Roles and responsibilities of the special-section editor

Kurt Marfurt, Gerard T. Schuster, Sheral Danker, Balazs Nemeth, Huyen Bui, Hongliu Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Interpretation differs from most journals in that each issue is built largely on special sections that focus on integrated multidisciplinary approaches, techniques in exploration and production, on a specific technology, on a specific basin, or on a specific type of geologic process or feature common to multiple basins. Such special sections provide the reader with the perspective and expertise of authors from different institutions and disciplines focused on the same problem. Depending on the topic, the resulting collection of papers may exhibit diversity, consensus, or both. While the editorial board of a given journal may be able to identify a subset of candidate topics for special sections, in-depth knowledge of critical problems and of the key players working on such topics is usually beyond their areas of expertise. To address this need, Interpretation draws upon such experts to construct most special sections. In addition to providing a focused collection of articles on a given topic, there are two additional advantages of the special-section format. First, the journal broadens the scope of contributors beyond those whose career advancement (typically in academia and in government laboratories) requires them to publish in peer-reviewed journals. Typically, the special-section organizers will identify oral presentations and expanded abstracts presented at meetings (such as SEG, AAPG, URTeC, OTC, and SPE) and ask the authors to expand upon their work and generate a more comprehensive document. Apart from a few technology companies, most companies do not use external publications as a component of career development. For this reason, requests by a respected special editorial team provides not only recognition to the authors, but also the justification of the authors’ management to allow them to build on their work. Nearly all companies include the act of supporting communities among their core values. Contributing to a special section is a great way for professionals to demonstrate that value in action. Other advantages include the perspectives provided by such special-section authors, editors, and reviewers that draw in a diverse suite of geoscientists and engineers that truly represent the interpretation community. Where there are advantages, there are also disadvantages. First, the vast majority of special-section editors are “new to the job,” never having served on an editorial board of a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The primary objective of this “From the Editor” note is to clarify the roles and responsibilities of this task. Second, many of the selected reviewers may never have had the opportunity to review a paper for publication. They too are new to the job. The August issue of the From the Editor column (Bui et al., 2017) titled “Qualities of a good reviewer” directly addresses this challenge. In this article, we encourage the reviewers to help the authors to construct a quality, well-referenced paper because many of them, too, are new to the job. The third disadvantage is that the special-section format skews the citation-index metrics. Obviously, if the special-section editors identify a good oral presentation and request the author to develop a full-length paper, the chances of acceptance are higher, thus lowering the citation index score. More on this conundrum will be found in the From the Editor column in the February 2018 issue of Interpretation. The remainder of this short article addresses the issues specific to the special-section editors.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1N-3N
Number of pages3
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 19 2017


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