What Makes a Duke Journal: Evaluating Journals for Partnership

In this guest post for our Journals Publishing Series, Erich Staib, Senior Editor, Journals, discusses the role of Duke University Press’s Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) in selecting journals for publishing partnerships.

Erich Staib

Senior Editor Erich Staib

All publishing partnerships at Duke University Press formally begin with an evaluation by our faculty board, called the Editorial Advisory Board (EAB). The purpose of Duke University’s EAB is to validate the scholarship published by its press, both books and journals, as worthy of publication by Duke University.

The EAB is comprised of Duke faculty members from those academic areas the Press mainly publishes in, and it meets monthly during the academic year, with one or two meetings during the summer. Priscilla Wald, professor of English and Women’s Studies at Duke University, is the current chair of our EAB. There is also an ex officio member from the Duke Libraries, plus 12 faculty members who serve for three-year terms, once renewable. New board members are recommended to the Provost by the Press Director and the current EAB chair, who are always looking for Duke University faculty members to round out the EAB by providing their expertise in an appropriate field of study or geographic area.

The EAB process differentiates the journal approval process of university presses from that of commercial presses, because it affects the speed at which we can move in the acquisitions partnership process. Commercial publishers may not need reviews, which can take a long time to secure. They can build a business plan, consult a few people, and move ahead, whereas it can take several months to develop a proposal for the EAB, based on peer reviews of the journal proposal. And then I have to work with the timeframe of the monthly board meetings. There are huge advantages to utilizing an editorial advisory board process, though, and one of the biggest is that the depth and rigor of the EAB approval process results in great publications that readers can trust.

The final preparation of a journal proposal for Duke University Press’s EAB is fairly straightforward. A proposal begins with a short introductory memorandum about the journal that covers discussions I’ve had with the journal editor(s) and sponsor(s) up to that stage; shows information about the journal, such as its masthead and recent tables-of-contents; presents peer reviews of the journal (or journal prospectus, if it is a new start-up); and provides a response from the journal’s editor(s)to the reviews, which have been presented to the editor(s) in anonymous form.

I try to secure at least two reviews for well-established journals that have been publishing for a number of years, often one from a Duke faculty member in a relevant area and one or more from outside. If we’re evaluating a prospectus for launching a new journal, I try to get at least three reviews of the prospectus, and the complete prospectus would be included with the other material going to the EAB. The board is authorized to reject a proposal if they are at all concerned about the quality of the journal’s scholarly contribution; or they can send it back for revision and later resubmission. There is often discussion about why Duke University Press is interested in publishing a specific journal: If it is established, is it the best in its field? Is the field a growing or changing field, and if so is the journal positioned to maintain its leadership? If it is a new journal, in what ways will it be field-defining or field-changing?

After I give a brief presentation about the journal, the EAB conducts a formal vote. Duke University Press cannot offer a contract to the journal without the approval of the EAB, so this process is an essential part of bringing journals to the Press. The EAB will many times offer useful and helpful suggestions beyond what the reviewers have suggested. These positive suggestions often serve to strengthen the journal. And the approval process is a big part of what makes our journals publishing program trustworthy in the eyes of librarians, academics, and others involved with scholarly journals.

Do you have questions about the evaluation process? Contact Erich Staib, and don’t forget to follow along with our Journal Publishing Series.

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