8.2.1 Editorial board membership

Several journal editors told me they are frequently using Publish or Perish to get a quick impression of the publication record of potential editorial board members. There are several things that an editor/evaluator would be interested in.

Academic credibility

The first question would be: Does the prospective editorial board member (or reviewer or examiner or refereeā€¦) have a credible publication record? If one is selecting an editorial board member for a prestigious journals there should be some evidence of publications that have had an impact on the field and of a sustained stream of research output. This can be easily evaluated looking at the number of publications and citations that PoP reports.

This does not mean one should always select people with the best publication record. First, academics with stellar publication records are often already serving on many editorial boards. Second, these academics are often so busy that they are not reliable reviewers, sometimes taking months to complete their reviews. Choosing someone who is up and coming and eager to make a name for themselves might be a better choice.

Expertise in the area in question

The prospective editorial board member should also have sufficient expertise in the specific disciplinary orientation of the journal or the sub-discipline that is currently underrepresented. A quick perusal of the titles of the prospective board members publications should be sufficient to establish this.

For some journals it might be important to have a broad orientation so that one is able to review in a range of different, but related areas. Other journals might prefer specialists, either because the journal is a specialist journal itself (e.g. International Journal of Nuclear Desalination), or because the journal has a more general orientation, but only publishes the very best research in each sub-discipline (e.g. Science).

Experience with the journal

An editor will also want to know whether the prospective editorial board member has experience with the journal. Most journals will keep systematic files on their ad-hoc reviewers, so if the prospective board member has been a successful ad hoc reviewer, they can be expected to have sufficient experience with the journal. However, editors would normally give preference (or in some cases only consider) academics who have published in the journal themselves. Publish or Perish makes it very easy to run a quick search on this.

Geographical scope

Many journals in the Social Sciences will publish work conducted in different countries. To the extent that the country context matter for the research in question, it is important to have editorial board members with a broad geographical experience.

Although it is not always possible to deduce this from the articles titles, in many cases a quick perusal of the PoP results should provide the editor with a feel for the experience the prospective board members has with research in different countries. Looking at their co-authors might also give some clues, to the extent one can deduce nationality from names.


None of these factors can be established with absolute certainly through a simple Publish or Perish search. However, the editor should be able to get a pretty good feel for the prospective board members that are worthy of further investigation.

There are of course many other criteria for selecting editorial board members. First, and probably most importantly, good academics are not always good reviewers. It takes a considerable amount of skill and care to write a well-informed and constructive review. Often academics who possess these skills are successful publishers themselves, but this is not always the case. If these reviewers have consistently provided excellent reviewers report as ad hoc reviewers, they may be chosen on the editorial board in spite of their lack of academic achievement.

Second, editorial board appointments can sometimes function as signaling devices, indicating to the journals readership that the journal in question welcomes submissions from researchers working in specific sub-disciplines or using certain methodological approaches. In that case, an editor might prefer an academic who fulfils this signaling function over someone with a higher level of academic credibility or expertise.