Peer Review Week 2016: An Editorial Assistant’s story. A tale of love, betrayal and copyright forms.

Hello, my name is Lucy, and I am an Editorial Assistant. My role is mostly administration, and you are most likely to encounter my friends and I when you email the journal mailbox. I spend most of my day checking submissions: mainly ensuring that the online ScholarOne form used to submit the paper matches the manuscript, as well as ensuring that we can legally publish the paper by helping authors resolve copyright and permissions issues. I also man the journal mailbox, making me the first point of contact for authors and referees, and sometimes the general public! I work on three journals; Journal of Physics A: Theoretical and Mathematical, European Journal of Physics and Physics Education. Each journal works a little differently, but with a few exceptions the below is standard.

bagelMy day starts with a peanut butter bagel while I read and respond to emails. These include granting author and referee extensions (or not, if it will hold the paper up for too long), uploading referee reports and author proofs, solving issues with ScholarOne, answering questions and generally keeping things flowing. This can take a while; we can get up to 50 emails a day per journal, and with 70 journals that is a lot of emails!

Next I move onto submissions. We process submissions on an online platform called ScholarOne, which is used by several publishing companies. ScholarOne keeps everything together on one platform, so authors can also referee papers and vice versa, and one login will work for all IOP Publishing journals. New submissions are easy – I undertake the initial check of the manuscript and submission form to make sure the title and author names match. These checks are important; the Production team usually works with what is on the ScholarOne form and so a misspelt title or missing author name can result in an error on the published paper if it is not caught! Fortunately the diligence of both the Editorial Assistants and the Production team mean that mistakes are nearly always picked up before this stage.

At new submission stage I also check all of the figures the paper; which ones are in colour, and which, if any, have been reused from other work. If an image has been taken from another source such as a published book or paper, or even a website or computer program, we must look into whether permission is required to reuse the material in the manuscript. If permission is required, we are required by law to have a written statement from the original creator and/or publisher of the work confirming that they are happy for us to publish it. We also require permission to use images of children or vulnerable adults. This is a process which can be a bit of a pain, especially if a high number of images have been reused, however our authors are very good about obtaining permissions or removing/changing images. Please be kind to your Editorial Assistants, we don’t enjoy the permissions process either, and really do understand how complex and time consuming it can be! But you are more than welcome to email us with any queries you may have.

I will also invite referees both at new and revised submission stage, once they have been chosen by the Associate Editor. I try not to overload referees so if they have reported in the last month I will not invite them again. Our referees are excellent and the time they take to review papers is very much appreciated, as we could not run without their services which are provided for free.

Revised submissions are more interesting; this is when papers have been reviewed by referees and the paper has been edited taking these reports into consideration. I check that the source files are present (word or .tex files are preferable), and that the author response to the referee comments is present (this allows both the Editors and the referees to easily see which changes have been made, and can be either in the form of a list or a manuscript with the changes highlighted). I also double check for any title or author changes, and review the permissions situation (are they required, and if so, do we have them all?). We also query colour print and Open Access at this stage if the author has indicated that they are wanted. colour Print and Open Access is queried as both incur a charge: colour print is £250 an image (up to £2000) and Open Access is £1700.

We publish papers under two models at IOP: subscription and Open Access. Subscription is free to the submitting author, but readers require a subscription to IOP to access the paper once it has been published. Papers published under an Open Access license require that an Article Publication Charge is paid by the authors, but the published paper can then be accessed by anyone and can be uploaded onto personal websites by the author immediately (however subscription articles are subject to a 12 month embargo preventing this). Grants can be obtained to pay for Open Access, and we have a funding agreement with several institutions as well. This information needs to be checked and noted so that the details can be used by the Charging and Production teams.

copyright-symbolI also check copyright forms. This is an agreement between authors and IOP Publishing which transfers the copyright of the manuscript to IOP Publishing on acceptance. This is another legal requirement to allow us to publish the paper. This form has recently been revamped to ensure it is as clear as possible. Authors are required to indicate if someone other than the authors owns the copyright to the work (such as the author’s institution) at the top of the form (leave blank if the authors own the copyright), as well as select their choice of publication model (subscription or Open Access), and sign their name and write the date at the bottom of the form.

Lastly, I check papers that have been accepted for publication before they move on to our production system. We are in the process of implementing our ‘Accepted Manuscripts’ scheme, which has resulted in a change in the way we process accepted manuscripts. I check the manuscript again for the last time, check permissions and source files are present, and when I’m happy I email the authors confirming that the paper has been formally accepted and send it off to Production.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Bagel image attributed to Alan Levine. Published under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Copyright all rights reserved symbol attributed to Mike Seyfang. Published under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Categories: Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, JPhys+

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