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Table 2 Minimum set of core competencies for scientific editors of biomedical journals

From: Core competencies for scientific editors of biomedical journals: consensus statement

A. Editor qualities and skills

Key competencies


Scientific editors are able to:

1. Demonstrate experience and broad knowledge of the field(s) covered by the journal

1.1 Identify situations in which the knowledge or skill required exceeds their level of competency and seek help or advice from appropriate colleagues or organizations

1.2 Possess a knowledge base that includes training and/or experience in a research environment (applies only to editors working with research-based manuscripts)

2. Synthesize information and views from a wide range of sources and make informed decisions

2.1 Exercise sound judgment in making editorial decisions

2.2 Make fast, considered decisions about manuscripts and any other issues that require a response

2.3 Reconsider decisions when necessary and respond promptly and appropriately to complaints

3. Practice lifelong learning related to their role as an editor and within their area(s) of expertise

3.1 Set personal learning goals and work to fulfill them

3.2 Maintain current knowledge related to important developments and trends in their respective area(s) of expertise

3.3 Join a professional society for editors and/or participate in continuing education offerings for editors

4. Communicate clearly and effectively manage communications and relationships with authors, peer reviewers, other editors, staff (if applicable), readers, journal owners, publishers, and other relevant individuals or groups

4.1 Provide clear editorial instructions to authors and peer reviewers

4.2 Ensure appropriate and effective use of communication, including correspondence, email, and social media

4.3 Describe the roles and responsibilities of editorial staff (if applicable)

4.4 Mentor, educate, train, and provide feedback to other editors and staff when needed (if applicable)

4.5 Identify and apply the journal’s policies regarding embargos and relations with news media

5. Act with leadership and integrity and be accountable to authors, peer reviewers, fellow editors, readers, journal owners, publishers, and other relevant individuals and groups

5.1 Demonstrate skill, tact, diplomacy, confidentiality, and professionalism in interactions with authors, peer reviewers, readers, staff (if applicable), and other relevant individuals or groups, particularly when concerns or disputes arise regarding the peer review and publication process

5.2 Monitor and safeguard the fairness, timeliness, thoroughness, confidentiality (as appropriate), and courtesy in the processing of manuscripts and in responding to queries from authors and reviewers

B. Publication ethics and research integrity

Key competency


Scientific editors are able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge related to the integrity of research and publishing and apply best practices in dealing with research or publication misconduct, misbehavior, and questionable practices

1.1 Describe what constitutes a breach in publication ethics, act on allegations of misconduct, misbehavior, or questionable practices, and proceed to issue an erratum or retraction when it is warranted, maintaining confidentiality, fairness, and due process

1.2 Identify and assess problems related to selective reporting of publications, outcomes, and analyses

1.3 Identify conflicts of interest for authors, editors, peer reviewers, publishers, and funders (of journals, authors, or research) in relation to scientific reports, opinion pieces, reviews, and other article types, and implement transparent policies to disclose these effectively

1.4 Identify and appropriately manage redundant (or duplicate or repetitive) submissions and publications

1.5 Identify and appropriately address bias in the reporting, interpretation, and extrapolation of study findings

1.6 Identify and enforce policies related to reproducible research, data availability, and registration of clinical trials, systematic reviews, and protocols

1.7 Identify and ensure that appropriate reporting guidelines have been adhered to by authors and peer reviewers

1.8 Articulate the importance of dialogue and contestation following the publication of research and help ensure the opportunity for and moderation of these debates (including post-publication criticisms of research, seeking authors’ responses, corrections, or retractions, and publishing as appropriate, to correct the scientific record)

1.9 Identify and apply the principles of confidentiality and anonymity in the peer review and editorial processes (as they apply to their journal)

2. Identify and uphold the principles of ethical research involving humans and animals when appraising manuscripts

2.1. Ensure that the laws and ethical standards are followed regarding respect, privacy, informed consent for participation in research, protection of individual participant data described in publications, and reporting of review and/or waiver of review by ethics committees or institutional review boards of all studies involving human participants or animals

2.2. Identify issues related to ”dual-use research of concern” (i.e., research that could be directly misapplied to pose a substantial threat to public health, safety, or security, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or materials)

