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I'm aware that academic editorial work is to a good extent a voluntary service to the community. Peer reviewing, to my knowledge, is always a voluntary service, for a whole number of good reasons, e.g. to remain independent and impartial, or to avoid scientific misconduct. Anyway, because of the different task profile and responsibilities of editors in chief (EiCs), associate editors, guest editors, and other academic editorial staffs, I wonder about types of journals, which pay these roles for their services? I'm aware that some less known/traditional/established publishers pay parts of their academic editorial staffs. (I am not referring to paid full-time employees of publishers, such as management staffs and members of production teams.) I also wonder how much in terms of a full-time equivalent salary that would typically be? Ranges or percentages by country, discipline, or even publisher would already shed light on this.

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    It's important to distinguish between full-time employees of the publisher that handle the details of typesetting and publishing manuscripts and the academics who manage the peer-review process. For the academics who manage the peer-review process and make publication decisions, some are paid but many are not. Sep 17, 2021 at 18:55
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    I've never been editor-in-chief but have/had a number of Associate Editor roles. I am not and have never been paid, however occasionally the publishers send me vouchers that allow me to buy books at discounted price - this isn't worth much as I'd still have to pay something and chances are all kinds of people get such vouchers - and I think I got some two books for free. We're talking about several journals over many years (statistics). Sep 17, 2021 at 20:22
  • @BrianBorchers Thx, I've modified my answer to better accommodate that distinction.
    – mfg
    Sep 17, 2021 at 21:09

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To the best of my knowledge, only the very largest and prestigious journals (say, Science, Nature, JMA, NEJM, etc.) have editors-in-chief that are salaried. For sure, in mathematics and computational science (my fields), none are paid -- although we are paid by our universities and the work we do for the job of associate editor or editor-in-chief is simply part of our work responsibilities, which do include after all that we do service to our community. In other words, one could argue that our universities pay us for the job of editor.

In most departments, being an editor or editor-in-chief is highly regarded and counts quite positively towards annual evaluations. That is, it is considered part of the usual workload, not an additional task one takes on outside the departmental expectations.

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    Unfortunately, there are many universities that simply do not have the financial ability to give release time for faculty taking on editorial duties. At many other universities, this reassignment of duties is purely nominal - faculty are expected to teach as many classes, do as much research, and serve on just as many committees as before they became editor, even if now 15% of their time is now technically devoted to being editor. It may count positively in evaluations, but since there are no raises and one is already a full professor, that means nothing. Sep 17, 2021 at 20:11
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    This answer by the way (correctly) implies that (public) universities subsidise private publishers big time. Sep 17, 2021 at 20:25
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    @AlexanderWoo In many places it is not so much release from standard duties. Rather there is time for "research and other stuff" and this is part of it, meaning that with an editor role you can score some points that otherwise would have to come from publications, grants, conference organisation, public engagement, whatnot. Sep 17, 2021 at 20:28
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    @AlexanderWoo I think that criticism can be applied to pretty much every activity under the "service" banner, save perhaps some of the most intensive university administrative service that are full positions themselves. You don't get breaks in your expected teaching or research because you've done outreach at a local high school or community festival, or because you've served on an additional committee.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 17, 2021 at 20:30
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    I'm downvoting because I'm aware of several (much) smaller journals that also pay their editor-in-chiefs.
    – Allure
    Sep 18, 2021 at 0:28
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I'll focus on the editor-in-chief because the role of the associate editor is journal-dependent.

Not every journal pays the editor-in-chief, but many do. It's generalizing, but if the journal is making solid profits then there's a good chance the editor-in-chief is paid. An order of magnitude estimate is about $10k/year.

That also explains why editorial board members are typically not paid - splitting the budget of $10k/year among all members of a typical editorial board would mean each member gets a pittance.

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  • If only as a means of retention, many journals will pay editors-in-chiefs a small sum for the trouble. Sep 19, 2021 at 0:48

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