Luisa Veras de Sandes-Guimarães

The use of new technologies in the editorial management of scientific periodicals appears to be essential, because ICTs make it possible to improve the quality and efficiency of processes which in turn can lead to the attainment of a periodical’s main objective, increasing the publication’s impact in the academic sphere. In terms of managing a scientific periodical, whether it is printed or electronic, open access or restricted access, one of the main issues is the cost of maintaining it. However, as Guanaes and Guimarães (2012) and Dubini and Giglia (2009) point out, analyzing the management model for scientific periodicals is more than simply evaluating its costs and economic viability, and focus should be placed on a journal’s sustainability.

Dubini and Giglia (2009) argue that the management and economics literature defines sustainability as the union of three characteristics: effectiveness (achieving the proposed objectives), efficiency (minimizing the resources used to achieve the proposed objectives), and durability (the ability to operate for an extended period of time), and this last aspect frequently implies the introduction of innovative solutions to deal with a context that is in constant flux. (Dubini & Giglia, 2009).

Guanaes and Guimarães (2012) add that, beyond costs, the sustainability of a periodical involves other aspects directly related to using online platforms to publish and edit scientific reviews (accessibility, the retrieval of information, navigability and interactivity), as well as the parameters of quality that should be present in any scientific journal (peer review, an editorial board, and an editorial board, among others, like those cited by Sandes-Guimarães and Costa (2012)).

In keeping with the questions relating to sustainability mentioned previously, for the present work we’ve opted to establish two large categories for our analysis of the management of a scientific journal: the scientific and the administrative. Most of the aspects related to sustainability fit into one of these categories and for each one we have analyzed the costs established in accordance with the area literature. Below appears a diagram that represents the editorial functions involved in both the scientific and administrative management of periodicals.

Source: Sandes-Guimarães and Diniz (2014)



In terms of scientific management, Trzesniak (2009) considers the following requirements in order to consider a periodical scientific: “To bring your readers-researchers new knowledge which is relevant to their topics of interest; to do this regularly and continually (Trzesniak, 2009, p. 88).”

Both of these requirements have to do with the issues of effectiveness and durability pointed out by Dubini and Giglia (2009) and the issue of quality pointed out by Guanaes and Guimarães (2012). The dissemination of quality knowledge to researchers in an area, done continually and with regularity, are aspects that relate to what Trzesniak (2009) calls the guarantee of longevity (editorial policy board) and the guarantee of scientific credibility (editors, scientific editorial board and ad hoc reviewers), and are detailed below.

Guarantee of longevity and scientific credibility

Editorial Policy Committee

According to Trzesniak (2009), the longevity of a scientific periodical is guaranteed by two main factors: institutional backing (a scientific association, a research institute, a post-graduate program, etc.), which should formally support the periodical, and the Editorial Policy Committee. The latter group should be made up of 4 to 9 members from the supporting institution, other research institutions, areas that use the periodical’s information, or others that the backing entity considers appropriate, and should include the journal’s scientific editor (Trzesniak, 2009).

The editorial policy committee is a group which acts and makes decisions jointly and that, according to Trzesniak (2009), has, among others, the following main attributes: it prepares the periodical’s editorial policy; it discusses and approves the rules for the forming of the committee itself, the scientific editorial board and the selection of the scientific editor; it prepares the journal’s mission and regulations; it indicates which criteria will be used to accept articles; and it discusses and approves the periodical’s accounts and budget.

Peer Review: Scientific Editorial Board, Ad Hoc Consultants or Reviewers

Bedeian, Van Fleet and Hyman III (2009) remind us that for more than 300 years peer review has been the main criterion for evaluating the quality and credibility of scientific articles submitted to publication in periodicals. The expertise of the evaluators is essential to inserting relevant contributions to the literature for each area of knowledge. Besides playing a crucial role in the “destiny” of ideas (published or not), peer review also influences the career advancement of researchers, given that publication is necessary to the promotion and stability of an academic career, and this translates into economic aspects such as salaries, scholarships and grants (Bedeian et al., 2009).

Despite its problems, pointed out by Van Raan (2003), such as the subjectivity of analysis, the lack of recognition for some quality studies and negative biases against younger or less experienced people in the field, peer review, is and should remain the main procedure to judge the quality of publications. As Martínez (2012) states, this system has become institutionalized and continues to be central to the validation of scientific publications and is accepted by most researchers as the best alternative available. To carry out peer reviews, scientific journals can choose from two groups of researchers: the scientific editorial board and ad hoc reviewers.

