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|Year : 2013 | Volume
| Issue : 5 | Page : 427--428
Being an editor: Process, predicaments, and privilege
Varsha J Patel
Department of Pharmacology, Smt. Nathiba Hargovandas Lakhmichand Municipal Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujrat, India
Varsha J Patel
Department of Pharmacology, Smt. Nathiba Hargovandas Lakhmichand Municipal Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujrat
|How to cite this article:|
Patel VJ. Being an editor: Process, predicaments, and privilege.Indian J Pharmacol 2013;45:427-428
|How to cite this URL:|
Patel VJ. Being an editor: Process, predicaments, and privilege. Indian J Pharmacol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Jun 26 ];45:427-428
Available from: https://www.ijp-online.com/text.asp?2013/45/5/427/117717
Being a member of an editorial team in a national journal is indeed a privilege. Peers look at you with respect and awe. It lends you a name and recognition among readers nationwide and worldwide. For some it may be a dream fulfilled, for others a role never thought of even in distant dreams. It is a new feather in your cap and an added feature in your resume and email signature. While most enjoy this new acquisition, for some it feels somewhat awkward. Whatever is the initial perception, one goes ahead trying to play and justify the new role.
What does it take to being the editor, a competent editor? Well, a lot. Firstly, one has to learn the intricacies of online editing which takes time and effort to become conversant and confident in processing the manuscripts. Second task is learning to separate the wheat (good quality manuscripts) from the chaff (grossly poor quality manuscripts/"me-tooers"/manuscripts outside the scope of the journal). The wheat goes to peer reviewers for quality testing and recommendations for acceptance, acceptance after major or minor revisions or rejection. The chaff obviously meets the untimely, early end-rejection by editor. If this is not done critically at this step, one enters into many more steps of processing some poor manuscripts which meet with their expected demise later. This critical step is the one which any editor needs to be competent with. Is it that easy? Perhaps not all the time! There are some manuscripts which lie on the fence, borderline, as we call them, not allowing any clear decision. How fair is it to reject a good quality work that is poorly written? Should editors give chance to the young researchers whose quality work gets rejected due to lack of experience in scientific writing and poor expression in English language? A conscientious editor may face this situation often, especially in a country where English is neither a native language nor the medium of instruction during school education. Authors should keep in mind that poor writing style often presents difficulty in following the logical flow of a manuscript and can have a "strong influence on the overall impression of their manuscript by both reviewers and editors".  Imparting training to the budding researchers in research methodology including scientific writing can to some extent improve the situation. Training in research methodology is one of the components of postgraduate curriculum as mentioned in postgraduate curriculum guidelines of Medical Council of India and All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) guidelines for postgraduate education in Pharmacology. , Critical review of published research through regular journal clubs can be an integral part of postgraduate training. The implementation by all institutes involved in research can go a long way in improving the situation. It is the need of the day. The present editorial team of Indian Journal of Pharmacology has made attempts in this direction by organizing several training programs.
How do you tackle the authors who may be ignorant of the submission process or negligent of editor's suggestions for modifications? Many authors do not care to read Instructions for authors which are available on journal website. This leads to failure to prepare blinded manuscript, mismatch between actual tables and figures and those cited in text, incomplete/erroneously prepared tables, figure legends, and problems with the number and style of references. Some authors even do not know how to write a structured abstract. It is difficult to decide how many times you allow modifications in pre-peer review stage. This may seem insignificant and wasteful to most editors who believe in strict timelines and think it is waste of time and effort to try to help new entrants. Nevertheless it may not be a totally worthless exercise.
Peer review is one of the important pillars of the scientific publication assuring confidence to the editor about the quality of the articles. Finding suitable and competent reviewers is not always easy. It is an uphill task when some 'orphan' areas are involved. Repeated attempts are needed to arrange for the 'suitable' reviewer who would agree to assess the manuscript. As many as 20 or more regular and new reviewers may fail to respond making the authors restless and the editor concerned as to how to handle this situation. There is always someone for every manuscript only if one tries hard enough! Yet, it is sometimes a long wait for the editor to get fruitful reviews which can help transforming the manuscript to an acceptable quality article. A lack of response to invitations for review is a major delaying factor in processing the manuscripts. If on receiving the invitation from journal the reviewers can show some etiquette to decline when not convenient to do the job, much processing time can be saved and inadvertent delays averted.
Most of the experienced reviewers know and do their job well with clear remarks and recommendation. The editorial team wishes to express heartfelt thanks to all the reviewers who continue to support the cause of bringing out the quality research for the readers. However, sometimes the editor is left scratching her/his head trying to interpret the reviewer remarks that lack clarity and sometimes may be inconclusive. There is also problem of wide disagreement between reviewers. Low interrater agreement among the reviewers of scientific articles has been reported.  Editor needs to learn and one does learn over a period of time to tackle such issues cleverly. As our chief editor stated, "None of us is a qualified/professional editor. We have, however, trained ourselves by experience". 
While editors are clearly being influenced by reviewer's recommendations, they appear to synthesize the comments and ratings and arrive at decisions that are more accurate than would be suggested by the low relationship between individual reviewer quality ratings or recommendations and article impact. 
Authors continue to challenge the patience of editors when it comes to revising the manuscripts. The common reasons for this include a lack of clarity in reviewer remarks for revision, poor proficiency of authors in English language, and authors' inexperience. Failure at this stage may force the editor to reject the potential article after multiple attempts and considerable time spent. This is a painful yet necessary decision.
Authors also challenge editors with scientific misconduct which has to be detected and dealt with by the editors. Duplicate submissions and even going ahead with getting same article published in two journals is a problem one needs to discover and take appropriate action. Nothing could be more frustrating for an editor than to find out that after an author has been helped to revise and improve his/her manuscript, the authors send it to some other journal just to get it published early, often without the requisite information to the original journal. A few also ask that their manuscript be withdrawn at a late stage when the paper has already been scheduled to be included in a forthcoming issue, or is already in the press. 
All this goes on while the editor juggles continuously with so many other tasks at hand, (this is a part-time nonpaying assignment as in the case of reviewers) the effort and time spent being greatest for the chief editor and members of the editorial board. The pressures of timelines and ensuring quality of scientific work sometimes make dent in the time designated for other tasks and activities pertaining to his/her professional and family life. In a survey of 90 nursing journals, the editors believed their role was influential in maintaining scholarly excellence and evidence-based practice, but many noted the constant pressure of deadlines and dealing with poor writing from authors as challenges of the work. 
Ultimately, what is the outcome of this process for the editor? A great learning experience for self while guiding the authors and helping their baby to be born to see the light of publication. A sense of satisfaction of being one of the gatekeepers allowing only the quality research to be disseminated and of course the advantage of constantly being in the midst of the ever flowing river if not the ocean of research happening in one's field. The most satisfying of all is the deep sense of social contribution by striving towards maintaining and improving the standard of the journal. Indeed a great privilege any scientist, any academician or any researcher can earn!
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