How Springer Nature is working to improve Editor satisfaction

The Source
By: Aman Ganpatsingh, Fri May 31 2024
Aman Ganpatsingh

Author: Aman Ganpatsingh

At Springer Nature we recognize that Editor satisfaction is key to any journal’s success, they are the champions of their community and custodians of the scientific record. Almost 3 out of 4 editors are satisfied overall, but Springer Nature’s 2023 External Editor Satisfaction surveys highlight two significant challenges to editor satisfaction: peer review systems and finding suitable peer reviewers.

Springer Nature is working hard to tackle these challenges, and in this blog post we consider what we are doing to better support editors and improve the process around these two areas of concern.

Editor satisfaction © Springer Nature 2024

Editors and Researchers are at the heart of our community, and to ensure that we continue to support them in the publication of their high-quality research, we need to ensure that what we offer best meets their needs. To do this, Springer Nature conducts quarterly editor surveys to request feedback on key areas of their experience and engagement: handling manuscripts, using manuscript management systems, support and communication. From this we can better understand where editor pain points are and respond accordingly.

Across the four 2023 External Editor Satisfaction surveys 31,273 responses from 21,228 editors at 2,033 different journals were received. The surveys showed strong satisfaction scores, with 3 out of 4 editors rating Springer Nature as a great place to be an editor. Alongside this, however, the surveys show common difficulties for editors that aren’t exclusive to us as a publisher, which we are committed to addressing with our community to continue to offer the high service and satisfaction rates expected of us.

Two of the three pain-points for editors are peer review systems and finding peer reviewers that accept review requests (figure 1). After being asked to rate their satisfaction with their role as an editor, respondents were asked to explain the rating they gave. Figure 1. shows the proportion of all respondents’ open text comments coded for each of the main negative topics.

“Why have you given the rating above” – Topics Coded (n=6,794) © Springer Nature 2024

Figure 1: “Why have you given the rating above?” – Topics Coded (n=6,794).

The challenge of improving a peer review system is in many ways simpler than the challenge of finding peer reviewers that accept peer review requests, where the challenge is systemic as well as local.

Improving Satisfaction with Peer Review Systems

Peer Review Systems, across the sector, are where we see some of the largest challenges for editors. Historically these systems have not changed for some time and as such are not as easily adaptable to the current needs and expectations not only of our editors, but of the expectations of researchers and the overall expectation of what the publishing process should be like. We have been thinking about this a lot at Springer Nature and four years ago we set ourselves the challenge to reimagine some of our systems and see what we could come up with - enter Snapp - Springer Nature’s Article Processing Platform. Creating Snapp from scratch has meant that we have been free from building onto restrictive systems but can instead embed new technologies and produce a truly digital author experience from the beginning.  Snapp is providing greater flexibility for our editors and helping them to grow their journals and provide an enhanced services to authors with real-time developments and improvements. You can read more about the platform here.

As with the introduction of any new platform and service, there is an adaption phase, and we continue to work closely with our community to support them through the transition to this new platform and ensure that we work through any pain points together.

Whilst there are still improvements to be made since its introduction we continue to see a growing positive score from editors. This has been monitored by the Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is, the percentage of those who give a low rating to the likelihood of their recommending the peer review system (0 to 6) from those who give a high rating to the likelihood that they would recommend the peer review system (9 or 10). A negative NPS was, is for many service industries, typical of both well-established peer review systems such as Editorial Manager and relatively new systems such as Snapp.

Snapp saw significant progress made in its NPS in 2023 which increased by 30 points with over 50% of editors using the platform. Snapp Springer Nature has been implementing many improvements to increase editorial satisfaction: automating Editorial Board invitations for more journals; improving the reviewer recommendation model; refining the reviewer invitation process and messaging; new notifications for reviewers and lead editors; warnings about accepting a paper without any reviewer reports present; and allowing editors to manage unresponsive reviewers. Snapp has also now received its first submissions under the double anonymous model, and a pilot has been set up for the automated transfer of recommendations and offers sent via notifications.

Generally, however, editors’ overall satisfaction with their role is more sensitive to other aspects than the peer review system, most notably managing the process of peer review.

Improving Satisfaction with Peer Review

Improving editor satisfaction when it comes to the finding, securing, and chasing of reviewers is more complicated than improving satisfaction with a peer review system.

“This is very much an industry problem, one that affects all editors, regardless of the journal or discipline they work in. With submission numbers continuing to grow every year, there are more manuscripts than ever before that require peer review. Editors are therefore constantly competing with each other to find appropriate reviewers, and secure reports from them in order to make a decision on new manuscripts.” - Marc Gillett, Director, Editorial Engagement at Springer Nature

At Springer Nature we are responding to the challenge by focussing on recruiting, training, and supporting editors and reviewers.

  • Recruiting: We are working with our Editorial Boards to increase the diversity of the boards and the reviewers, targeting recruitment activities at under-represented demographics and regions of the world. 
  • Training: We are introducing new personalised training pathways for editors, reviewers and guest editors, covering everything from technical expertise to how to spot warning signs of unethical behaviour, with new training programmes planned to be rolled out before the end of the year.
  • Supporting: We are expanding the Editorial Engagement Support team, continuing to improve our Snapp submission system, offering recognition for editors and reviewers, and building community links between authors, researchers and Editorial Boards via our expanded Communities platform.

The competition for reviewers' time and attention is also exacerbated by reviewer fatigue reducing the pool of qualified reviewers available to editors. Marc Gillett, Director, Editorial Engagement at Springer Nature, identifies the reviewer fatigue being caused by a lack of diversity, training, and recognition.

“Invitations to peer review are heavily skewed towards academics in western nations and ‘established’ researchers. This bias, whether conscious or unconscious, places undue burdens on the reviewers that are invited, leading to a lack of diversity in decision, slower publication times and reviewer burnout from the process."

The pressure to publish has led to an increase in unethical publication practices, placing an ever-greater need for editors and peer reviewers to be trusted arbiters of the scientific process. Providing essential training is vital to improve the situation across disciplines and the industry as a whole."

Both editors and reviewers regularly feedback that the level of recognition and reward for their work is not commensurate with the effort put into the process. Putting measures in place to deliver true recognition is required to address this issue.”

At Springer Nature we are not ignoring the challenges to editor satisfaction, and significant progress has already been made. Almost 3 out of 4 editors are satisfied overall, and this is reflected in the feedback:

“I really find this role enriching, the manuscripts we receive are generally of good quality. The interface is very easy to use, and everybody is also very accessible.”

“It is a very rewarding activity. You have the privilege of looking one year ahead in research.”

There is still more to be done, at both a local and at an industry level, and at Springer Nature we are continuing to listen to our editors’ feedback through the External Editor Satisfaction surveys and investing in services to improve their experience across the board.

You can read more about being an editor for a journal, and the support that Springer Nature provides on our Spinger Nature Editors homepage.

Aman Ganpatsingh

Author: Aman Ganpatsingh

Rotterdam-based Senior Content Marketing Manager, Aman Ganpatsingh, leverages his 7+ years in research publishing to bridge the gap between research and public understanding. A passionate advocate for research communication, he aims to empower researchers to effectively become aware of the societal impact of their work. Actively involved in Springer Nature's SDG program, Aman stays at the forefront of marketing and research advancements, constantly seeking innovative ways to reach new audiences.

Related Tags: