Ever thought about starting your own academic journal? Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar is the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice and is based at the School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Six years ago, he started his journal – then named Southern Med Review. Here he shares his tips for starting and running a journal successfully.
When I started Southern Med Review – a pharmaceutical policy journal – six years ago, I had little idea about editing and publishing. However, we ran it successfully for many years and last year we partnered with BioMed Central to publish it. It is now called Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice.
So based on my experiences of this process, here are a few of my tips on how to run a successful scientific journal:
Ask yourself why you want to do it
Setting up a journal is something which requires sheer determination, passion and time commitment. It’s also very fulfilling though, offering you the chance to improve your knowledge, help others and promote a specific viewpoint in research. If you are an academic or a scientist, check whether the institute you work with, could recognize your role. Most western academic institutes consider it a ‘service to society’.
Choose your name wisely
As with any other business venture, the name of a journal should be meaningful, concise and should depict the scope of the journal.
Choose a niche area
If you have scarce resources, developing a journal with a specific focus will be the easiest place to start. Though there are many non-specific journals which are very successful, they are mostly run in-house by large publishing houses that have far more resources than you are likely to have.
Build an excellent editorial team
This is another key for success. You need people who share your passion and commitment, and are willing to promote a common cause. Your team members could be a mix of experienced and new researchers. Create an environment of learning and always listen to the opinions of your editorial board and advisory team.
Be honest about the journal. Highlight its good qualities and at the same time be open to discuss its weaknesses and how to improve them. It’s very challenging to establish a new journal, so embrace criticism in a positive manner.
Make sure you are open to ideas and new ways to promote the journal – for example, at conferences, seminars and on social media. If the journal is in a niche area and is of good quality, key opinion leaders will be happy to contribute and can help you to raise awareness.
Quality, quality and quality
The quality of the journal is the single most important thing in its success. A high quality journal will attract high quality submissions and this creates a virtuous circle.
As a new journal, you don’t have to publish every article submitted. However, even if you reject articles, provide timely feedback in a positive manner. The researchers will appreciate it.
Invest your full energy in the first issue
The first issue of the journal is your introduction, so give it one hundred percent effort and ensure the editorial quality, design and layout are as perfect as possible. It will pay off.
Moving to new horizons
Running a small and independent journal comes with benefits and challenges. However, if you don’t have a proper support structure in place and if it is not your full time job, after few years you may want to consider a bigger platform for the journal. For us it was BioMed Central and we’ve been happy with this transition.
Remember that it’s easier to start a journal than close it down, so make sure you think carefully and plan before starting yours.
Zaheer-Ud-Din Babar, PhD is the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice and is based at the School of Pharmacy, University of Auckland, New Zealand.