ISMTE 2015 Presentation: Learning to Manage

In October 2015 I presented at the 8th annual conference of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE) in London. It was my seventh time in attendance (and I will always regret the one I missed!). The theme of the conference focused on improving skills, and all presentations and workshop sessions during the day were related to that theme in some way. I should declare a conflict of interest – I did sit on the conference organisation committee (and remain on the committee for the 2016 conference in Brussels) and put myself forward to run a session. I felt my expertise lay directly with improving editorial office performance and I could offer some unique insights and examples of working practices, from my time at Taylor & Francis. As an aside – organising a conference is a very fulfilling experience that I would recommend to anyone who gets the chance. I’ve put on events before, but nothing quite like this. We had a wonderful group of people on the committee, who I thought did a great job of setting a theme suited to current trends and innovations in the industry, and filling the day with a balanced range of relevant speakers. We even did a great job of managing the last-minute changes of plans (even if I do say so myself). Building the conference programme was an excellent exercise in skill improvement in itself. Back to my presentation. Mine was one of the parallel sessions which ran twice in the morning. Both my sessions were completely packed, which was fantastic, I could not have been more pleased with how they went.

Duncan, presenting.

My session had the title Learning to Manage - Working with Editors, Authors & Reviewers. I wanted to give my perceptions on how the Editorial office should play an importance role in building relationships between the contributors to a journal, fostering a community around titles, to create not just a functional journal, but one which can have a wider societal impact that responds to, and pre-empts the needs of the particular field. I gave examples of ways in which all the agents involved with the journal could be given greater detail, such as providing role and process guides to clarify the requirements of each role, and the contributions expected between each party. The aim of this is to build a collaborative and engaging project out of the journal, that everyone will want to invest themselves in. I spoke about some practicalities of managing an editorial office, such as the management of copyflow and turnaround times. If the editorial office can ensure both these are running optimally with little intervention, time can be spent developing the journal and community. I also gave some examples of improving communication around the peer review process, to prevent the disreputable ‘black-hole’ of reviewing, where submitted papers disappear for months leaving authors in the dark. I expand on this particular topic in an article for Editorial Office News - the newsletter published by ISMTE – in an issue scheduled to appear early 2016.

Session 1 discussing scenarios

I finished my session with some audience participation, splitting the room into groups to discuss some reasonably common scenarios regarding turnaround times, decision making and conference organisation which we then discussed amongst the whole room. After the sessions I had a chance to speak with a lot of the attendees, and was very pleased to hear how interested some people were in the community-building focus of my presentation, and how inspired others where in the examples I was using. Also, as is the nature of the ISMTE events, people talked about all sorts of aspects of my presentation. There is such a big range of publishing roles amongst all the attendees, everyone takes something different from each talk, and can view it in a different way too. I really appreciate getting feedback from such an enthusiastic and constructive cross-section of the scholarly publishing world – one of the great strengths of the ISMTE events.

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