This study examines the professional lives of scholarly journal editors. Data from semi-structured interviews with thirty-five editors explores their experiences including career paths, work routine, meaning-making of the work, the role of personal networks and the differences between the sciences and the social sciences. These data were arrayed against the backdrop of two models from the social sciences. One is the "gatekeeper" model from social psychologist Kurt Lewin. The other comes from sociologist Lewis Coser, whose model of "scholarly networks" also informs this study. The data demonstrate that scholarly journal editors operate within a complex system that buffets them about in a swirl of technology, bureaucracy and group dynamics. Editors learn to adapt and thrive by assessing their individual skills and temperaments and matching them to the demands posed by the work. These adaptive steps include: the ability to discern the nature of academic standards, the establishment of a relationship to manuscript submissions that allows for judicial and efficient processing, and the development of knowledge of a discipline and the scholars within in it that allows an editor to know when to rely on colleagues and when to use his or her own judgment. However, the data also reveal that there is an exclusivity embodied in the scholarly network that perpetuates itself through firm membership criteria. Nearly all of the editors make meaning from the intellectual material that regularly comes across their desks. Some editors seek to put their personal stamp on their journal, while others operate as conduits for the ideas emanating from the discipline. All of these editors believe that ideas matter. They believe that exchanging ideas with colleagues all over the world is important. This kind of stimulation is what motivates them. The stakes are rising each year in higher education as schools compete for research dollars and public prestige. This study is significant in that the editor's role in scholarly publication is crucial to the individual and collective futures of all scholars.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stephen_mcginty/1/