How do I….

How do I….Offering answers to common questions and problems for editors

How do I (problem solving for editors) image

As an editor, you have a multifaceted role and your involvement stretches to many aspects of the publication process. Whether you’ve been in the editor’s chair for months or years, it’s not unusual to come across an issue or question that you’ve not encountered before and with which you could do with some help. In this article, we’ve gathered together some of the most common questions we hear from editors and provided answers, tips and tricks for each in the hope that this will prove useful. Is something missing in your opinion? If so, feel free to comment below and we’ll endeavour to find a solution for you.

How do I…

…assess how my journal is performing?

It’s not a bad idea to keep a weather eye on how your journal is performing across a number of parameters. As well as the “traditional” measures such as downloads, citations, articles published, etc., you can also consider angles such as editorial/production time (the time taken for a manuscript to reach a particular stage e.g. first/final decision or first publication), author satisfaction (which your Publisher can provide via our Author Feedback Program) and rejection rate. When thinking about impact measures such as CiteScore and the ImpactFactor, don’t forget that there are alternative metrics which can prove powerful and insightful complements to their more established cousins. One useful tool in this area is the Scopus “compare sources” functionality which you can use to analyze a number of aspects of the performance of up to ten journals at a time. Finally, many Elsevier journals provide these data in a free, convenient and easy-to-use format: Journal Insights (NB this is a useful tool to share with authors who might ask for information about this topic).

…identify new reviewers?

A common bugbear for editors is finding enough reviewers for the ever-growing number of papers submitted each year. Depending on which submission system your journal is using, there may well be tools built into the platform, so do use these where available to make the task easier. You can also experiment with other systems such as Scopus to identify similar articles and authors and home in on potential referees that way. In truly tricky or “tie breaker” situations, you might want to reach out to one of your Board Members for their assistance in resolving the deadlock.

It may be of course that your journal solicits recommendations for reviewers from the authors themselves. This can be a good way of enlarging your pool but make sure to use at most one of these suggestions and if doing so, be sure you’re not going to end up with a “fake review” situation.  Finally, don’t be afraid to consider experimenting with novel ways of attracting new reviewers! Our experience has shown that “thinking outside the box” can bring distinct advantages…

… get help with a query on my submission system?

There are many features in the submission systems which support our journals and even an experienced editor will sometimes need to seek assistance. Happily, as well as consulting your Publisher or your Journal Manager, you can also turn to Elsevier’s Publishing Support Center. This platform has many FAQs and articles on a myriad of aspects of the publishing process including the submission systems. If you need (semi) immediate assistance, then you can reach out via email, chat, or phone. 24/7 support is available in English as well as a reduced cover for several other languages.

… deal with an ethics problem (e.g. a claim of plagiarism)?

Before too long as editor, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to deal with some sort of (alleged) ethical breach. Whether it’s an allegation of plagiarism, an apparently fake review, a suspicion of research fraud or a complaint about authorship, you’ll find a wealth of fantastic resources in our PERK – Publishing Ethics Resource Kit… Whilst you’re tackling the issue, you will be supported by your Publisher. Bear in mind that they have probably worked on a number of journals, potentially across different subject fields so might well have significant experience of these sorts of issue: look to them for advice. Another benefit of being an Elsevier editor – one of particular relevance to this topic – is your membership of Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which provides resources and a forum to help with difficult cases. It also provides a number of guidelines and best practice documents which could point you in the right direction.

…find new topics or authors for my journal?

At times you might find that you are struggling for authors and wonder what you can do to bring new blood and new ideas to the journal. As well as keeping on top of current trends and “hot topics” on the conference circuit (where, if you do spot someone good, you should seize the opportunity to direct them to the journal), it’s also wise to maintain an open channel with your Editorial Board whose members are ideally placed to direct you towards new material and fresh voices. You can also make use of the journal’s marketing operations to raise awareness and channel would-be authors into the journal. To stake a claim on a new area, you could consider commissioning a review article on the topic by a prominent member of the field or maybe pulling together a special issue (the tools in Scopus can help both identify emerging areas and also shed light on those publishing in them – these could be your new authors or reviewers).

…deal with a query from an author?

As editor, authors will occasionally reach out to you for advice or help with issues they are facing. A considerable number of queries can be resolved by directing them towards the journal’s homepage or its guide for authors. Yet more useful information is to be found on the Authors’ Hub site (which offers resources, tools and advice on every aspect of the author journey). If they have a broader need or require a more in-depth response, then the Elsevier Researcher Academy presents a number of well-developed modules on key aspects and elements of the research cycle (with a particular emphasis on supporting early career researchers). Finally if all else fails, don’t hesitate to direct an author towards the Publishing Support Center or ask your Publisher or Journal Manager to assist.

…raise my journal’s visibility?

You’ll hopefully want to see your journal growing and developing in stature and attracting new and more varied authors. You might wonder, as such, about how to go about promoting your title in a way that complements the marketing activities being undertaken by Elsevier. There are various things that you can do, and they don’t have to be onerous or complicated, you’ll be pleased to hear! Even simple actions such as including a link to the journal in your signature line can have an impact. Why not also consider “introducing” the journal at conferences or participating in “meet the editor” sessions? If you come across something that deserves promotion, then touch base with your marketing manager – your insights and suggestions will be very useful. And you can also help to promote the journal on social media – either by highlighting or celebrating content/events/news yourself or liking/retweeting/reposting Elsevier’s official messages.

…recognize and reward my reviewers?

Along with your Editorial Board, your reviewers are one of your most important assets and it pays to ensure that their hard work is recognized and rewarded. Again, doing so doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Simply ensuring that you publish a list at the end of each year, publicly thanking those who have acted as referees is a nice touch. So is composing a personal note of thanks to new reviewers or those who’ve done an especially good job. For those consistent high performers or those who always come through for the journal then you might want to consider inviting them on to the Editorial Board (NB your Journal Manager can provide you with information on the performance of reviewers to help identify those who should be rewarded). Finally, don’t forget to make use of the My Elsevier Reviews Platform. As well as documenting reviewers’ efforts and providing various rewards, the platform also enables you as editor to recognize reviewers with a special certificate of excellence.

We hope the above has been useful in providing resolutions to some common issues you might struggle with as an editor. If there are other areas you’d like advice on, leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to offer a suitable response. Otherwise, feel free to reach out to your Publisher who will be pleased to support you.



Christopher Tancock
Written by

Christopher Tancock

Written by

Christopher Tancock

Christopher Tancock is Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier's Editors', Authors' and Reviewers' Updates and works on related communications projects. Based in Oxford, Chris has degrees in European studies and linguistics and is founder of Pint of Life, a new initiative which delivers free life-saving skills into the local community.


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