Unit 5: Editorial Titles and Positions

Unit Reading

There are different editorial titles and positions in journal publishing. The word “editor” is often used very loosely, and can mean a wide range of positions – for example:

  • Copy-editors (sometimes called Sub-editors): undertake the reading and editing of manuscripts, including correcting grammatical errors and checking references, and prepare manuscripts for typesetting. They also sometimes proofread the typeset pages
  • Technical editors (and language editors), often overlap with Copy-editors, but often undertake more substantial editing of manuscripts including re-writing for clarity and language
  • Editorial assistants, working in the editorial office, managing the administration of the editorial system (submissions, reviewing and acceptance or rejection processes)
  • Managing editors take responsibility for the movement of articles from submission to acceptance or rejection: they may be quite senior and make some decisions on rejection or acceptance
  • Editorial board members, usually honorary figures who represent the journal in their own communities and sometimes review articles
  • Advisory or associate editors, usually work closely with the editor-in-chief to help make decisions, sometimes with overall responsibility for specific sections of the journal
  • Associate editors or deputy editors, work closely with the editor-in-chief, to support decisions and help with strategy
  • Editors-in-chief, the most senior editor with overall responsibility for the content of the journal and its editorial strategy – these are often simply called the “editor”

Larger journals may employ several editors who handle specific papers (e.g. on particular subjects, or types of article). The smaller the journal, the more these roles overlap.

In some cases, the owner of the journal may have already defined your title. In this case when you become the editor of a journal you will find yourself inheriting the title editor-in-chief, managing editor, or simply editor. The following are some of the editorial titles:

Editor vs. Editor-in-Chief vs. Executive Editor

The title of the top editor at many publications may be known as the editor-in-chief, or simply the editor. But title denotation can be fluid and changeable, depending on the journal, the society, and the publisher who owns it. The Makerere Journal of Higher Education, published by University of Makerere, Uganda has the title “editor” and The Journal of Science and Technology published by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology has the title “editor-in-chief” yet both editors have the same responsibilities. It turns out that there is little distinction between the two titles.

The editor or editor-in-chief has wide-ranging authority for determining the editorial content within the defined scope of the journal and assigned responsibility for the peer review of individual papers. He or she also contributes in the development of the advertising policy. The final responsibility for all editorial decisions rests with the editor-in-chief – they take final responsibility for everything published in the journal.

(It should be noted, however, that in some journals this position is merely honorific (for example it is common in many Chinese journals). In these journals the editor is a senior person appointed to the role for reward purposes and to grant prestige on the journal. However they are not required to undertake any duties on the journal, and devolve these to Associate or Deputy editors who perform the role of the editor-in-chief.)

In all except the largest of journals, these positions are not full-time, and are often expected to be performed in the editor’s spare time. Most editors-in-chief are scholars or scientists with full time careers who undertake the editorship of a journal in addition to their regular work. Sometimes a small honorarium is paid, but often these roles are not remunerated.

“Why should anyone want to be an editor-in-chief? The job is usually undertaken by those who are committed to their discipline, and keen to see the best research published.”

Why should anyone want to be an editor-in-chief? The job is usually undertaken by those who are committed to their discipline, and keen to see the best research published. In addition to this altruism, being an editor-in-chief is usually only granted to senior individuals in recognition of their status and contribution to their discipline, and is seen as a high status appointment with commensurate career and prestige benefits for the editor.

Managing Editor

A managing editor is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the journal. A managing editor, depending on the journal, oversees and supervises all editorial activities of the journal such as the peer review process, article acceptance or rejection, copyediting papers for publication, typesetting, sending proofs to authors, preparing papers for publication, and producing the journal. Typically, he/she may be the second-in-command and reports to the editor-in-chief. (To add to the confusion these people may also be called an executive editor, chief editor, or simply the editor.)

Unlike the editors managing editors may not be subject specialists, although they will normally be familiar with the discipline.