Scientific Editorial Board and Ad Hoc Reviewers

According to Trzesniak (2009, p. 90), the scientific editorial board is “by necessity a multi-institutional collegiate body” and its composition should be above all characterized by the diversity of its researchers in scientific terms, covering all the areas of knowledge to which the periodical is devoted, and also in geographical terms, covering the regions where the publication circulates and where its target audience is. Speaking further about this body, Lo Bianco et al. (2002) designate it as:

[...] a group of researchers, elected or chosen, to help the editor make decisions related to the original articles to be published (decisions about where to direct it in the editorial process, which ad hoc consultants to choose, to discuss doubts about reports and about the publication or rejection of original papers). This group may have a mandate and be frequently consulted by the editor. It should be made up of recognized researchers in the areas and subareas that the journal covers (Lo Bianco et al., 2002, p. 6).

According to Trzesniak (2009), the scientific editorial board differs from the editorial policy committee, because the first group doesn’t act jointly and doesn’t even meet to discuss a subject or make a decision, they are researchers who work alone and interact individually with the editor. In addition to this, the involvement of the editorial board with article content is greater, “[...] and its members are concerned with the uniformity, continuity, quality and scientific rigor of what is published (Trzesniak, 2009).”

Ad hoc evaluators are not members of the scientific editorial board and are consulted to evaluate a given article which has been submitted to the journal. They have no permanent link to the periodical and terminate their participation once they have evaluated their assigned article (Trzesniak, 2009; Lo Bianco et al., 2002).

As Bedeian et al. (2009) suggest, from a broader point of view, the influence of the members of the editorial board goes beyond the simple determination of which researchers receive approval to publish their discoveries. Their recommendations about which manuscripts should be published and the guidelines that they furnish authors for revisions establish a discipline’s scientific standards (Bedeian et al., 2009). Rockwell (2006) explains that the opinions of the members of this group of volunteers regarding which techniques are current, valid and appropriate, as well as which data should be analyzed and presented, how rigorous the authors should be, or what speculations they can use in their interpretation of the data, become the de facto standards for an area of knowledge.

Kirschbaum and Mascarenhas (2009), in trying to understand the differences between Brazilian reviews and foreign journals in terms of the role of the reviewers and the editors in the evaluation of original articles, found that in the foreign periodicals analyzed the evaluators’ reports serve as a type of consulting, but it is really the editor who decides whether to approve or reject an article, and thus plays an essential role in the construction of knowledge. However, in the case of Brazilian journals, these reviewers have a high degree of autonomy and are considered the guardians of the knowledge construction process, or in other words, “as long as the article does not meet their requirements, it won’t be published in the journal (Kirschbaum & Mascarenhas, 2009, p. 12)”.

Scientific Certification Team

For the efficient publication of a scientific periodical, Trzesniak (2009) believes that it is essential that the administrative and scientific tasks be separated (relative to the publishing of content). To do this one would need two editors, an executive/managing editor and a scientific editor. It’s important that the scientific editors not be burdened with tasks that are not in his or her specialty and that can be performed by other people, given that the scientific editor is usually a researcher and has other responsibilities besides editing and managing the journal. The executive editor, who could be, according to Trzesniak (2009), the person responsible for the non-scientific aspects of the periodical, would manage the administrative tasks.

Población et al. (2003) define the scientific editor as a “high level researcher who is responsible for executing the Editorial Policy and for the scientific content of the periodical (p. 499).” Trzesniak (2009) identified the scientific activities that would be performed by this editor and his team as:

[...] dealing with the nature and ethics of advertisements; executing the editorial policy; controlling the quality of the journal; receiving manuscripts; handling the stock of articles and calls for papers; communicating with the members of the editorial board; contacting and directing articles to scientific assistants; making the final decision about the publication of works; preparing originals; and conducting full reviews of the proofs (Trzesniak, 2009, p. 93).