3. Articulate and apply their responsibilities and rights as a journal editor

3.1. Identify and comply with copyright and licensing regulations

3.2. Identify and comply with libel law, as it pertains to the jurisdiction where the journal is published

3.3. Identify and adhere to the principles of editorial independence in relation to journal owners and journal publishers while recognizing their legal responsibilities in regard to them

3.4. Identify and adhere to the principles of editorial integrity, including policies and procedures to ensure fairness to authors, peer reviewers, and readers

3.5. Help ensure that journal advertising policy adheres to best practices

3.6. Disqualify themselves from the editorial decision-making process when potential or actual conflicts of interest pertaining to them arise

C. Editorial principles and processes

Key competencies


Scientific editors are able to:

1. Identify and use trustworthy resources

1.1 Identify and use resources that describe best practices related to scholarly publishing, publication ethics, and technical editing for authors, editors, and peer reviewers

2. Select journal content that reflects the goals and scope of the journal

2.1 Identify the vision and mission (aim and scope) of their journal and determine whether submitted manuscripts align with them

3. Analyze journal policies, practices, and performance metrics to improve journal performance

3.1 Interpret journal and scholarly metrics and ensure that these metrics are not manipulated in a way that is unfair or unscrupulous

3.2 Use feedback from readers and metrics to help ensure the journal meets readers’ needs

3.3 Analyze journal performance metrics such as time from submission to first decision, time to acceptance, and time to publication, and identify specific steps to reduce unnecessary delays

3.4 Explain journal workflows and publication models

4. Evaluate the scientific rigor and integrity of manuscripts and make editorial decisions after consideration of reviewers’ and other editors’ comments

4.1 Check the content of manuscripts submitted for publication for completeness, logic, and consistency

4.2 Assess the appropriateness of the research design and methods described in research manuscripts, as well as the validity of findings and conclusions, in relation to the stated research question

4.3 Form rational preliminary opinions on the relevance of a submitted manuscript to the journal based on the journal’s aims and scope and the quality of the submission

4.4 Articulate to authors and enforce the journal’s policy on attributing authorship and contributorship, conflict of interest disclosures, disclosure of funding sources, and requirements for quality of reporting

4.5 Ensure clarity, balance, and use of appropriate sources for arguments and recommendations made in manuscripts 4.6 Provide timely feedback that synthesizes views of reviewers and editors and identifies critical points to help authors make improvements

4.7 Triage manuscripts thoughtfully and in a timely manner (for journals that use such a process)

5. Apply best practices for research and other manuscript presentation when evaluating and requesting revision of manuscripts

5.1 Recognize and apply best practices in evaluating different types of manuscripts, including research-based and non-research (e.g., opinion pieces, clinical education articles) manuscripts

5.2 Identify and apply best practices in evaluating adherence to the principles of research question/hypothesis development and different types and levels of evidence

5.3 Identify and apply best practices in evaluating adherence to the principles of clinical research design (if applicable) and quantitative and/or qualitative research methods (as appropriate)

5.4 Identify and apply best practices in assessing the appropriateness of and evaluating the use of basic statistics (if applicable)

5.5 Identify and apply best practices in evaluating the presentation of research data and parts, purposes, and characteristics of tables, charts, graphs, images, multimedia, and data supplements

5.6 Identify and apply best practices in evaluating citations and references

6. Manage and assure the integrity of the peer review process

6.1 Describe different models of peer review

6.2 Select peer reviewers who possess the appropriate expertise needed to review a manuscript thoroughly

6.3 Identify and exclude (as appropriate) peer reviewers with potential conflicts of interest

6.4 Justify recommended manuscript changes based on peer reviewers’ comments and journal policy

6.5 Provide tactful feedback to peer reviewers on their performance

6.6 Assess the quality of, and maintain performance statistics on, peer reviewers to avoid re-inviting excessively tardy and/or poor reviewers

6.7 Regularly express gratitude toward peer reviewers for their service and offer incentives and rewards as appropriate (e.g., continuing education credit, complimentary or discounted access to the journal)

6.8 Ensure that the peer review of a manuscript proceeds with minimal additional delay when reviewers fail to submit a timely review

6.9 Regularly monitor and audit the journal’s performance in terms of acceptance and rejection rates, percentage of papers undergoing peer review, the percentage of peer reviewers agreeing to review, and turnaround