive the success of a new journal. Typical tasks include drafting the scope, recruiting the wider editorial leadership, inviting articles, recruiting special issues, managing the peer review as well as promoting and acting as the public face of the journal. Individually each of these tasks is manageable but put them together and they can potentially demand a great deal of the Editor’s time. Unfortunately having a great deal of time is not a common feature among senior and well respected academics who ultimately reached their positions by working hard, making them amongst the busiest people in the world. In cases such as this it is often necessary for them to make a compromise, stepping back from existing commitments in order to be able to concentrate a reasonable portion of their effort on running the journal. This is not always easy to do and leads well on to the next quality to look for in an Editor.

Choosing to become an Editor in Chief is difficult, not only because the person may need to set other responsibilities aside to take on the role but also because the job itself can be demanding, especially after the first few issues. There is a great deal of excitement in the initial stages of launching a new journal but this can often dry up after the first few issues. By then the Editor has invited most of their existing colleagues to submit but it will still be a while before the journal achieves international recognition and authors start to submit independently. This is the time where a truly great Editor in Chief digs into their reservoirs of enthusiasm and energy to help drive the journal forward. This may be by engaging in marketing and promotion, developing a special issue program or inspiring the rest of the editorial leadership to actively contribute to ongoing initiatives. However the Editor in Chief choses to battle through this tough period enthusiasm will be key.

Leadership skills
If you look at any successful journal it isn’t (and couldn’t possibly) be run by a single individual. Just as you as a publisher are responsible for the success of the journal by coordinating your team of production, marketing and editorial staff, likewise the Editor in Chief is responsible for managing the wider editorial leadership. The structure and duties of the wider editorial leadership vary significantly from journal to journal but usually include many of the core functions that the Editor engages in (though typically to a lesser degree). This could encompass recruiting papers and promoting the journal but can often go beyond this with members of the editorial leadership often being called upon to personally review several papers per year. This is obviously a substantial time commitment for people that do not receive the same kind of recognition that the Editor in Chief does. A good Editor in Chief that recognizes this, leads by example and uses his managerial skills to motivate their wider team is an invaluable asset to any journal.

Personal Chemistry
The concept of personal chemistry is a difficult one to define but essentially addresses the question “Can I work effectively with this person?”. The Editor in Chief and Publisher work very closely together to make sure that a journal is successful and therefore it is vitally important that they not only have a productive professional relationship but also share a vision for how they would like to see their title develop develop. Key to this is a mutual respect for the talents and expertise that each person contributes. The Editor in Chief should be the expert on all scientific aspects of the journal and should have complete authority over the peer review. By the same token the publisher should be acknowledged as the expert on all publishing related aspects of running the journal as well as have total responsibility for all administrative and financial decisions. Many journals have ultimately been shut down because either one or both parties failed to respect the other and realize that this needs to be partnership of equals where each’s opinion and contribution is equally valid and important.


So there you have it 5 simple things that you should look for when recruiting your next Editor in Chief. What did you think of our list?



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