Targeting the next generation of editors in Asia

With the number of submissions from Asia continuing to rise, the importance of ensuring the make-up of journal editorial boards reflects that shift has never been greater

With the number of submissions from Asia continuing to rise, the importance of ensuring the make-up of journal editorial boards reflects that shift has never been greater.

However, recruiting a suitable Asia-based editor may not be as simple as it sounds – identifying the right person to approach, concerns over time differences and communication, and uncertainly over the correct cultural procedures can all prove stumbling blocks.

Deborah LoganOne publishing group in Elsevier has come up with a novel approach – the Materials Science team, led by Publishing Director Deborah Logan, is trialing a series of Future Editors’ seminars. With the aim of ‘identifying new editors and engaging with the community’ the team recently held their first event in Beijing, China. The 65 attendees comprised leading young materials scientists and society contacts. Together, attendees represented seven countries or regions and more than 60 different institutes in Asia.

Logan, who is based in Elsevier’s Oxford office, explained: “Attendance was by invitation only, and the delegates were selected from nominations by institutes, key societies and partnership journals in the region. Experienced editors also recommended their top authors and reviewers and that was the key to success in all of this; it gave us an opportunity to work together with our existing partners in the region to identify future decision-makers on the journals that matter to them.”

Attendees and presenters at the first Future Editors' seminar held in Beijing last year.

The anatomy of a Future Editors’ seminar

  • A one-day seminar was held in Beijing on October 18, 2013.
  • Invitations were sent to young and promising materials scientists in Asia who have both the interest and potential to become future editors on Elsevier journals.
  • The seminar adopted a plenary style, featuring eight talks delivered by well-known senior scientists, experienced editors and publishing professionals.
  • Topics covered included:
    • What Makes a Great Editor of the Future? A Publisher’s View
    • The Role of Journal Editors in Advancing Science
    • Challenges of Publishing and Editing

Logan believes there is a strong need for this kind of approach in the Materials Science field, which has undergone rapid expansion in recent years. She said: “Asia currently yields around 57 percent of our area’s overall submissions, and yet our editorial contacts from this region only make up 22 percent of our global network. In China, the situation is even more acute; this is a country that produces about 28 percent of our total published content in Materials Science journals, yet only seven percent of our editors are from there. The issue is not one of willingness to serve – in fact, our research shows that, of any nation, Chinese researchers are the most willing to serve as reviewers and editors."

Tingting ZouMaterials Science publisher, Tingting Zou, who is based in Beijing and worked closely with Logan on the seminar, added: “Journals are facing more and more pressure with the increase in submissions from Asia. Meanwhile, current editorial boards are experiencing difficulties finding suitable reviewers and editorial candidates in the region to tackle the challenge. We believe these seminars will help.”

According to Logan, Elsevier considers the event a success with 32 potential new trainee editors identified.

It was clear from responses to a post-event survey that attendees also found the initiative useful: 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed they had the opportunity to exchange views with other materials researchers; meet journal editors; let Elsevier know their views; and network. Overall, all delegates agreed or strongly agreed that they were ‘very satisfied with the conference’. One commented: “…the talks were helpful for anyone like me who would like to be involved in editorial work in future.” While another appreciated the fact that it was “a great opportunity to learn the roles of an editor and talk with people from different parts of Asia”.

An event highlight for many of the delegates proved to be the experiences shared by the senior editors who presented. Some attendees described these talks as “deeply moving”.

IntermetallicsDr. T G NiehOne of these presenters was Dr. T G Nieh, Editor-in-Chief of Intermetallics and Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Tennessee. With more than 400 journal publications in materials-related areas, he has been listed as one of the ISI’s most cited material scientists since 2003.

Reflecting on the event, Dr. Nieh, whose talk was entitled ‘Progression from a reader, author, reviewer to editor’ said: “I was one of several Asian and Asian-American editors who candidly shared their experiences – the joy of reading the first-hand research results and interacting with dedicated reviewers, and the agony of meeting various publishing timelines and responding to unappreciated authors.

“There is clearly a language gap when an Asian writer is trying to express a scientific concept using English language for writing and publication. This gap arises naturally from the intrinsic differences in culture and education. An Asian editor is in a better position to bridge that gap. In addition to questions raised during the presentation, speakers and attendees engaged in discussions about editing in the breaks – most were on time management and the editor-reviewer-author interactions. I discovered there was a general misconception that editors only collect papers so the role does not require much technical skill.”

He added: “The information provided at the seminar helped young scientists appreciate the work of an editor and it is encouraging to learn that several attendees have expressed an interest in serving on Elsevier journal editorial boards. I think the workshop was a worthy investment.”

Dr. Min Wangmaterials lettersAnother of the presenters, Dr. Min Wang, a Professor at The University of Hong Kong’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Editor of Materials Letters, described the opportunity to give his talk on ‘Publishing in a Reputable International Journal – Through the Eyes of a Reviewer and Editor’ as a “privilege”. He said: “To those aspiring to be journal editors, it is important to show the processes involved and the event was very successful in achieving its goal. I really feel it was a privilege to give a talk to such a talented audience, sharing with them some of my personal experiences, observations and thoughts on paper reviewing and journal editing. I also feel I benefited greatly from taking part in this event; by listening to other speakers’ talks and by interacting with young researchers of great promise. I would recommend that Elsevier organizes this type of event more often and in different places.”