Managing editors are often employed by the journal’s owner. They may work full time on a large journal, or part-time on a smaller one. In the smaller journals this role may be undertaken unremunerated, by an individual (like the editor) who is keen to contribute to the success of the journal and to publications in their discipline. Like an editor-in-chief’s position, there is prestige associated with this role, although not nearly as much as being an editor-in-chief.

Associate Editors

Associate editors (AE) (also sometimes called Deputy editors) are the members of the editorial team who assist the editor-in-chief in conducting his/her editorial duties. AE are usually senior professionals or scientists who are usually appointed by the editor or elected by the editorial board. As with the editor, they are not usually employed by the journal (except in the large journals) and may receive a small honorarium or nothing from the journal, but the position carries prestige for the individuals (not as much as for an editor-in-chief, but more than a managing editor).

The functions of the AE may vary based on the needs of the journal. In some journals that cover a wide range of research topics, the AE may serve as a Section editor (SE) and some journals may rely on SE to provide additional advice to the editor-in-chief.

Serving in the capacity as a SE, AE may select reviewers for manuscripts and, give his/her own report and make recommendations to help the editor make the final decision. The bottom-line is that, AE provide support when difficult decisions need to be made and to ensure that the quality of the journal is maintained.

Here is an outline of some of their responsibilities:

  • Work as section editors of the journal, select reviews and assist the editor in making decisions
  • Assist the editor in implementing the policies of the journal and in monitoring the efficiency of its systems
  • Contribute to the ongoing expansion of the reviewer database
  • Work with authors and reviewers
  • Review and revise papers for quality and relevance
  • Summarize reviews and recommend a course of action for reviewed paper (accept, reject, etc.)

Working with the editors-in-chief, the editorial board and the scholarly community, the AE guide the growth and maturation of the Journal and add to the breadth, depth and sophistication of its content.

Subject/Section Editors

Just like the Associate editors, SE are also professionals or scientists who are usually appointed by the editor or elected by the editorial board. They are responsible for a section of the journal and manage the review of submissions and the editing of papers that are accepted. editors send requests to SE to see a submission through the editorial process. Depending on the journal’s policies, however, a SE initially assigned to a submission by an editor may be asked only to see it through the review stage, after which, if the submission is accepted, the editor takes over the editorial process.


Which titles do you use for your journal? Were they reasons why you decided on those titles?

Take another look at the journals you examined in the previous activity. There should be a page that lists the editors (the masthead). What titles are used in these journals? Are some used more than others? Are there any titles that aren’t described here?

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7 Comments on "Unit 5: Editorial Titles and Positions"

  1. Profile photo of D Singh D Singh says:

    Hi Kevin,
    The information provided here is elaborate and useful. Can you please advice about what role/ editorship to be given to person who does translation of abstract in different language which is published in our Journal.

  2. Mi blog is titled AvA Club, also my webpage, but I still don´t know wich name will have my own journal. AvA Club is a name about a sirian word for moon (AvA), related with owls, and Club ´cause is a purpouse to make my own club of people of my same interests that work for me in a biggest project call also: AvA Club, that includes clothes, fine art and “green” stuff…

  3. We still haven´t chosen titles yet, but I guess that my role is closest to Editor-in-chief mixed with Managing Editor; or does the Editor-in-Chief is also a Managing Editor?
    I see in every journal a different tile: Editor, Editor-in-Chief and also one the article doesn’t mention but that is very common in Latin America: Director.

    • In small journals, roles like these are often carried out by a single person. It sounds like you can call yourself Director or Editor-in-Chief — but you will also perform the tasks of the managing editor (and maybe copyeditor, layout editor, technical editor, etc.) — at least until you recruit more volunteers to help!

  4. I can see the importance of carefully defining the roles you establish in the journal, as the titles can overlap so much.

    I’d be curious to know more about the difference between associate and subject editors. The duties listed under associate editor sound like they end with the publication decision – yet that is also the distinguishing feature of an SE.

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