New email alert

Delivering faster manuscript turnaround times

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An email alert created to help editors identify manuscripts requiring action has led to a reduction in overall decision time of 8%.

Launched as a pilot in 2012, results from the project have proved so encouraging we are now making the Empower traffic light email available to all editors.

100 journals took part in the pilot last year and a further 200 journals recently rolled out Empower. The initial 100 pilot journals saw the average time taken to reach a first decision decrease from around 12 weeks just before the pilot started, to around 11 weeks after six months - a reduction of 8%. This compares with a 2.8% reduction across all Elsevier journals over the same period.

What is Empower?

The Empower traffic light emailis an automatically generated report showing you how papers assigned to you are progressing compared to your journal’s median turnaround time. The slower papers are shown in red, while the faster ones are coded green. Papers close to your journal median are indicated in amber. The traffic light email can be sent daily, weekly or monthly.

What our pilot journal editors have to say:

"Gives me an overview of our efficiency in handling submissions."

"Gives a good overview - better than that found in EES."

"Sometimes a manuscript has been delayed too much and I did not realize it. The process is then accelerated."

"The traffic code is simple and intuitive."

"It is a very good new initiative and I would very much welcome this as a permanent tool."

"It significantly helps to detect late reviewers, etc..."

The traffic light email is different from the system notifications you currently receive, in fact it is complementary to these. While the notifications tell you the specific action needed for a paper, the traffic light email compares the progress of your papers to others submitted to your journal. You can think of the traffic light email in terms of a dashboard – it enables you to quickly identify slower papers and to determine by checking their full status info in EES whether there is any action you can take to speed up their progress. Should you find out, over time, that some of the system notifications are no longer needed, you can ask your Journal Manager to turn them off.

Figure 1. Following implementation of the Empower traffic light email, the average time it takes to reach a decision on a paper after the first round of review initially rises. This is an indication that legacy papers have received more visibility and are being dealt with. After that the handling time goes down rapidly and Empower journals start to outperform those not in the pilot. The graph represents aggregate data of around 100 Empower journals (red line). They are compared with another set of journals, which have not yet implemented Empower, (blue line) and have been measured over the same time period in which the Empower pilot was run. Please note there is a group of journals that have been using Empower for more than a year, which is why the red line shows results for up to 12 months. That set of journals shows a greater improvement, possibly due to a combination of Empower and other initiatives introduced to improve turnaround times.

If you are interested, just contact your Publisher and he or she will take this further. More information can also be found at

Sample traffic light email

Dear [editor name]

  • For security reasons please login to your EES Editor Main Menu before accessing the links in this report.
  • The traffic light email shows you the progress of your papers compared to the journal median turnaround times for this particular step. It helps you to quickly see which papers need to be prioritized. Read more.
  • Feedback

sample email

Author biographies

Angelique JanssenAngelique Janssen
Angelique works in the Publishing Services department in Amsterdam. She is responsible for projects that deliver tools and services to both internal and external Elsevier audiences. Since joining Elsevier in 2002, Angelique has worked in various positions, such as Associate Publishing Editor. She has a Master’s degree in Language Didactics from Utrecht University and is certified as a PRINCE2 Practitioner.

Andrés VillavicencioAndrés Villavicencio
Andrés works in the department that runs the Elsevier Electronic System (EES) in Amsterdam. He manages key EES projects in cooperation with Publishing. He is the EES point of contact for Publishing of Science & Technology as well as Health Sciences in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Andrés joined Elsevier in 2002, and has experience in both EES and journal production training and journal management roles.

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