Ten top tips from the editor’s chair: expert advice from a veteran

“…enjoy being editor and take satisfaction from seeing good papers published …”

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Becoming the Editor of a journal may seem daunting, but it can be really interesting and not only an excellent way to connect with your community but a great way for you to be better known through the impact the journal makes. I have been involved with several journals over the last twenty-five years or so where, after a period on the Editorial Board, I became Deputy Editor of one journal and when that term finished, I was appointed Deputy Editor of another.

When my colleague who was Editor completed his term on that journal, he nominated me to replace him and I began what was a fascinating period as Editor of the Elsevier journal, Measurement that lasted for seventeen years in all. It has, at times, been hard work but really rewarding to see the journal expand, the range of authors who submit to it from across the world increase and its Impact Factor grow – especially satisfying when it overtakes that of your main competitor journal.

My “top ten” tips for new Editors that come from those years of being Editor and thinking about how a new Editor could make the most of that experience can be summarized as:

  1. First and foremost, set aside enough time for the job – it doesn’t matter if that is divided up into short bursts of activity or over an extended period – that way you will be able to keep up with the demands of the job and you will feel like you are keeping on top of it. Try to spend some time on journal work each week if you can – your inbox can build up very quickly if you have a successful journal and a backlog can easily accumulate.
  2. Work closely with your Associate Editors and/or Editorial Board. Keep them informed about what is happening – they are the people who will help you to meet your turnaround targets for papers (and so keep your authors happy that their papers will be published quickly). Bring in new people regularly to the Board, keep the mix of expertise right for your journal and if it seems too much for some Board members and they really don’t pull their weight or are just too busy to contribute, then you can quietly retire them at the end of their term.
  3. Keep in close touch with your Journal Manger – he/she can let you know about problems building up with papers, for example where it may be hard to find good reviewers or with plagiarism or “difficult” situations.
  4. Set some realistic but achievable targets for yourself for attracting authors from some of the top 100 or so institutions worldwide – seek out people in your field and give them a personal invitation – but then make sure that you keep a close eye on the review process and be prompt in responding – handle the papers from authors you want to attract yourself so that you know what is happening with the review.
  5. Work closely with your Publisher – have regular meetings either in person or over the internet – to discuss any issues and try out new ideas for the journal, taking advice and drawing on experience.
  6. Marketing – take full advantage of the marketing department to help promote your journal and to give you advice, especially if you are going to major conferences or meetings where you can publicize the journal in person and promote anything new that is happening.
  7. Make your Editorial Board meetings interesting – don’t just focus on the statistics (important as they are so circulate them in advance) but use the meetings to listen to your Board Members, make them feel a key part of the journal’s life and work and show them that you are interested in what they have to say.
  8. Publish in the journal yourself and encourage your immediate colleagues to do so – only if the journal is good enough for you as an author, can you really recommend it to colleagues.
  9. Plan some interesting and relevant special issues and ask leaders in the field to guest edit these – but make sure they have the support from the editorial office to do this and keep the issue on time, otherwise the authors of the special issue will become dissatisfied.
  10. Commission some topical review articles from the best authors – good reviews are often very well cited by the community and will attract attention to your journal – and please the review authors from the level of citations. Work with your authors to develop the topics and author list to suit and promote the journal.

Take the difficult decision when you have to and if you do run into a problem that you cannot easily solve, there is help available from your Publisher – they will be as keen as you to see the journal flourish. Above all enjoy being Editor and take satisfaction from seeing good papers published and the journal grow and prosper. Let me wish you all the best with your journal.


Ken Grattan
Editor-in-Chief, Measurement: Sensors
February 2019

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Written by

Ken Grattan OBE FREng

Written by

Ken Grattan OBE FREng

Professor Grattan graduated in physics from Queen's University Belfast in 1974, followed by a PhD in laser physics. He joined City University London in 1983 and was appointed George Daniels Professor of Scientific Instrumentation in 2013 and to a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in 2014. His research interests include the development and use of fiber optic and optical systems in the measurement of a range of physical and chemical parameters. He was elected President of the International Measurement Confederation (IMEKO) in 2014, serving from 2015 to 2018. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK National Academy of Engineering, in 2008. He was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle in November 2018. Professor Grattan had been Deputy Editor of the journal Measurement Science and Technology for several years and currently serves on the Editorial Board of several major journals in his field in the USA and Europe. From 2001 to 2017, he was Editor of the IMEKO journal Measurement and also serves on their General Council. He has been appointed Editor-in-Chief of the journal Measurement: Sensors in 2019.  Professor Grattan is the author and co-author of over seven hundred refereed publications in major international journals and a similar number at conferences and is the co-editor (with Professor B T Meggitt) of a five-volume topical series on optical fiber sensor technology. His work is highly cited by his peers nationally and internationally.

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