Taking on more responsibility may not yield higher productivity. A heavy load might affect your career in the long run.

Journal editors quickly learn how to balance typical editing responsibilities while maintaining a steady research output. However, those who accept editorships typically experience a drop in productivity immediately after completing the position, an unexpected result that can have a long-term effect on a research career. Find out how journal editors balance editing and research responsibilities.


To explore how journal editors balance editing and research responsibilities, Herman Aguinis and Ryan K. Gottfredson (Indiana University); Gideon P. de Bruin, Danielle Cunningham, and Nicole L. Hall (University of Johannesburg); and Steven A. Culpepper (University of Colorado, Denver) looked at fluctuations in journal editors’ research productivity in their article, “What Does Not Kill You (Sometimes) Makes You Stronger: Productivity Fluctuations of Journal Editors.” The researchers drew their data from 58 editors and the journals these editors served on. The study focused on the duration of the editorship term and the editor’s pre-, intra-, and post-editorship productivity.

The researchers found that pre-editorship, journal editors are consistently productive in terms of research output. At the beginning of an editorship term, editors’ research output hits an all-time high. However, after the demanding editorship, the research productivity of an editor declines sharply, and it takes at least 10 years for an editor to achieve their pre-editorship productivity. The research determined that because of the intense nature of editorships, journal editors slowly burn out in terms of researching until they have fulfilled their duties and can return to a position with typical responsibilities.


The results of this study carry implications both for aspiring editors and current editors. The researchers warn aspiring editors who seek leadership positions to “improve their game” and gain highly developed skills, including increased post-editorship productivity, that receiving these benefits is not typically the case.

Journal editors who are currently in the field make a huge contribution to their scholarly communities. However, a scholar considering an editorship should understand that the position is one of sacrifice.

Read more about fluctuations in productivity as a journal editor in Aguinis et al.’s (2010) article:

Aguinis, Herman, Gideon P. De Bruin, Danielle Cunningham, Nicole L. Hall, Steven A. Culpepper, and Ryan K. Gottfredson. “What Does Not Kill You (Sometimes) Makes You Stronger: Productivity Fluctuations of Journal Editors.” Academy of Management Learning & Education 9, no. 4 (January): 683–95. https://doi.org/10.5465/amle.2010.56659885.

—Tori Hamilton, Editing Research