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Anonymous editor

A key thing to realize about journals is that they are often edited at a certain institution, and the E-i-c is part of this institution (example: Philosophical Quarterly at St Andrews). At our university, editors-in-chief have term limits and so someone else at the institution then volunteers to do it.

These term limits allow the E-i-c to help shape the journal, innovate it, make sure it remains open to new ideas and trends in philosophy, and also if (this fortunately hasn't happened) the editor is not good and the journal experiences financial or other difficulty there is a graceful way to turn it around and change direction. So, the best way to become E-i-c of our journal is to get a TT at our university.

For journals that are not in house, getting name recognition does help. A few years ago, I got offered, but declined, the role of E-i-c for a prestigious generalist journal. The volume of submissions there is such that I imagine it would become too much of a time commitment, seeing that I want to also do a bunch of other stuff.

This is definitely the downside of being e-i-c, it can eat a lot of time. I have been involved of course in other editorial tasks, as associate editor, executive editor etc. Don't start as an e-i-c without prior experience. You need to see if it's something you would enjoy and are capable of doing.

One thing that helps to think about this job is to see it from the side of the board/institution who looks for the e-i-c. They want someone who
(1) is prompt, responsive, quick
(2) who has consistent and transparent reviewing policies (e.g., desk review process etc). Some of this can be decided through board meetings, but my impression is editors or co-editors have a lot of decision processes and leeway in how this process is implemented (check the bylaws and statutes of the journal)
(3) who looks out for the viability and financial health of the journal. This is important if it's e.g., open access where revenue needs to be sought from the institution (a reliable supply), or membership fees through a society (e.g., SCP), or ( not very optimal, as does not cover all costs) submission fees. I strongly advise against publication fees. If not OA then you need to at least keep an eye out on how institutional subscriptions and subscription packages fare
(4) avoids drama through publication of outrageous papers. Generally if a paper has an outrageous thesis (eugenics, etc take your pick) then the bar for publication should be higher. The few times this has gone wrong recently, one could see how editors could have made different decisions. I am not saying be always risk-averse, but be aware of what can happen and make sure the process is clear and transparent and there is accountability if something goes wrong.
(5) related to the previous, an e-i-c should not outsource decisions to referees. Referees advise but do not get to decide. Read the reports, if two negatives, it's an easy decision, but don't necessarily treat a split verdict as the negative one having veto power. Decide if the reports are fair. You'll end up going w the verdicts in lots of cases, but occasionally you may deviate. Make sensible judgment calls.

When people looks for a new e-i-c they look for someone who can do the above!


I am associate editor of two journals - a highly ranked one in my field, and a more 'specialized' one in my home country (Europe). In addition, I am on the board of a third journal in North America. All this happened by invitation, as people knew me personally (colleagues / acquaintances at conferences), or read my work / were interested in it: they happened to come accross my work when they were looking to fill a position with a specific specialisation in their editorial board, because they received (too) many submissions in this domain and needed a further person to handle them.
For one journal, I edited a special issue in the past; in the other one, I published a very short article that caused some controversy, but that was long before I got invited to join the board. For the highly ranked one, I actually still wonder how they thought of me, as I never published or submitted there and I never reviewed for them, I think (I indeed have the specialisations they were looking for and have well published in these fields, but I am by no means famous or so).
I think it should be possible to contact the editors in chief to express your interest in becoming an associate editor. After all, in my experience, most editorial boards are happy to share the work burden even more (we editors do not get paid and do this work 'on the side' of our own teaching, administrative work and research). However, especially for highly ranked journals, not sure whether this strategy will work out, but I think there is no harm in trying; for more local and specialized journals, it is likely that they are happy to have more people on board to handle submissions, if these 'newcomers' are deemed qualified (at least this is the case of the journal in my home country). So again, I think there is no harm in asking whether they would like to have a new addition to their board.

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