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What makes a strong editorial board?

Thoughts about roles and recruitment for editorial board members

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This article marks the start of a new collection of articles in Editors' Update which will deal with the subject of growing and developing your journal. Stay tuned and/or subscribe to read the latest posts.

Journals – and editors – benefit from strong editorial boards in many ways. Perhaps the most common function of the board is to provide high-quality reviews for articles where you may be struggling to find external reviewers. Board members can also act as a third, or trusted “tie-breaker” reviewer on articles where you have received split opinions from the other referees.

Other roles for board members

Board members are often a good bet for identifying topics that are of importance to the community which your journal serves. Taking the time to gather their views on these subjects may allow you to identify areas where you can commission a special issue, review article, or a selection of pieces to ensure you are being responsive to the community’s needs and focus.

As well as reviewing and suggesting content; the editorial board is typically also a good source of feedback about the journal’s performance and the growth and development of the field as a whole. It can be very valuable to review the recent history of the journal with board members and to explore with them ideas and options for the future development of the title. Finally, because there will usually be many board members who have amassed considerable experience and expertise; they may well be able to serve both as mentors for new, upcoming authors as well as potentially being good candidates for future editorial positions themselves.

The role of a board member will obviously dictate what sort of characteristics you look for in candidates. At the same time, ensuring that the journal is being well served by its board necessitates careful management including occasional “spring cleaning”.

Running a tight ship

Generally speaking, it is helpful to rotate board members regularly to ensure the journal keeps pace with the breadth and diversity represented by the subject community. Proactive management also helps to ensure that board membership is a meaningful reward for ongoing service to the journal and not a self-perpetuating sinecure. Many journals have standard terms for editorial board members with the expectation that only those actively contributing to the journal would be retained after their initial term.

So how to identify those board members to rotate and which new members to bring in? Your Journal Manager can provide you with a report showing how actively board members have been reviewing. This data can be used not only to identify board members who are perhaps not supporting the journal as much as their colleagues, but also to identify potential new board members from the reviewer data. If a promising researcher is delivering a number of reviews for your journal, then you could well consider inviting them onto the editorial board as a reward for their efforts.

Your Publisher also has a wealth of information that they can draw on to provide you with suggested new board members. For example, they can provide information on who has been publishing in your journal over a period of time, which authors are well-read and well-cited, and also who is making an impact in the wider field, including your competitor journals. This information can help you identify top performers who may be able to significantly add to your current editorial board and open up the journal to new networks and perspectives.

What does your journal need?

When evaluating board members, looking at their overall commitment to the journal should also be considered. Are they writing for your journal? If not, why not? Some board members may have excellent networks and be proactive in promoting the journal, or be extremely helpful in raising new topics for discussion and potential avenues of study. An editorial board should be collegiate in feel – are your board members contributing to that, and if not, then are they actively bringing some other qualities that you need?

It is also useful to consider the strategic direction for the journal when considering the make-up of your editorial board. Do you have sufficient expertise to accommodate all subjects that your journal may receive in the future, especially if you wish to solicit papers on a topic not historically covered? If not, then you may wish to consider adding board members who could advise you on manuscripts (and reviewers!) from those subject areas.


The below comments from current editors show some of the issues they might take into consideration when nominating new editorial board members.

Whenever someone does some great reviewing for the journal, I ask them to the board. Being on an editorial board has more impact than just ad hoc reviewing for an academic. Plus, they can provide some good input for the journal.

- Jim Jansen – Editor-in-Chief (Information Processing & Management)

Because my aim was to turn around manuscripts quickly, I knew I needed people whom I can count on. So rather than inviting expressions of interest and choosing from impressive CVs, I went with people I've worked with, people whom I know are reliable. My invitation email spelled out my expectations for an active editorial board, and that means they can expect to review a lot, and to review quickly, as well as provide constructive comments. I also deliberately limited appointments to a period of one year, so I can retire those who might let me down, and appoint new people to the board. I also wanted a diverse team in terms of age, gender, career phase, ethnicity, language, research areas, methodology knowledge, and geographical location. At the same time, these have to people who have a fairly good command of the English language, and have published in decent journals. I also wanted people who will be willing to help me promote the journal. Most importantly, I wanted people who are collegial, people who still care and not merely, "academic machines". These people values are important to me, and I hope will underpin the culture of the journal, its reviewers and its authors. It's early days yet but I should add that everyone on my editorial team has been awesome so far!

- Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore – Editor-in-Chief (Tourism Management Perspectives)


No two journals are the same of course and thus their approach toward the editorial board, in terms of size, role and composition will vary. Nonetheless there are certain key goals and tasks which board members can help tackle, so it’s important to balance the local context of your own journal with everyday requirements when determining what and whom you need to help. At the end of the day, it’s important that the board acts as a useful resource for you and the journal – as well as being a good way of showing your thanks and respect to those who have contributed to the journal. Whatever the needs of your journal; we hope that this article has provided some fruit for thought.

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