Articles by Sarina Theys
As scholars, it is part of our job to read a massive amount of academic articles. When we read an article, though, we are dealing with the end product of an intense publishing process. Reflecting upon my experience as an under- and postgraduate student, I never really thought about the publishing process. I guess I took it for granted. This, of course, changed the moment I started my doctoral studies and became the Editorial Assistant for POLITICS. An Editorial Assistant is one of the important nodes in the Editorial Team. At POLITICS the Editorial Team comprises two Editors, three Associate Editors and one Editorial Assistant. This blog post unravels the duties of an Editorial Assistant. It aims to provide a sense of what one might be expected to do if they are interested in becoming an Editorial Assistant for an academic journal.
When I tell fellow (doctoral) students, or people who are not directly involved in the publishing process, that I’m the Editorial Assistant for POLITICS they often say ‘wow, then you have to read a lot of articles?’ The response that follows is ‘not really, I do not need to read articles, I support the Editorial Team.’ Of course, every time a new article comes in, I will scan it but this does not qualify as engaged reading. I basically check whether the author followed the submission guidelines which are published on our website. Sometimes an author will forget to anonymise their article or goes over our maximum word count. Not adhering to submission guidelines delays the review process and increases the work of the Editorial Assistant. In both cases, I have to unsubmit the article, ask the author to follow the guidelines by removing all identification from the article and then resubmit. The Editor will then determine whether the article has sufficient merit to be sent out for additional peer review. If not, the Editor will send a rejection email to the author explaining the weaknesses of the article and what should be addressed before submitting to another journal. If the article has enough merit, the Editor will assign the article to one of the Associate Editors. Following this, the Associate Editor invites reviewers to review the article. Reviewers submit their report and based on these reports an initial decision is made by the Associate Editor: accept, revise and resubmit, or reject. The initial decision is sent to the Editor who will make the final decision. A revise and resubmit decision means that once the author resubmits the article it will be sent for review again. If the article is accepted I will ask the author to submit: the article in the right format, a signed copyright form and five names of scholars to whom we will send a copy of the article once it is published online on Early View. Accepted articles are proof read by the Editor twice: before I export them to the publisher and after the publisher has processed the article. The article will then appear online on Early View and a copy will be sent to the five scholars identified by the author. Finally, the Editor will then decide in which issue the article will be published.
During the entire process I keep record of all events and can communicate the status of articles in the review process to authors accordingly. In addition to this I am also responsible for administrative duties such as keeping track record of submissions and sending weekly updates to the Editorial Team. Furthermore, I take minutes during editorial and strategy meetings. Taking minutes was a challenging task, especially in the beginning. One may find it hard to decide what to include and what to leave out. Essentially, meeting minutes are a record of the key information of a meeting including the decisions made and the actions assigned to the members of the Editorial Team. I also produce reports from the online submission system called ScholarOne Manuscripts. These reports provide information on the number of submissions, final decisions, desk rejects, time to decisions, and geographical distribution of submissions. In addition to this, I also generate reports on gender, subject area and time to publication. These reports are important indicators as one of the major advantages of submitting an article to POLITICS is the quick turnaround time—on average less than 60 days. Besides these tasks I am always available to respond to inquiries from (potential) authors, the publisher and the members of the Editorial Team. Being the Editorial Assistant for POLITICS has benefitted me greatly. I am one of the first who learns about newly published articles in our field; it gives me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the publishing process, and it has shaped my perception of what it means to be an academic.