The Levantine Review: The Work of the Managing Editor
In the Fall 2012 issue of the Library Newsletter we announced the launch of The Levantine Review - a new Open Access journal co-sponsored by the Boston College Libraries and the Slavic and Eastern Languages Department (SELL). The Review is dedicated to the study of the Levant from multiple perspectives, including History, Theology, Religion, Linguistics, Archaeology, Political Science, etc.
As Open Access (OA) is becoming more and more important in academic publishing, librarians are increasingly involved with supporting it in many different ways: from advocating for both disciplinary and institutional depositories (such as eScholarship@bc) to promoting faculty publishing in OA journals. In this article, focusing on one way librarians can get involved with OA, I wish to share my experience of an Open Access scholarly journal's managing editor responsibilities. It will be appropriate to emphasize that the experience discussed by no means describes or covers all managing editors' job responsibilities - I'm concerned with my specific experience with a job that started from zero and shaped itself on the go.
The O'Neill Library and SELL (Franck Salameh is Editor-in-Chief) started the journal in May 2012 and one of the first steps for me as managing editor was to contact publishers to request appropriate books for reviewing to be sent out to reviewers. Generally there is a designated person who handles such requests in publishing companies and big publishers usually have "review copies" contact information available on their websites. Once the copy is obtained, it is sent to the scholar in a relevant field. In many cases scholars proactively notify us about their desire to review particular books, so it is just a matter of providing them with the copy. Occasionally publishers ask as a courtesy to share book reviews with them once published and some demonstrate further interest in their books being reviewed by our journal by sending along catalogs with new publications.
Another important responsibility of a managing editor is to coordinate peer reviews of articles submitted to the journal for potential publication. We have a list of affiliated editors who are specialists in various subject areas covered by the journal; so we send every article to no fewer than two people but sometimes even three or more for reviews. An important aspect of this process is to make sure that it is totally blind, i.e. authors and editors do not know each other's identity. Most of the time potential reviewers agree to review and the reviews can range from some high level overviews and recommendations to a very detailed textual analysis of the work. It is generally desirable to have more than two reviewers because reviews may differ not only in the level of details, but also in the range of opinions and recommendations for the same article. In an extreme case at the Review one reviewer denied any scholarly value to the work while the other praised and highly recommended it for publication. Given that all reviewers are important and well established scholars in the field, it was an interesting and challenging situation and having an odd number of opinions was helpful.
It is up to the journal how to share reviews with the authors. They can be sent verbatim, or reworked and include additional recommendations by journal editors, but the important condition of anonymity can never be jeopardized. Normally article authors are asked to review recommendations and respond within a certain period of time. Based on the limited experience that we have had, all authors have been receptive to the recommendations, mostly following the suggestions, and making requested changes.
Once all book reviews and original articles are collected, proofread, and formatted, we download them in the local OJS (Open Journal System) software and make them available for viewing on the web.
The next issue, the third one, of The Levantine Review will be published later this month and the number of contributions to the journal keeps growing. We have authors from Canada, Poland, Sweden, Lebanon, Israel, and France. The geography is constantly expanding and we are truly excited to make high level scholarship on some very important subject areas openly available to anyone in the world with internet connection and interest in the subject.