To help the scientific editor as well as intermediate between the management and scientific spheres, a periodical can have one or more assistant editors, depending on the volume of work. This editor should be a researcher in this area and his or her tasks are designated by the scientific editor, who can also give this editor autonomy in making decisions depending on the editor’s scientific maturity and experience in this position, at which point Trzesniak (2009) affirms that this editor then becomes an adjunct editor (Trzesniak, 2009). To Gomes (2010), the assistant editor:

[...] handles the receiving, the organization and systemization of the selection and arbitraging of texts in general, which are the raw materials and the reason for the existence of scientific publications. The editor should have broad knowledge about editing electronic content, including fundraising, evaluating and the preparing of content for printing, as well as the ability to coordinate the editorial staff (Gomes, 2010, p. 166).

Trzesniak (2009), Gomes (2010) and Población et al. (2003) still point out the existence of some periodicals with editors with other scientific responsibilities, like an associate editor, “an area specialist and/or researcher who participates frequently and intensively in the preparation of original scientific papers in his or her area of expertise [...] (Población et al., 2003, p. 499),” a section editor, responsible for a permanent section of the periodical, a guest editor, invited specifically to coordinate the edition of given issue relating to his or her specialty (Trzesniak, 2009), and a consulting editor, “a professional with broad experience and knowledge of editing and  masterful scientific communications skills, whom the Scientific Editor can consult for advice and discusses doubts and questions about the visibility or impact of the publication (Población et al., 2003, p. 499).”

Costs of scientific management

The costs of scientific management are essentially related to what Dubini (2011) calls the certification of content. This activity involves managing the peer review process, which according to Houghton and Oppenheim (2010) includes the management of submissions received, the initial review to determine that the article is appropriate for the journal’s editorial scope (desk review) and the managing of the external peer review process. All of this is linked to the efforts that the periodical makes to select the best quality articles for publication.

The factors that influence these costs are, according to Dubini (2011): the number of articles received; the periodical’s rejection rate; the number of evaluators per article; and the number of rounds of reviews. In fact, each article submitted passes through the peer review and when a large number of articles are rejected, it increases the costs of those articles which are accepted for publication (Costs and business models, 2004). In some cases, scientific editors pre-select the manuscripts received thereby diminishing the number of those which effectively pass through the peer review process, which reduces the costs of finding evaluators and managing the evaluation process, but does, however, increase internal costs (Dubini, 2011).

In her research with various large commercial open publishers (Elsevier, Sage, Taylor & Francis, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, PloS etc.), Dubini (2011) found that to guarantee their reputation on one hand, and to control costs on the other, most publishers have periodicals in their portfolios that fall into a group with high rejection rates and others that fall into another group that is significantly more accessible.

The average cost of the scientific certification process in a study conducted by Dubini (2011) is roughly $250 per published article, which includes internal costs (paid salaries to the people responsible for this step) and the external costs of the organization and management of the peer review process. Another study estimated a similar finding, around $200 per published article (Costs and business models, 2004). However, interviews from the latter study reveal that most of those responsible for scientific periodicals deem this figure too low, probably due to the fact that the peer review process deals with some variables (like the time invested by the staff itself) that can’t easily be represented in monetary terms (Costs and business models, 2004).

Houghton and Oppenheim (2010) also estimated the costs involved in the peer review process in terms of the opportunity costs for the academics who evaluate the articles. Their estimate, without considering the review itself, but rather just the periodical’s managing of the process, was an average of £344 per published article. However, considering that an average of 2.5 evaluators spend 4.5 hours per review, the costs would rise to £630 for each article evaluated. Finally, considering the previously mentioned issue of articles which are evaluated and not published increasing the costs of published articles, Houghton and Oppenheim (2010) arrived at an estimated total of £1,390 per published article.

However, the costs of this entire process vary significantly between periodicals, depending on the length and complexity of the peer review process and the periodical’s rejection rate (Dubini, 2011; Costs and business models, 2004). It is estimated that the cost of content certification makes up 10% to 30% of the total publication costs for periodicals, and frequently it is one of the most expensive costs (Costs and business models, 2004).


The administrative management of a periodical, printed or electronic, refers to the “editorial and graphic production processes, and the management of the administration, finances, communications and marketing (Dias, 2006, p. 80).” Professionals involved in these activities do not need to be researchers in the periodical’s area of interest, but need to have the technical knowledge necessary to perform their activities and to work in harmony with the review’s objectives and editorial policy. It’s very important for the periodical to have a staff that is capable of performing its editorial activities, as Trzesniak (2009) states:

Preparing a scientific journal requires great dedication and implies giving your time to improve the work of other researchers in detriment to your own projects. This can be achieved only with the involvement of a team, so as to avoid seriously prejudicing the editor’s career as a researcher (Trzesniak, 2009, p. 97).

