How to Design an Effective Editorial Report:  Part 3

Fast Facts:

It is good practice to show the overall submission volume in editorial reports. To help your reader gain a deeper understanding, consider including the charts for submissions broken down by manuscript type, country of origin, or topic of submission.

When including decision charts, you will need to include information not only on the number of initial and final decisions by decision type, but also on how long it took to reach the decisions.  You should also consider including rejection or acceptance rates.

How to Design an Effective Editorial Report:  Part 3

August 19, 2021

By: Jason Roberts & Sherrie Hill

In our previous posts about creating an effective editorial report, we focused on things that should be considered when beginning the process of designing your report, such as determining your audience, deciding upon what key indicators you need to report, and items you should consider regarding visualization of your data.

Today, we are going to discuss some of the specific charts you might want to include.

Submissions Charts

A bar chart showing submissions received over time is the most common chart that is included in an editorial report.  This chart makes it easy to see how things have changed over time.

Figure 1.jpg

Another submissions chart you may want to consider shows submissions broken down by manuscript type.  This chart shows the same information as the chart above but gives additional information for journals that are trying to increase/decrease submissions for certain types of manuscripts.  Though charts are excellent for displaying your data visually, you may also want to include a table when you use more complex charts. Tables are useful for readers who prefer to view the data numerically.

Figure 2.jpg

As more journals begin to focus on diversity, there is increasing interest in determining which countries submissions are coming from.  You can report these data either by country or by continent.

Figure 3.jpg
 Decisions Charts

Another key indicator for your journal will be the decisions rendered by your editors.  These are generally broken down into initial decisions and final decisions rendered in a given year.

For initial decisions, there is usually interest in how many submissions received immediate decisions (were not sent out for peer review), such as immediate accept (rare) or immediate reject decisions.  This helps your editorial staff get a feel for the quality of submissions your journal is receiving.  Additionally, submissions that are sent through peer review require more journal resources, such as the number of editors and reviewers required, than manuscripts that receive immediate decisions; so having these data are useful for identifying a trend that will lead to an increase in needed resources.

The decision tree is an excellent chart that shows many key indicators all at once.  This chart shows the percentage of manuscripts that received immediate decisions, as well as the percentage that went through peer review.  From the chart, you can see how many manuscripts received a reject decision after peer review.  This gives you an idea of how effective your first look or triage review of the incoming submissions is for your journal.  For more information on interpreting this type of decision tree chart, read our blog post Decision Tree for Initial Decisions.

Figure 4.jpg

You may also want to include a chart that shows a breakdown of decisions by decision type.  This type of chart can help you see how certain decisions, such as immediate reject, are changing over time.  Since this is a more complex chart, it would be a good idea to also include a data table.

Figure 5.jpg

If your journal focuses on the number of reject decisions at initial decision, then include a table with this information. You may also want to include a chart that shows only the immediate reject decisions at initial decision. In our example below, the table shows the rejection rate for all reject type decisions, while the chart includes only the immediate reject decision, which this journal had only just started using as of 2020.

Many journals also try to track how long, on average, it takes a submission to receive an initial decision.  Since the goal is to see how peer review is going, this value is more meaningful if you exclude manuscripts that received immediate reject and immediate accept decisions.  In our examples, you will note that for years 2017-2019, the values are basically the same.  However, this journal initiated an immediate reject decision as of 2020.  So, the lighter blue chart (which includes the manuscripts that received an immediate reject decision) shows a slight decrease in the time taken to receive an initial decision. You will note that the darker blue chart (with immediate reject manuscripts excluded), shows a slight increase in the time taken to receive an initial decision.  The darker blue chart’s data are not skewed by manuscripts that did not go through peer review and, therefore, this chart gives a more accurate view of the journal’s actual expected time to initial decision for peer reviewed manuscripts.  If you do choose to exclude immediate reject/accept decision types in your timing charts, be sure to note that on your chart.

Figure 7.jpg

The other type of decision charts that you will want to include in your editorial report are final decision charts. Charts, such as this clustered column chart, show how many of each decision type were rendered over time and are valuable toward understanding how the submissions fared compared to previous years. Because some decision types are not represented in every year, it is a good practice to also include a table to clarify this point for your readers.

Figure 8.jpg

If your journal has a current interest in particular types of manuscripts, you may want to include a chart or table that shows the % Accepted by manuscript type. Your editors may use these data to determine how strict or lenient they want to be in the upcoming year in order to publish the desired number of articles of that manuscript type.

Your Editorial Report

When deciding which of the submission and decision charts to include in your editorial report, consider your journal’s goals and select charts that show how your journal is progressing toward those goals.  You might also look for data points that indicate when it is time to change some of the journal’s procedures to address new issues.

In our next blog post, we will look at editor and reviewer charts that may be included in effective editorial reports.

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