Specialist editor of systematic reviews and evidence maps
I have been a specialist editor of systematic reviews since 2016, editing over 350 submissions. I work on professionalising editing, understanding it as a service that should support academics in producing high-quality research, and introducing standards and quality control and management workflows that will achieve this.
My work on editorial and publishing standards includes the following:
setting clear, comprehensive requirements for SR submissions;
WHO/ILO burden of disease estimates
Probably the most important work I have done as an editor was handle the WHO/ILO systematic reviews conducted for estimating global burden of disease (BoD) from occupational environmental exposures.
I trained 150 researchers, we prepublished the SR protocols in a first for BoD estimates, and used templates and other tools to ensure consistency between SR research teams (Pega et al. 2021).
Due to the robust methodology were able to demonstrate that long working hours are the single biggest cause of work-related morbidity and mortality (WHO 2021; WHO/ILO 2021a; WHO/ILO 2021b).
Peer-review of research protocols
Most systematic reviews are rejected for reasons which could have been fixed, if only editors and peer-reviewers had been involved in the planning stage of a project and not just been the recipients of a final manuscript.
Environment International was therefore the first environmental health journal to adopt the Registered Reports model of research publication for systematic reviews, encouraging authors to submit a draft protocol, which we then review. Once the protocol is accepted, we publish it as a full manuscript, and in principle accept the final SR so long as it adheres to the protocol - whatever its findings.
Enforcement of reporting standards
That journals tend to only recommend rather than enforce the use of reporting standards (such as PRISMA or ROSES) seems to minimise their effectiveness for improving research. This is why Environment International not only endorses PRISMA, we require authors to submit a PRISMA or ROSES report in order to even have their submission triaged by an editor.
Editorial workflow for SR submissions
The flow chart below is for Special Issues; regular submissions are the same, except Associate Editors fill the role of Guest Editors.