[Image above] Credit: Kenny Eliason, Unsplash
Being an editor of a prestigious journal is a valuable entry on any academic curriculum vitae. It demonstrates the respect that leaders in the community have for your expertise and judgment. But as with any high-profile position, specific important achievements can help elevate your candidacy above other researchers.
First, you must be an accomplished author, preferably in the journals you are interested in joining. Successfully publishing articles means that you understand the aims and scope of a journal, along with the less tangible requirements of style, language usage, etc. Furthermore, citations measure the recognition of the research’s quality within your field, and being a highly cited author validates your expertise.
We strongly suggest you attain an ORCID number. The ORCID is a unique identifier for each author and ensures you are given credit for your publication. This ID is particularly important when you have a common name such as John Smith, Chan Park, Jia Li, or M. Krishnan. Make sure your ORCID is included along with your name for all your submitted manuscripts, especially when you are a named coauthor.
Next, editors are trusted referees/reviewers. Volunteer to review articles to make a name for yourself with editors. As with the ORCID, we suggest that you attain Publons identification and link it to your ORCID. Most manuscript review systems use Publons as a resource for prior reviews to identify potential referees. Make sure you get credited for every review through the Publons system so that your name rises higher in the list of potential referees.
The speed and quality of your reviews are of great importance. When you agree to be a referee, the editor and the author are relying on you to provide your review on time and in good faith. One of the most common reasons for long review times arises from referees who are late or, worse, do not submit a review at all. If you cannot submit your review on time, communicate that to the editor as soon as possible so that a replacement can be found.
A high-quality review informs the editor and the authors of the good aspects of the manuscript and provides suggestions for improvement where the content falls short. The critique should be worded to guide the authors to prepare better manuscripts even when the manuscript you are reviewing fails to meet the aims and scopes of the journal. The better the review, the better your Publons rating, and the more likely you are to get noticed.
Because editors are responsible for recruiting expert reviewers, you must build your network of researchers in your field and your reputation within your network. Researchers are much more receptive to invitations from people they know and respect. It may take years to build your reputation in the community. Do not let that discourage you. Once you do, you will be able to take the next step of gaining experience with the editing process.
Meetings and conferences are excellent ways to get to know others in your field. Attend as many as you can, and make sure you get to know your fellow attendees. Present your best work and ask good questions both during and after others’ presentations. Pass out your business card (order or make them if you don’t have any). Meet new people at receptions and join them for meals. Lead sessions and chair symposia.
As you are building your network, consider working with colleagues to assemble special journal issues. Being a guest editor for a special issue is an excellent introduction into the editing process. Most editors are glad to mentor young researchers when they are guest editors. Special issues focus on high interest topics, often by collecting papers from conference presenters. When you chair sessions, work with the conference and journal leadership to get the process started.
It is very important to understand the editorial structure of each journal you’d like to join. There are many models, which often depend on the size of the journal and the breadth of the topics covered. Younger researchers are more likely to join editorial teams by asking to come in as entry-level volunteer editors. Don’t be surprised if your requests are initially turned down, especially if you have not done the above to gain experience and demonstrate your skills. Be sure to always ask what you can do to improve your prospects for joining the team.
In summary, becoming an editor is a journey that requires patience and effort. Build your expertise, experience, and your network, and keep in contact with journal editorial teams. When the time is right and an opportunity arises, you will have put yourself in contention for the position.