A Case Study in Making a Journal More Relevant

The Source
By: Penny Freedman, Fri Jun 1 2018
Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

There are many jobs to juggle as an editor running a successful journal – everything from soliciting articles, building a strong board, and navigating publishing ethics. This month we’re highlighting the various components of running a journal, with an eye on providing tips and advice.

In the ever-changing world of science and research it’s important to pay attention to the relevancy of your journal. Bo Söderström, editor-in-chief of Ambio published an update to readers on steps taken to elevate Ambio’s relevancy. Utilizing the excerpt from Steps toward making a journal more relevant, see what points you may be able to apply to your own journal.


Editors: Ambio has a very broad scope. Should we restrict the scope to make Ambio a more “targeted” journal?

Advisory Board: Unanimous views from all members recommended that Ambio should not become a more targeted journal. Its main strength is that the journal also publishes multi/interdisciplinary research. If anything, we should push harder to become a more interdisciplinary journal and market this even more effectively.

Increase awareness

Editors: The number of submissions to Ambio has increased by more than 50% since 2010. Although this development is encouraging, a further increase of high-quality submissions is much desired. How can we become more well-known among potential contributors?

Advisory Board: Ambio seems to be medium- to well-known journal among the colleagues of Advisory Board members. It would be helpful to market the journal’s inter/multidisciplinarity aspects even more, and valuable suggestions included increasing awareness by encouraging Advisory Board members and other high-profile researchers to submit their best work to us. Most think that it would be good to always use the sub-title in all communication, i.e., “Ambio—A Journal of the Human Environment.

Peer review

Editors: We have continuously worked on improving the quality and speed of the peer review process in Ambio. But like so many other journals, we still struggle with high decline rates to our invitations to review. What incentives can encourage higher rates of acceptance of review invitations?

Advisory Board: Incentives for increasing the chance of reviewers accepting the invitations include

  1. creating personalized invitations;
  2. submitting interesting and clearly written abstracts;
  3. reducing detail on reviewer forms;
  4. better screening by the editors for quality prior to inviting reviewers;
  5. considering talented young scientists as reviewers;
  6. authors agreeing to review at least one manuscript for every manuscript published in the journal;
  7. ranking of reviewers (by editors) in order to identify and avoid those who consistently underperform, while enlisting those that outperform more frequently (but with a cap on number of invitations per year);
  8. providing annual feedback to reviewers as more formal recognition for their valuable contribution to the journal;
  9. creating a sense of journal loyalty for a group of reviewers; and
  10. further building up the reputation of the journal so that it attracts good-quality manuscripts.

Marketing of published articles

Editors: The number of downloads of full-text articles has increased quite dramatically in recent years, and in 2015 we passed half million downloads per year. What is the most effective way to market individual articles?

Advisory Board: The following suggestions were given:

  1. encourage entry of articles into Faculty of 1000, COMPASS, and similar outlets;
  2. target scientific societies to forward information regarding newly published articles;
  3. help authors in crafting efficient tweets;
  4. tag the twitter address of the author and when Springer uses twitter;
  5. flag those who download particular papers and suggest other downloads that have a similar topic;
  6. provide Editor’s Choice in each issue, and/or encourage Springer to craft a press release for a particularly interesting paper;
  7. encourage authors to add open access articles published to ResearchGate and Academia.com; and
  8. use tools like Editors’ Vox and The Conversation.

Special issues

Editors: Ambio publishes three special issues on topical research themes each year. These are published as supplements on top of the eight regular issues published each year. We have an open call for submission of proposals twice per year and receive twice as many proposals as we can publish. The themes of special issues are wide-ranging, although there is a strong focus on the Baltic and Arctic regions. Would it be a better solution to solicit proposals on themes we decided by the editorial board?

Advisory Board: The bottom-up process used today works well, but the option to submit proposals for special issues should be announced more widely on the web and elsewhere. Ambio should also track the upcoming development of scientific reviews being conducted by various international groups, particularly those with a multi-/interdisciplinary focus and then approach such groups for potential publication. Members of the Advisory Board sent us 28 themes for future Special Issues!

Read the full article with the power of SharedIt.

Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

Penny Freedman is a Marketing Manager on the Author Experience & Services team based in the New York office. She works closely on sharing insight and guidance on the benefits and services available to our editors, reviewers, and authors.

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