Top tips for getting involved in editorial boards – Insights from #QCOR21

QCOR Summer Meet Up 2021 was a fabulous one-day event of networking, mentorship and sharing experiences. There was something for everyone across the spectra of careers, especially for early and mid-career physicians and researchers in the cardiovascular outcomes space.

The sessions were interactive, with opportunities for questions to be fielded to expert moderators. One such meeting with doctors Ann Marie Navar, MD, PhD and Dennis Ko, MD, FRCPC, MSc on How to get invited onto editorial boards had some superb insights, a few of which I’ve penned down on this blog.

Write well and publish: Editors look at your prior academic publishing footprint. This can be any previous writing experience: manuscripts, book chapters, publications, even blogging work – that proves you can write and can get your name out there.  If not original science, one can always write editorials, viewpoints or comments to scientific articles in the form of correspondence.

Be a good reviewer: The first step to joining an editorial board and indeed becoming a good editor, is to become a good reviewer. Advantages to reviewing articles for journals are many – good reviewers are eventually recognised, and when known as a high-quality reviewer, even considered for a position on the editorial board when there is an opening. A well-done review also affords the potential to be invited to write an editorial on the content reviewed. Further, some journals let you self-nominate to write an editorial – including an accompanying sentence or two on why you should be writing it is a good idea.

Top tips for writing a good review: Journals look for someone who understands critical appraisal, especially methodology and bias in the outcomes world. A good review is a structured, concise review. It is not the reviewers’ job to nitpick every detail or re-write the manuscript for the authors. It’s important to assess the integrity of the paper for its scientific value.  Brevity is key, with a focus on what the paper is about, if indeed it is worth publishing, what is novel or interesting about it, and how it will add to the literature. Comments on major flaws if any, are absolutely necessary, as well as priority of publication. Be professional in comments to the authors, as an overly negative/ harsh attitude is not well-received.

Good reviewing etiquette: Too many requests for reviews can sometimes be overwhelming. Even so, it’s not the best idea to decline a review request from a top tier journal or one with a high impact factor, as these might constitute missed opportunities. It’s also good etiquette to review for a journal in which you’ve just published. However, if you absolutely do not have the bandwidth, decline with good reason and mention them in the checkbox. Having agreed to review an article, it should be done expeditiously. Speedy reviews are efficient and always appreciated, as they help speed up turnover and clear article backlogs.

Seek feedback: A great way to self-assess one’s reviews as a junior reviewer, is to read more senior reviewers’ comments on the same manuscript, as well as the editors’ comments. One can also reach out to the associate editors for suggestions on improvements, who might be able to provide feedback, time-permitting.

Watch out for calls: An increasing effort is being made to improve diversity in editorial boards, with open calls to fill vacant positions. Such openings in editorial boards are often advertised on social media, or via emails sent to society member mailing lists. For more junior researchers, some journals offer editorial internships or assistant reviewer programs, with assigned associate editors that provide feedback on reviews. This is a great place to start, and depending on performance, might eventually lead to a permanent spot on the editorial board too.

Networking and reaching out: And finally, a combination of good skills, clever presentation of one’s abilities, and good networking might just be what lands you your next opportunity. Reach out to peers, mentors and sponsors for support and opportunities. Let your work and your name be known, so that when a suitable opportunity avails itself, you are invited to be a part of it.

I’d like to thank doctors Ann Marie Navar, MD, PhD and Dennis Ko, MD, FRCPC, MSc for sharing these really insightful tips on good reviewing, scientific writing and eventually getting invited to editorial boards. #QCOR21 continues at Scientific Sessions which will be held on November 13–15, 2021 at Boston, MA.

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