Administrative and financial management

To produce a scientific periodical and to guarantee its proper functioning as a vehicle of communication, Dias (2006) believes that it is crucial to have certain administrative processes, which include: “the installation and maintenance of equipment; the management of finances, cashflow and payments; and the protection of intellectual property and authors’ rights (p. 88).” Trzesniak (2009) also suggested management activities such as: “aspects of administration, finance and production; a study of the periodical’s financial and human resources; paying attention to graphic services, sales and distribution, advertising, and ad sales (p. 93).”

It’s essential that the staff be concerned with the maintenance of the appropriate infrastructure for the periodical’s editorial process, foreseeing the existence of “the physical space that will be used, the most important equipment and technological resources - computers [...], printers, scanners, text editing and layout software, [...] installing computer networks, contracting secure servers for archiving and the publication of archives (Gruszynski, Golin, & Castedo, 2008, p. 10)”. One of the main figures in the administrative staff is the executive editor, who according to Gomes (2010) has the following characteristics and responsibilities:

[...] the executive editor has general knowledge of the periodical and its structure, as well as broad administrative and technical knowledge. It’s important, for example, that this person understands all of the editorial steps, even if he or she isn’t directly involved in their execution. The executive editor is also responsible for the management of financial resources and the constant observation of editorial trends in the market, in terms of their evaluation and visibility, providing the editor-in-chief and the editorial committee with essential information and parameters to guide the decisions that must be taken (Gomes, 2010, p. 166).

Editorial and graphic production

In terms of editorial and graphic production, printed and electronic periodicals basically adopt the same procedures according to Dias (2006): the treatment and editing of texts and images, the preparing and editing of the cover and interior layouts, the formatting and diagramming of content, the final revision of proofs and finally, the printing/electronic publication. Gomes (2010) states that “at this point, the quality of the content should be assured by the pre-selection process, editorial analysis and peer review (p. 167).” This is one of the essential steps designed to ensure that the scientific periodical has met the formal quality and technical standards of funding agencies, evaluation systems and databases (Trzesniak, Plata-Caviedes, & Córdoba-Salgado, 2012; Gomes, 2010).

The text editing stage begins during the peer review and is completed, in the case of accepted articles, with a revision in terms of spelling, grammar and consistency in keeping with the periodical’s rules (ABNT, APA, Vancouver etc.) (Gruszynski et al., 2008). The translation and revision of abstracts and complete texts written in other languages are also part of this step.

The editing of the periodical layout presupposes the preliminary preparation of a graphic project for publication in which the characteristics which give the items a visual unity are defined, such as: “diagrams [...], typography, styles for illustrations (tables, text tables, and photos) and which production resources will be used (Gruszynski et al., 2008, p. 11).” When dealing with printed journals, the creation of cover art which attracts the reader’s attention is important, because this is the periodical’s first contact with its readers (Gruszynski, Golin, & Castedo, 2008). For electronic journals, Gruszynski et al. (2008) affirm that: "[...] the work on the graphic project is replaced by the definition of the website’s information architecture and interface – where what is deemed important is the consistency between pages, determining the types of resources to be utilized by the articles, the format of the issues and the texts (PDF, html), search engines, contextual tools (with appropriate recovery mechanisms depending on the content) and accessibility (Gruszynski et al., 2008, p. 12)."

Later comes the diagramming of the articles, in accordance with the determinations that have been made for the graphic project, which basically means distributing the illustrations and texts throughout the periodical’s pages. After the diagramming comes the reading and revision of the proofs to see if there are corrections that need to be made in the texts or layout, and when everything is ready and duly revised and approved by the scientific editor, the journal can be printed and published online (Gruszynski et al., 2008).

Since this is the non-scientific part of the production of a periodical, almost all of the processes involved in its editorial and graphic production can be performed by an external third party, if the journal has the financial resources for this. As Gomes (2010) states, “there are many examples of periodicals which have their final stages of production performed by university presses [...] and there are others who [...] have their entire final production handled by a commercial publisher or a graphic services company (Gomes, 2010, p. 167).”

