President’s Report: The Care Taken in Journal Editor Search Process

Anisa M. Zvonkovic, Ph.D., NCFR President
/ Summer 2019 NCFR Report

See all articles from this issue 


Happy summer, colleagues! As I reflect on the activities of the NCFR Board of Directors during the time I have been president, one of the most important things we have done is select editors for each of our journals. I thought I’d take this column to describe a bit about the process, since it has been ongoing for the board during my tenure and since I regard it as a crucially important responsibility.

As you know, NCFR sponsors three professional journals: Journal of Marriage and Family (the flagship journal of the discipline and our oldest journal), Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science, and Journal of Family Theory & Review (our newest journal, launched in 2009). Having been on the editorial board of each of these journals at one time or another, I thought I had an understanding of how they work, but it wasn’t until I was on the NCFR Board of Directors and responsible for selection of editors that I truly understood the importance of the journals for the reputation of the organization and the vital role NCFR members play in recruiting and selecting editors.

It is my responsibility as president of NCFR to seat the Search Committee for each editor to be selected. The Search Committee recruits editor candidates, along with NCFR staff, who do the advertising and coordinate meetings of the committee. One member of the NCFR board serves as journal liaison, and that person is ex officio on the Search Committee. Ultimately, the committee makes a recommendation to the board for the selection of the editor.

So how does the Search Committee get constructed? Since I have been in this role, I have worked hard to ensure elements of representation in the Search Committee for each journal. While these elements vary a bit depending on the journal, it has been very important to me to have scholars trained in multiple disciplines on the committees, including multiple content areas (e.g., parenting, childhood, adolescence, marriage, gerontology, marriage and family therapy, policy, application, program evaluation), as well as to have diversity in gender and ethnicity. I also have attempted to include scholars at a variety of types of academic institutions. It is also a good practice to appoint members of the editorial board of the journal to the Search Committee. The NCFR Editor Search Committee Guidelines require that each search committee for editor have a former editor on the committee and require that all search committee members be members of NCFR.

Already, if you think like me, you probably have a mental matrix of the various dimensions at play in selecting five people for the committee. I also am keen to work to develop human capital among our NCFR members, so I have been on the lookout for newer professionals to include in the committees when possible. I have also been responsible for selecting the chair of the Search Committee. I have selected chairs who have deep experience with administration, the specific journal on whose editorial search committee they are serving, and strong qualities of leadership to facilitate the committee. That’s a lot of detail—I hope you understand that this level of attention is warranted in all decisions made by the board.

It is important that there be a robust pool of qualified applicants to be editor. As I think about how universities have changed since I started in the field, I think it is harder for a university to want to invest in supporting course release time and other resources in journal editing. It used to be that universities got prestige from housing editorial offices, but now, many research-intensive universities are more interested in receiving external grant funding than in editorial offices—despite the fact that journals are vital for shaping the discipline, and that NCFR journals in particular are highly ranked in terms of impact factors and other bibliometrics. The Search Committees tends to do a lot of work up front to talk to possible candidates and think broadly about whom to recruit for the position. Editors have also been extraordinarily helpful in sharing names of their reviewers, special-issue editors, and most active editorial board members.

The job of editor is daunting. Given how different each journal is, the job varies quite a bit, from a job that is actively involved in soliciting manuscripts, shaping volumes around themes, selecting special issues, to managing a very large workload of submissions. A good editor will have a vision for the journal, work highly independently, be able to forecast and project workload and the field, and also be able to work with Wiley (the publisher), NCFR staff, the journal’s editorial office staff (typically graduate students), the reviewers, the team of associate editor(s), and the editorial board. Anecdotally, I haven’t seen anyone apply for the position who didn’t have a strong interest in the professional reputation of the journal and who wouldn’t have some personal stake in the journal’s success. The NCFR board, in its oversight function, evaluates the journal editors, and holds them to standards related to experience in editing and journal publication.

Having chaired an editorial search committee before serving on the board, I can provide a bit of information about my priorities as I recruited candidates and evaluated applicants. I wanted to be sure the journal would be safe in their hands. I wanted an editor who had an investment in NCFR as an organization. I wanted to select someone who I could see leading the editorial board and whom I trusted to build human capital within that board. I wanted someone who was a scholar and intellectually curious about ideas, topics, and approaches outside of their expertise. I wanted someone who had a passion for building the discipline of Family Science. In conformance with NCFR’s global ends, representing our diverse membership is important; and I think it is important anyway, because a variety of training backgrounds makes for better science and better decision making. Editors comfortable with innovation and new ideas are needed to move our field forward. Experience guest editing a journal was a plus; without that, experience in putting on a conference or other scholarly event was important to me. Personal principles of fairness were vital as were efficiency and good listening and communication skills.

I am happy to say that NCFR has been fortunate with the appointments of editors. We benefit from the care taken in selecting editors and in developing human capital among our members so that they are prepared to take on these important roles for our professional society. If you are interested in learning more about the position of editor, feel free to reach out to the current or past editors.

The Search Committee for Journal of Marriage and Family is currently active and is still receiving nominations and applications. The review process begins Aug. 1, 2019. Send nominations and applications, including a letter of application and a curriculum vitae, to National Council on Family Relations, 661 LaSalle Street, Suite 200, Saint Paul, MN, USA, 55114, or email materials to NCFR staff. For more information on the position itself, please see the job listing on the NCFR website.