Serving on an Editorial Board Pretenure

November 17, 2016

Michelle K. Demaray, Ph.D. Professor, Northern Illinois University; Editor, Journal of School Psychology

The SSSP Early Career Forum invited me to speak to early career scholars about the editorial process at the 2016 APA convention.  I am following up on that meeting with a blog about getting involved with journal editorial boards.  To organize the blog, I wrote it around several questions that I think early career scholars may have about involvement with editorial boards.

Should I be involved with a journal’s editorial board pretenure?
Yes, I would recommend getting involved with an editorial board pretenure.  However, I think it is especially important to balance your time in this stage of your career.  So, serving on an editorial board should not take precedent over developing your own research program.  I can remember being frustrated at certain times pretenure because I was spending valuable time completing a review and not working on my own research.  Another consideration is if you want to serve on one or multiple boards given your time constraints – I recommend one pretenture.  If you are focusing on your research, there should be a natural progression to being involved with editorial boards as you will be invited to review given your developing expertise in your research area.  If you are able to find the balance, however, having editorial board experience may help demonstrate your leadership in the field at a national level when you go up for tenure.  It is also a great way to get to know others in the field.  Additionally, I think it is an excellent learning experience.

How can I get involved with an editorial board?  
Editors are always looking for good reviewers.  If you are interested in getting involved with a board, I recommend emailing or talking to an Editor and letting them know about your willingness to review and your areas of expertise.  Don’t be offended if they do not put you on the board right away.  They may ask you to serve as an ad hoc reviewer.  Serving as an ad hoc reviewer is one way to demonstrate your reviewing skills and get a “foot in the door.”  I also think it is helpful to contact Associate Editors (AE) that do work in your area and let them know that you are willing to review for them.  The AEs will be the ones inviting reviewers and would love to know of someone who is eager to review and who has expertise in a specific area.  Often AEs will pass on the names of strong ad hoc reviewers to the journal’s editor and ask for them to be added to the board.

What are Associate Editors/Editors looking for in a good reviewer?  
This is a broad question and the answer may vary across editors.  However, in general, I think two things are important: (a) promptness and editorial board etiquette, and (b) quality reviews.

I think promptness is really important.  Associate Editors are handling many papers so they really appreciate it when someone responds to an invitation to review a manuscript quickly and turns in a review on time.  Sometimes the worst part of the job for me is finding people to agree to do the reviews or following up with people who were late.  So, being timely is much appreciated.  I also had no idea until I was an Associate Editor that all those details of your performance are tracked (e.g., how long it takes you to respond to an invite, how many times you decline invites, how many days, on average, it takes you to complete a review).  Thus, you want to be sure to perform in a timely manner if you want to continue to be utilized on the board.  Other good editorial board etiquette is to make sure you are completing the expected number of reviews in a year as a board member.  It is fine to decline invitations to review (and maybe even a good decision at times), but you do not want to over decline and not compete the expected number of reviews. Lastly, it is highly expected that you complete a review for a resubmission when you reviewed the original submission.  It can be frustrating for AEs when reviewers decline to review a resubmission because they rely on the follow up feedback from initial reviewers.  Promptness and good etiquette will make you a well-liked and utilized board member.

The other really important part of being a successful reviewer is completing a quality review.  A helpful review makes the AEs job so much easier.  For me, the most helpful reviews are thorough and written in a constructive and positive tone.  It is not helpful if you are overly negative or rude in the feedback.  In fact, it is appreciated if you point out a few strengths of the manuscript.  I also find reviews that focused on many minor details (e.g., grammar and APA style) not as helpful as reviews that focused on the big picture – the overall quality of the paper–and raised specific issues or concerns in each section of the paper.

After you compete a review be sure to read over the other reviewers’ comments to compare your feedback to the other reviewers.  I always find reading through the decision letters and other reviewers’ feedback an excellent learning experience. To become a better reviewer you may want to get some mentorship.  For example, have a colleague provide you feedback on your review.  Feel free to ask an Editor or AE for some sample reviewer letters that they view as a good strong examples. In addition, you are welcome to ask an AE for feedback on your review.

If you are prompt and provide a quality review, I can almost guarantee that Editors will want you on their board forever!

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