Sharp tools to cut editorial times

Could process mining be the smartest way to minimise editorial delays?

By Catherine Carnovale - February 22, 2021  4 mins
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Any editor will tell you that by its very nature, the process of peer review takes time. Each submission deserves fair and individualized treatment as it ducks and weaves its way through the editorial workflow. Editors dedicate time to each and every submission to assess  suitability for the journal before the peer review process can even begin. Multiple reviewers must be sought whose expertise must resonate in harmony with the paper’s focus. Those reviewers must agree to participate and provide constructive comment so that papers can be revised and refined to ensure that theories are empirically sound, descriptions accurate and conclusions validated.

While most editors (and authors!) would agree that peer review isn’t exactly speedy, they also acknowledge that papers undergoing peer review should never sit still any longer than they need to. When submitting a manuscript to a journal, authors must agree to refrain from submitting the same manuscript to any other publication. In return editors pledge to handle each manuscript in a timely manner for the benefit of the authors as well as the wider research community.

Over the years, we have put end to mail-in submissions and filing cabinets filled with paper in favour of electronic submissions and digitized records. Editorial systems have become increasingly automated to minimize manual work and human error, while growing in ability to support more organized and increasingly customized workflows for each individual journal. No-one would argue that the system is now perfect, but it’s amazing what progress has been made and equally enthralling to consider the ongoing development of tools and resources to continue improving the experience for all involved.

One of the latest developments in this area is the implementation of Celonis, a cutting edge process mining tool that allows Elsevier journal support staff to see and act on papers which are experiencing delays within the publication process.

Lavanya Ashwin photoCelonis is a process mining tool which makes it easy for journal managers to quickly identify the overdue actions for their journals in both production and editorial. Using Celonis, Journal Managers can easily identify bottlenecks in their journals and contact the relevant stakeholders so that manuscripts get moved along quickly in the publication process. Overall, this helps improve the publication speed of the journal, leading to higher satisfaction for authors and faster publication.

– Lavanya Ashwin, Journal Production Team Lead, Elsevier

The tool is powered by its Action Engine which combines article-level analysis, editorial insight and programmed actions, all geared towards minimizing editorial delays. While the Action Engine is proving to be a clever tool to eliminate delays, the decision-making process remains in the trusty hands of our Editors, of course.

By reducing outliers and removing bottlenecks, we have seen significant improvements to editorial speeds in the early stages of the Celonis rollout. Professor Sinisa Todorovic, Editor-in-Chief of Image and Vision Computing was one of the early adopters of the Celonis system which makes it easier to identify which manuscripts need attention and which editors need to be contacted. Professor Todorovic knows the power of a personalized reminder to cut through the sea of emails:

ASinisa Todorovic photos an Editor-in-Chief, I need to regularly check the reviewing status of every Associate Editor and provide a personalized message to remind them of upcoming review deadlines. People tend to respond better to personalized emails, but this can be a timely process.

Editors, including Professor Todorovic are now able to work closely with Journal Managers to quickly highlight idle papers and group them by status (such as those with no reviewers invited, no editor assigned, or which are ready for decision). This makes certain delays instantly apparent when previously it may have relied on editors manually checking the status of individual manuscripts under review. Journal Managers are able to perform daily checks of outstanding tasks, program automatic reminders, set customised time limits for certain tasks send personalized Mohammed Samiullah photocommunications to authors, editors and reviewers as needed.

Celonis is an incredibly powerful tool with its ability to send reminders to multiple editors, reviewers and authors at the same time and in one click. Celonis helps in keeping a tab on papers.

– Mohammed Samiullah, Journal Manager, Elsevier

After observing positive results in the initial rollout of Celonis, we are keen to optimize the settings for each journal and determine the best approach for each journal’s author base. As we learn more about the tool, it is clear that these technologies will in no way replace the human element of peer review but are certainly a useful device to complement the capabilities of our editors and reviewers who form the cornerstone of the peer review process. The next time you submit a paper, we hope that this technology will shave days off the nervous wait time associated with submission!


Catherine Carnovale
Written by

Catherine Carnovale

Written by

Catherine Carnovale

Catherine Carnovale is a newcomer to the Elsevier team, after joining STM publishing in 2018. Based in Amsterdam, she works as a Publisher on the computer science portfolio after stepping out of the lab from a postdoctoral position in Italy. Catherine holds a PhD in applied physics from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia for her research in nanobiotechnology. In her spare time, she reads a lot of scientific journals (which she finds highly relaxing since leaving her own research), and enjoys cooking in her tiny apartment in Amsterdam.

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