Editorial apprenticeships: working with Early Career Editorial Boards

How opening up positions for junior researchers can bring new insights to a journal

By Deirdre Dunne - May 17, 2021  5 mins
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Back in October 2019 during an Editorial Board meeting for the Journal of Hazardous Materials, we discussed ways our journal could recognize outstanding early career researchers and engage them in a path towards editorial work. The outcome of this was the establishment of an Early Career Editorial Board: a group of junior researchers getting their first experience of editing. The ECR Board proved a big success and has subsequently rolled out to numerous journals across many different disciplines. In this article, we’ll take you through the “how” and “why” and see if we can’t encourage you to follow our lead…

The ECR Board: role and responsibilities

Early career researchers are defined as those who have completed their doctoral degree and are within 10 years of their first independent research career in a tenure-track or equivalent position. Such people might have plenty of experience of authoring and reviewing, but probably won’t have seen life from the editor’s chair. Being invited onto an ECR Board, as well as being a mark of prestige and recognition, also brings with it a number of responsibilities. These might include:

  • Conducting reviews for a certain number of papers annually
  • Submitting at least two manuscripts within the term (which are subject to external peer review as with any other submission)
  • Acting as an ambassador to promote the journal via social media, conferences, and other channels
  • Providing consultation to the editors at their request
  • Assisting with special issues under the guidance and discretion of the editors

The term for ECR Board members is normally two years, with possible renewal for a second term. Exceptional Early Career Editorial Board members can be elevated to full Editorial Board member status and might also be promoted and recommended for similar capacities to other Elsevier journals.

By participating in [the] ECEB program, junior researchers can better understand a journal, obtain the knowledge that may benefit their own journey of publishing research results, build up their editorial experience to be future editors, and help shape a journal’s vision...

– Zhen (Jason) He (Co-Editor, Journal of Hazardous Materials)

Identifying and evaluating candidates

As with any Board, you’ll want to attract a high-caliber and diverse set of candidates. In the case of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, we put out a call for qualified early career researchers and encouraged anyone who had an interest in pursuing editorial work to apply. The call was placed on journal homepage and distributed by the editors to societies, workgroups and social media channels.

The application process was open for two months and editors then had one month to evaluate and notify applicants.

The campaign for the Journal of Hazardous Materials was phenomenally successful, with almost 100 applicants applying! This success necessitated the creation of a shortlist whose participants were each individually graded by the editors. Those scoring highly were selected for the ECR Board and once complete, we announced the new team on the journal homepage and on social media.

Engaging with the Early Career Editorial Board

Obviously, creating a sense of belonging and having regular contact with the ECR Board members is important. Right now, we are living in a “Zoom” world, so we bring the teams together virtually to meet. It’s great to get to know each Early Career Editorial Board member and give them insights about how the journal works.

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A recent ECR Editorial Board meeting on Zoom

During meetings, we discuss projects that they can contribute to and many have been very active in driving initiatives. A recent example of this is from the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering (JECE), where an ECR Board member, Dr. Popi Karaolia, suggested a new article selection for the journal, a suggestion which was enthusiastically adopted.

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An example of a recent  ECR Board initiative

Additionally, JECE ECR Board member, Prof. Dawei Wang interviewed the authors of a recently published a paper on “Water science under the global epidemic of COVID-19”, the first in a series of author interviews.

More ECR Board initiatives

Dr. Wen Zhang, Associate Editor of the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, has been working closely with its Early Career Editorial Board members to discuss a range of new initiatives for the journal including the creation of PowerPoint slides introducing the journal that can be used for presentations at events such as conferences and meetings. Elsewhere we’ve been experimenting with the idea of a webinar series, and short commentaries for selected articles, which we will share with the community via email and social media. All of these initiatives can easily be replicated across journals once a template and workflow are in place.

Being a member of the ECEB of JECE has immersed me into the editorial world of science, as I have the opportunity to gain a great deal of experience … reviewing articles, disseminating journal information, preparing special issues and assisting in JECE editorial decisions.

– Popi Karaolia (ECEB Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering)

Creating your own ECR Board

Each journal can define how they engage with their Early Career Editorial Board and be as creative as they wish. As “rising stars” in the field, Early Career Editorial Board members are be able to identify emerging topics, suggest speakers and organize events as well as helping the journal in question to stay fresh and responsive to the community. In return, we hope the close collaboration, mentorship and involvement in editorial activities of the Board members will prepare them for advanced editorial appointments. Launching an ECR Board is a great way of giving everyone who has the ambition and qualification a chance to partake in editorial work, so we’d encourage you to try it out for your own journal. Talk to your Publishing Contact to get started!


Deirdre Dunne
Written by

Deirdre Dunne

Written by

Deirdre Dunne

Deirdre Dunne is an Executive Publisher looking after the chemical & environmental engineering flagship journals at Elsevier. Deirdre has been working with Elsevier since 2002 in various publishing roles within life, social and physical sciences.

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