Develop & monitor your journal

Discover everything you, as a journal editor, need to know about strategy, improving journal reputation and the power of metrics.

Journal development & strategy

One of the first tasks for any new editor is to work with the publisher on creating a robust roadmap for the management and development of your journal.

This covers elements such as:

  • Your journal’s aims and scope
  • Analysis of related journals operating in the field
  • Submission pipeline
  • Usage and citations of journal content
  • Your journal response times and workflows

Taking the time to understand your journal’s current and past performance can help us decide what still needs to be done. We can then work together to develop tactics for the short- and long-term editorial strategy, which will be reviewed on a regular basis.

The editorial strategy

This covers a range of topics including:

  • Journal format. Each journal has guidelines about the type of content that best fits with its scope. For example, you may require a minimum number of case studies, literature reviews, theoretical articles, or research with application.
  • A diverse outlook. We see diversity as a strength; the membership of editorial and advisory boards should reflect a good balance of nationalities, cultures, age groups, levels of experience and gender.
  • An interdisciplinary approach. Governments and funding bodies increasingly require authors to demonstrate an interdisciplinary approach to their research. In particular, a focus on mission-driven approaches that bring economic or societal benefits. We have always encouraged editors to include papers in each journal volume, where relevant, that connect cutting-edge research in other disciplines with the core journal subject. You could also consider commissioning a special or themed issue exploring an interdisciplinary area of study; for example, related to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals, major societal changes such as the #MeToo movement, or the use of plastics.
  • Real impact. We encourage you to publish papers that have a practical use for readers, whether they are applied researchers, policy makers, professionals, business students and their teachers, or MBA schools.

The aims

These should highlight the goal you want to achieve with the journal, i.e. what is its purpose?

The scope

This is an opportunity to explain how you are going to achieve that goal, including the topics your journal covers, and any other points that set it apart from the competition.

For authors, the aims and scope is a very important section – we always urge them to read it before submitting their paper to ensure their work is the right fit. In fact, one of their key considerations when choosing a journal is its relevancy to their research area.

The aims and scope is also an important first stop for people interested in reading or subscribing to the journal; it can help them decide whether the content is worth the investment of their time or money.

Your aims and scope may also be the first port of call for potential reviewers, board members, and additional editors, as well as funders, professionals, the media, and wider society.

Some key points to bear in mind when compiling your aims & scope

  • List the key topics covered. This is probably the most important point. It will help people quickly identify the scope and assess whether it’s relevant to them.
  • Make the journal’s goal and unique perspective clear. People will appreciate a simple explanation of what the journal hopes to achieve and what sets it apart. This is particularly important when a large proportion of your readership or authors have English as a second language.
  • Think twice before using numbers. Data can be a powerful way to support a statement, but you need to ensure those numbers won’t date quickly.
  • Keep it relevant and brief. It can be tempting to highlight all the great things the journal does and has achieved but try to be selective. Shorter aims and scope will have more impact.

To ensure your editorial objectives remain current and topical, you and your publisher will work together to monitor developments in the field. It can also be helpful to add 'review aims and scope' to the agenda of your annual Editorial Advisory Board meeting, so you can benefit from your colleagues' insights.

Improving the reputation of your journal

While relevancy of a journal is one of the major drawcards for potential authors, journal reputation also plays an important role in their decision-making.

Bear in mind that for each author, “reputation” may mean something slightly different. For some it might be how well the title is regarded within their institution (or by their direct colleagues and peers), while for others it can be the journal’s metrics or the reputation of the editor(s) and how they treat their authors.

From your perspective, there are actions you can take to raise the profile of your journal. Many of these are linked to promotional activities. We have prepared a section on journal promotion, where you can find useful tips and best practice on everything from conferences, social media, and media, to awards, societies, and emails.

You might also consider:

  • Improving publication speed and author communication. We know from the authors we’ve surveyed that key pain points include the length of time from submission to decision, as well as the information they receive about their article's progress. Your publisher can help you review your current turnaround times and look at where further improvements can be made. See further tips on how to run a successful journal.
  • Reviewing your acceptance and rejection rates. Are you looking at papers critically enough to keep the quality high?
  • Pursuing content from high-profile authors or contributors at key institutions/companies in your field. See our section on attracting journal submissions.
  • Investing time and thought in the selection of board members. We share some advice in our section on your editorial team.
  • Reviewing the various impact metrics available and understanding how your journal is performing in relation to competitors.
  • Publishing a special issue. Special and themed issues are an excellent way to focus on an important topic that is emerging in the field and position your journal as a thought leader. Papers in special issues are often widely used, so it’s also a useful way to raise brand awareness. View our advice on publishing special issues.

