Optimize database performance by merging duplicate accounts
Merging duplicate accounts is a valuable way to maintain the integrity of your peer review system database. Don’t ignore those alerts!
The journal database
Peer reviewed journals publish hundreds if not thousands of articles and have at least as many users. These days most journals run on an editorial management / peer review software system that stores massive amounts of information in the journal database. This information is retrieved at a moment’s notice to streamline even the simplest of user actions. The performance of the database is a key component of the online journal user experience. From the author to the editor and for all the peer reviewers in between, operations should be smooth and seamless. However at times, there are users who have a less than satisfactory experience, an experience which might have been avoided had the journal administrator taken a few simple steps. This is a blog post about a simple action you, the journal administrator, can perform to reduce your workload, elevate the customer experience and help optimize the performance of your journal’s database, making your peer review journal operations more efficient.
No matter whether the users in question are the submitting authors, journal editors or the reviewers, all of their personal information is protected equally by GDPR or other similar data laws. Salutation/ name/ surname/ address – you name it, even the smallest of details input a) must not be given to any unauthorized third party and b) must be securely managed and stored. Of course for the ethical journal, this is standard. But what does this mean on a daily basis? What can the administrator do to help securely manage this data?
Though most of the database security is organized at a much higher level, an important component of regular database management for any journal actually lies in the hands of the journal administrator. Administrators regularly receive notice of suspected duplicate accounts. The way they react to these alerts can make a difference to the proper functioning and ethical maintenance of the journal database.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but best practices for database maintenance actually require a journal administrator to verify, at times, that the data in the database is correct. I am talking about examining possible duplicate accounts. Yes, those emails you receive alerting you to a possible duplicate account really are important. The unassuming and mundane task of investigating duplicate account alerts is absolutely vital to database maintenance and performance.
Problems caused by duplicate accounts range from authors and reviewers being inconvenienced by a difficult login process to affiliations with a particular piece of research becoming muddled. Duplicate accounts cause confusion for the user and work for the editorial office. User satisfaction will be higher and editorial office workload reduced if administrators react in a timely fashion to ‘duplicate account alerts.’
Most duplicate account alerts will provide you with the name or email address of the database user, which in turn will allow you to look up that user in the system. In most cases the possible duplicates will be presented to you for comparison so that the discerning administrator can analyze the information presented and decide what to do.
The date the account was established, the name of both the person who established the account and the user, salutations, date of last login, institutional affiliation and address will all give clues as to whether the accounts presented could, in fact, be duplicates. If the administrator can indeed be sure by this sum of information that they are, the judicious decision can be made to merge the accounts, preserving one as the primary.
Easy does it
It goes without saying that this decision should not be taken lightly. Merging accounts is irreversible in most systems, and will merge not only the user information, but also the scholarly record affiliated with the accounts at hand. However, when it can be deemed that the accounts are duplicates, merging them will do a great service all involved. The user will be less confused the next time they log in, the editorial office will field fewer emails requesting assistance, the database will retain a degree of integrity it otherwise would not have had and operations will be more efficient.
Weed your garden
Merging duplicate accounts is like weeding a garden… it will help eliminate confusion on the part of your users and keep things running smoothly. You don’t want reviewers struggling to find the manuscript they were invited to review; nor do you want two user profiles for one author’s record. The editorial office administrator who takes the time to proactively check possible duplicate account alerts, and who weeds them out of the database, will actually maintain the integrity of the journal database and help everything run smoothly and efficiently. Read more about The Efficient Peer Review Journal in our blog by the same name.
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Manuscript Manager encourages customers and business partners to uphold high standards in peer review. Thus, we refer to the standards of DOAJ, COPE and OASPA, when considering partnerships.