Communications and Marketing

Dias (2006) suggests that editing process for scientific periodicals also needs to include the activities of communication (dissemination and advertising) and marketing (commercialization and distribution). Dissemination seeks to attract the attention of the scientific community and its readers to the periodical’s articles, which already possess graphic and scientific quality and can be accessed, read and used by researchers.

To do this, it’s necessary to advertise and promote the publication’s visibility, which is done essentially through indexing citations or complete texts in reference database directories, which facilitate the retrieval of information for researchers, who have less and less time to read all the literature in their field (Gruszynski et al., 2008; Dias, 2006). Dias (2006) states that many countries have chosen to develop their own regional databases to increase the visibility and diffusion of the literature produced by their own researchers, “to counteract the restrictions generally found in databases controlled by mainstream science in wealthy countries (Dias, 2006, p. 98).”

In terms of what Dias (2006) calls marketing strategies, commercialization refers to the process of selling the periodical and raising funds for its publication (Dias, 2006), making it necessary for the editorial staff to define each edition’s circulation, as well as possible ways of acquiring the periodical (subscriptions, individual sales, exchanges, etc.) and the available formats (printed and online) (Gruszynski et al., 2008). Dias (2006) understands distribution as an intermediating process between a publisher and its readers, including the management of direct and indirect sales channels (by intermediary agents), and the logistics of delivering the periodical to end consumers.

Costs of Administrative Management

In terms of the costs of administrative management costs, Dubini (2011) seeks to divide them into two categories. First is the publication of content, which includes the costs of formatting, cross-referencing, metadata, typographic composition, editing, transforming articles into HTML and transferring the data to the content platform (Dubini, 2011). Second is the preservation of content, which includes depreciation costs for the installed platform, the platform license fee, annual maintenance costs for software and hardware, and the costs of the human resources associated with managing the platform (Dubini, 2011). As you can see, the author didn’t include the costs of printing a journal, only those of publishing it in an electronic environment.

Dubini (2011) states that the costs of publishing content vary from $170 to $400 per article and depend the size of the periodical and on “make or buy” decisions, or in other words, whether to have the internal staff perform tasks or to outsource these tasks to a third party. Houghton and Oppenheim (2010) estimate that publishing content costs on average £480 per published article, for editing and revising proofs, and on average £335 for diagramming and typesetting for printed editions. If the article has illustrations and graphs, you can add £45 more. For periodicals which are only available in an electronic format, the authors estimate that the costs of diagramming and typographic composition, illustrations and graphics, diminish 75%. Houghton and Oppenheim (2010) also consider the costs of preparing and processing the periodical content besides scientific articles, such as the cover, indices, editorials, reviews of field literature and book reviews. Considering that around 14% of a periodical’s content is made up of these items, the authors estimate that their value is around £100 per published article in print and 75% less if it is in electronic form. They estimate that the entire publication process corresponds to roughly 30% of the total publication costs of a periodical (Costs and business models, 2004).

In terms of the costs associated with managing, making available and preserving content on digital platforms, Dubini (2011) states that these costs can vary greatly, depending on whether the platform is proprietary or based on free software, the platform’s age and characteristics, the number of articles and documents stored on it, and the complexity of the platform’s services available to authors and readers.  Thus, the effect of platform investment on article prices is difficult to calculate and varies substantially from publisher to publisher (Dubini, 2011). On the other hand, the costs of platform maintenance are easier to quantify, and the publishers that Dubini (2011) interviewed reported annual costs of $170,000 to $400,000, and the effect per article depends on the number of periodicals edited and the number of articles published per periodical.

Dubini (2011) affirms that the availability of platforms for publishing periodicals based on free software offer a drastic reduction in the costs of certification and the management and publication of content, which thus reduces the barriers to publication for research groups and favors the creation of new periodicals. In fact Meirelles (2009) emphasizes that the utilization of systems based on the Open Access model, like the Sistema Eletrônico de Editoração de Revistas (SEER) (Open Journal System, OJS), "[...] promotes more than just the transposition of traditional methods to managing the process using computer systems, it also means the creation of new editing procedures, techniques and mechanisms which optimize journal management and offer a more agile editorial process at lower cost (Meirelles, 2009, p. 105)."


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