The “just right” number of co-editors
Co-editors: how do I choose the ideal number?
Many journal editors struggle with deciding exactly how many “associate” or “co-editors” are needed for their journal. Examining two factors may ultimately help determine that ideal number. Take a look at your journal’s workload and its scope!
How broad is the subject matter of your journal?
A journal dealing with submissions from a single discipline within a field of study may need fewer external editors than a journal dealing with a broader range of academic disciplines. For example, does your journal focus on Orthopedics in general or a specific discipline within orthopedics? Ideally you would have a co-editor for each of the sub-disciplines within the field covered by your journal in order to assure that your manuscript submissions get an expert review. The co-editors will have considerable experience in the sub-discipline field and know other experts working in that field.
How many submissions do you estimate that you will be dealing with?
One of the key parameters for the entire operation of your journal is the number of manuscripts you expect to be handling. Remember that your expert co-editor in any given field, is reviewing your submissions pro bono, and will probably have many other professional and academic commitments. Consider what would be realistic to expect a co-editor to handle in a month.
“It is estimated that the average time needed per manuscript is between 1 and 2 hours if the journal uses a fully online peer review service.”.
Asking a co-editor to handle more than 4-5 manuscripts per month could lead to an increase in review time as well as a deterioration of the quality of the review. Keeping their workload manageable will help to keep the review process cogent and expedient. If the journal is a new initiative, it may be necessary to revise the number of co-editors after the first year as trends in manuscript submission, topics and numbers becomes apparent.
It may also be an advantage to get an agreement up front from the co-editor on the workload so time needed for journal duties does not come as a surprise. A co-editor is usually responsible for inviting reviewers and ensuring that 2 external reviewers and their own evaluation accompany their recommendation or decision. It is estimated that the average time needed per manuscript is between 1 and 2 hours if the journal uses a fully online peer review service.
Keeping your academic journal’s workload and scope in mind will undoubtedly prove helpful as the ideal number of journal co-editors is determined, and regardless of that number, setting expectations about the co-editor’w workload will likely help the entire review team functioning optimally.