Monitoring your journal

Traditionally, academia has used metrics to evaluate a journal's success. We recognise that the traditional markers of influence such as citations are not sufficient to tell the full story of impact.

As a signatory of DORA, we’re committed to the responsible use of metrics and advocate using a range of methods when assessing the impact of research and the real change it can bring about.

Over the past few years, the type and breadth of metrics available has expanded, offering a variety of ways to assess a journal's impact. We've provided details on a selection of these methods below, ordered alphabetically.

The ABDC list is used not only in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), but quite widely in Asia and North America too. Based on Scopus data and peer review among ANZ academics in several fields of research, the list covers around 2,700 journals ranking them from C-A* and was first published in 2007. The most recent list was published in December 2019.

This major business school ranking has been available in the UK since the early 2000s.  The CABS ranking is based primarily on Clarivate and Scopus data, but also draws on previous rankings and peer review from subject area representative associations. More than 1,500 journals were ranked in the 2018 update with scores from 1-4*. The next iteration will be the 2021 edition.

ESCI is a relatively new addition to the Clarivate Analytics family of indicators. The Emerging Sources Citation Index covers all areas of scholarly literature and to be considered for selection, the journal must be:

  • Peer reviewed
  • Follow ethical publishing practices
  • Meet Clarivate Analytics’ technical requirements
  • Have English language bibliographic information
  • Recommended or requested by a scholarly audience of Web of Science users

While some journals are immediately eligible for the Web of Science Core Collection and an impact factor, many will be covered in ESCI first. However, acceptance to ESCI doesn’t mean the journal will automatically move to the core collection, and it can’t appear in both indexes at any one time.

* Information taken from the essay Journal Selection Process by James Testa, Clarivate Analytics’ Vice President, Editorial Development & Publisher Relations

Probably one of the best-known citation metrics is Clarivate Analytics’ impact factor, which reflects the average number of times an article within a publication has been cited. Publishers can apply to have their journals indexed in Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science Core Collection.

Once a journal has been accepted and has built up the data required, its impact factor (IF) will be calculated and published in Clarivate Analytics’ annual Journal Citation Reports. Those journals that have been accepted to the core collection also power Clarivate Analytics’ InCites tool (which allows citation research on authors, journals, institutions and funding) and its Web of Science database (which is a discovery tool for researchers).

The IF is calculated by taking the number of citations in year one to articles published in the journal in the previous two years. This figure is then divided by the total number of articles published in the journal over the same two-year period.

The IF can be field-weighted to account for the variation in citation rates between disciplines. There is also a 5-year IF to provide a longer-term view of the journal’s impact.

Launched by Elsevier in December 2016, CiteScore metrics are calculated using data in the publisher’s abstract and indexing database, Scopus. The same database drives other products used by libraries, such as SciVal, and rankings based on algorithms, such as SNIP and SJR (for the latter, see the SciMago website for national citation and journal data).

The CiteScore itself is calculated in a similar way to Clarivate's Impact Factor, but it uses a three-year publication period and counts cites to all documents published, not just articles.  It is one of eight CiteScore metrics indicators; others include the CiteScore tracker, which is calculated in the same way as CiteScore, but for the current year and it is updated monthly.

Usage metrics

These metrics look at the number of times journal content has been viewed or downloaded. We follow the COUNTER 4 Code of Practice requirements, which have been designed to ensure publishers and vendors report usage of their electronic resources in a consistent way.

You can find out more about usage statistics on the COUNTER website.

Alternative metrics (altmetrics)

This measurement of journal content impact is steadily growing in popularity. It looks at mentions of the content published in your journal, for example references on blog sites, social media, news outlets, etc.

Our authors are encouraged to use Kudos, a free web-based service designed to help them explain and share their work, and measure the impact of those activities. We can use Kudos to track the activity around the articles published in your journal and provide you with insights into hot topics and trends. Your Publisher will be happy to help you with this.

Other indicators

These include the coverage of the journal in recognised abstracting and indexing services.

Related topics

Run a successful journal

Our practical guide looks at how the publishing process works (including the move to article level publishing), special issues, submissions, peer review, and more.

Read our practical guide

Promote your journal

We explore the steps we take to promote your journal, as well as ideas and advice on how you can get involved.

Promote your journal

Publishing ethics guidelines

Understand the ethics responsibilities of editors, authors and reviewers, and the steps you should take if an allegation of misconduct is made.

Read our guidelines