As we expand our editor set ever wider to deal with manuscript volume and diversity, we as a community need to better understand the role of the manuscript editor. I will return to this topic from time to time but today I deal with one issue: editor engagement in the process.
First, the editor is not merely a scribe that summarizes the review comments. The editor must be engaged with the manuscript and the reviews. (This is problematic where private journals randomly assign papers to editors, but all association journals attempt to assign based on editor expertise).
The engagement on the first round, and likely others, should include
- Careful reading of manuscript by the editor PRIOR to reading the detailed reviews. In earlier days I would recommend prior to reading reviewer recommendation but Editorial management software makes that nearly impossible to do.
- Editor reading of reviews with care in light of reading manuscript.
- Editor consideration if there is a potential path that could lead to publication. If not, and if giving a revise a resubmit on the first round, ensure you convey the speculative nature of the revision (I.e. outcome risk remains as high as an initial submission).
- Finally, write a decision letter that reflects what needs to be done that lays out potential choices for authors in light of the editor’s and the reviewers analysis.
Second, and above all, remember – the editor is not merely a scribe for the reviewers but an active participant in the process. For those being asked to be editors, ensure you are comfortable with this engagement, at least in principle, before agreeing to such a role! For if you are not comfortable, then you as an editor, the reviewers you enlist and most of all the authors will suffer excessively during what is already a rigorous process!!!