The next seminar is penciled in for the Materials Today Asia Conference in 2014/2015. Other Elsevier divisions are also monitoring the success of the initiative closely.

Closing the gap

Back in Issue 33 of Editors' Update (September 2011), we focused on boosting Asian membership of editorial boards in an Asia Special edition of Editors’ Update. In Recruiting an Asia-based Editor. Case Study: The Lancet, we heard from the journal’s Dr. Helena Wang and Dr. Maja Zecevic about points to consider when incorporating an Asia-based editor into the team.

Elsevier’s David Clark, now Senior Vice President Life Sciences, also touched on the importance of multi-cultural editorial boards in Meeting the Challenge of a Global Academic Community. He said: “This gap needs to be addressed, not for reasons of political correctness, but because of the practical advantages. It eases the burden on traditional academic communities and it offers access to good new people coming up through the system. Just look at the high standard of work already coming out of some institutes in China.

“Many journals have already appointed editors in Asia and there are clear benefits for doing so. For example, the editors we do have from China do seem to accept, on average, better-cited papers than those from other countries. That suggests they do a good job and my own experience supports that.”

He also outlined practical tips for recruitment.

The growth of research in China

Materials Science is not the only field experiencing a rise in papers from Asia and the Middle East – the number of submissions has seen strong growth across the board in recent years. While in 1996, these countries collectively published fewer than 200,000 papers, in 2012, close to 900,000 papers from the region were published. Year on year growth of scholarly output (Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)) was high at more than 10 percent, and even higher in the last 10 years at nearly 13 percent (data source: Scopus).

This increase has been driven in particular by the explosion of publications from China (see figure 1): in 1996, China published fewer than 33,000 scholarly papers; in 2012, this grew to over 400,000 papers – an impressive CAGR of 20 percent over the past 10 years.

Figure 1: Number of scholarly papers with at least one Chinese author (data source: SciVal)

It is not only the number of publications from China that is increasing – we are also seeing the impact of those papers grow (see figure 2). Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) is a measure of average number of citations per paper normalized against the expected citation rates for publications in the same field. While China is still significantly under the world average of 1, it has recently grown in FWCI from 0.68 in 2008 to 0.73 in 2012.

Figure 2: Field-Weighted Citation Impact of papers with at least one Chinese author (source: SciVal).

China’s scholarly output is heavily dominated by the Physical Sciences (see figure 3), which together account for two thirds of the papers published in 2008-2012 that had at least one author with a Chinese affiliation. Materials Science alone accounts for nine percent of the country’s scholarly output over that period.

Figure 3: Subject area breakdown of Chinese papers published (source: SciVal).

Author biography

Sarah HuggettSarah Huggett
As part of the Scientometrics & Market Analysis team in Research & Academic Relations at Elsevier, Sarah Huggett provides strategic and tactical insights to colleagues and publishing partners, and strives to inform the research evaluation debate through various internal and external discussions. Her specific interests are in communication and the use of alternative metrics for evaluating impact. After completing an M.Phil in English Literature at the University of Grenoble (France), including one year at the University of Reading (UK) through the Erasmus programme, she moved to the UK to teach French at University of Oxford. She joined Elsevier in 2006 and the Research Trends editorial board in 2009.

Huggett contributed the section 'The Growth of Research in China'. Interviews were conducted by Linda Willems, Editor-in-Chief, Editors' Update.

Archived comments

Roger Brown says: March 8, 2014 at 9:05 am
This seems a splendid initiative. Perhaps it could be used to identify a successor to a current editor

Deborah Logan says: March 14, 2014 at 10:28 am
Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and we are really pleased to hear you are interested in this initiative. It could certainly be used in the way you suggest.

Roger White says: March 19, 2014 at 12:53 am
The figures are interesting but misleading. With the exception of a few outstanding individuals the standard of publication from Asia appears to be well below international standards so there is implicit in this a serious question of quality of editorial and review process. It is also evident to anyone who trains visiting Chinese students that their local training is poor and needs significant effort as this is generating much of the quality of work we see being submitted. Comments from existing editors have noted that this too has been poor and much more needs to be done to raise not only scientific standards but awareness of ethics which appear to be perceived differently between local scientists and those who have been trained overseas. That these issues are not raised and discussed openly has to be concern as it reflects on the motivations of the journals and the lengths they may go to access larger markets.

David Clark, Senior Vice President Life Sciences, says: March 26, 2014 at 8:12 am
Thank you for your comment.

Undoubtedly, the quality of scientific practice varies both by country and by subject discipline. China, for instance, has a very strong position in Materials Science and publishes much significant work. What we can say, and I hope that the article and the enclosed figures make this clear, is that Scientific discovery – and publication – will increasingly come from countries such as China and we need to engage with scientists in those countries if we want to maintain – and indeed enhance – standards in the future.

Undoubtedly there will be people in all countries who fall short of international standards and that's most likely in institutions without a long track record of engaging with the wider scientific world. As a result, there is a big focus in countries like China on raising standards in all areas of scientific endeavour, including publishing. The key thing, it would seem to us, is to engage, to organise events and to bring people into the scientific process. Initiatives like the one Deborah describes are part of our efforts to help new people to take on editorial responsibilities. Likewise, we have been running author workshop programmes across the World and address many of the concerns around standards and ethics at those events.

comments powered by Disqus