There is a lot of hidden work

(The final post in a 7 part series on the work of an academic journal editor by ATP Editor-in-Chief, Staci Zavatarro, PhD)

            In the final post of this series, I explain the hidden work surrounding journal editing. It gets frustrating for us who are trying our best when people take to Twitter to critique things they do not like. Of course, editors need to hear feedback, but many of the comments are about things we cannot control. No, I do not have control over how much time the publisher gives you to turn around proofs. Yes, I can poke late reviewers, but there is only so much I can do before I have to cancel that request and start your waiting all over again. No, paying professional reviewers is not the solution.

            Academic publishing is a business. I will not go into all the critiques with the model because that is not the purpose here. Instead, I point this out because editors are responsible to our publishers, networks and associations, editorial board, authors, and readers. I realize that editors, authors, and reviewers are often the workhorses of this system that relies on their unpaid labor to flourish (McGuigan & Russell, 2008). Institutions (or individuals) usually must buy the academic journals individually or part of a package, and these prices are sometimes not sustainable for many academic libraries (McGuigan & Russell, 2008).

            Given the existing model, as editors we worry about hitting certain performance metrics for the publishers. This is usually how we get renewed in our terms or not – hitting metrics from the publisher and/or governing society. The most prominent metric is the impact factor. Until we get a better metric for performance, impact factors and citations matter. An impact factor essentially measures how often articles in a journal are cited[1]. That is why you will often hear editors encouraging people to cite articles in their journals. There is a difference between normal suggestions of articles to cite during the peer review process and coercive citation practices that are predatory and unethical (Wilhite & Fong, 2012).

            Aside from worrying about an impact factor, there are hidden items I did not necessarily know about before taking on this position. Of course, editors must strategically grow the journal and open up the pages to new ideas. Editors also worry about page proofs, editing each piece that comes in. Then there is engaging the editorial board. And there is putting together papers for each issue, approving the table of contents and cover page. I host editorial board meetings annually and give reports to the Theory Network. I engage in social media spaces to promote the journal.

            I hope this series shed light on some of the commonly asked questions about the editorial process. Sound off and let me hear your thoughts!


McGuigan, G.S. & Russell, R.D. (2008). The business of academic publishing: A strategic analysis of the academic journal publishing industry and its impact on the future of scholarly publishing. Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 9(3), 105.

Wilhite, A.W. & Fong, E.A. (2012). Coercive citation in academic publishing. Science, 335(6068), 542-543.

[1] You can read more about impact factors here:

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