Editorial: The meaning of being a guest editor — a real challenge!


  • Helga E. Breimaier,

  • Juliane Eichhorn-Kissel,

  • Jan Kottner,

  • Esther Meesterberends,

  • Judith Meijers,

  • Noémi van Nie-Visser

Writing and publishing is a key activity for students undertaking their PhD and working on their scientific career. How to structure papers, the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of academic writing style, how to react to editorial and reviewer comments and how to re-submit papers are challenges PhD students have to master, probably for the first time in their life.

In addition to the exiting nature of this endeavour, the Editor in Chief of the JCN Roger Watson provided a group of PhD students from the Netherlands, Austria and Germany insight into the ‘other side of the coin’: managing manuscripts from submission to the decision. Now, we were faced with questions like how to choose reviewers, how to deal with reviewer comments or how to decide on acceptance or rejection. Given that there is an art and science of writing and submitting manuscripts, we learned that there must also be a kind of editorial science that is hard work too.

Before starting this experience, we got a short introduction to the editorial system of JCN. We were eager to learn, e.g. how to find appropriate reviewers and what would happen with their comments subsequently. Thus prepared, we looked forward to manage the editorial process quiet easily – somehow naïve, as we can tell now at the end of the process.

We were given the opportunity to prepare a special edition of the JNC containing papers by PhD students who presented their work during one of the European Doctoral Conferences in Nursing Science (EDCNS, http://www.unimaas.nl/edcns/) in the last three years. EDCNS is a conference for doctoral students all over Europe organised by members of the PhD programme ‘Nursing Science’, which is a collaborative programme of Maastricht University (the Netherlands), the Charite-Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany) and the Medizinische Universität Graz (Austria). The conference provides the opportunity to meet and build contacts with colleagues all over Europe, to present a research project as part of a thesis, to share experiences and information in the area of nursing research and to learn what is currently happening in nursing science in Europe.

First, we invited all participants of EDCNS from 2007, 2008 and 2009 to submit an abstract of their article. We received over 40 abstracts and about 30 authors were invited to submit an article. For selecting appropriate reviewers for the incoming drafts, the system offered a list of experts related to the respective topic. The keywords each author has to name during the submitting process guided us herein. Well, an easily manageable task we thought, but it turned out to be more complicated than we thought! As participants of the past EDCNS conferences presented a wide range of topics, we also received a wide range of topics for publishing in this special issue of JCN. Suddenly, and especially for some very special topics, the number of selectable reviewers was very small. Nevertheless, we had to find an appropriate solution: an expert in the field (methodological and with regard to content) willing to comment on the draft as a reviewer. In some cases, it took an astonishingly long time until we received an answer, and to our surprise, this was not always an acceptance. Thus, we had to learn new strategies in selecting an appropriate number of potential reviewers at the beginning to get the necessary persons willing to review the submission and resubmissions.

Furthermore, we had to learn how to deal with helpful as well as less helpful and contradictory comments about the reviewed manuscript. In some cases, we received, e.g. the recommendation ‘minor revision’ from one reviewer and ‘reject and resubmit’ from the other reviewer. In these cases, we read thoroughly through the drafts, balanced the reviewers’ comments with our impression and made the decision how to proceed.

The other side of our experiences was much more enjoyable. We received quite a wide range of interesting topics for publishing. Furthermore, it was a pleasure to see how the drafts mature based on reviewers’ comments. And now, at the end of a very interesting and informative way, we are able to present this special issue containing 18 articles in the area of nursing science.

A substantial part of the included articles deal with the quality of care (Grondahl et al. and Zadelhof & Verbeek) nursing phenomena (Fossum et al., Johansson et al., Medin et al.) or the documentation of nursing diagnoses (Paans et al.) Three articles (Hahn et al., Nau et al. and Zeller et al.) concentrate on several aspects of patient’s and visitors’ aggression. Further articles focus on the implementation (Corchón Arreche et al.) and use of research results (Wangensteen et al.), respectively, and adherence to a guideline (Janssen et al.). The applicability of an educational tool and the validation of an instrument for assessing breastfeeding are dealt with by Golsäter et al., respectively, Zobbi et al. Being suddenly an informal caregiver (Pereira et al.) and nurses’ physical health profile (Fronteira et al.) complete the broad spectrum of very interesting topics.

We would like to thank all supporters of the EDCNS and this JCN Special Issue:

Professor Roger Watson, Professor Ruud Halfens and Professor Christa Lohrmann and the constructive help of the editorial office of JCN.

The Guest-Editorial Board of Special Issue JCN EDCNS: