How to propose a Special Issue for CM&E

From time to time this journal carries a Special Issue which consists of themed papers around a specific topic, introduced by an in‐depth editorial that not only summarizes the papers, as usual, but also develops a particular view from the Guest Editor. This is an excellent opportunity for someone to demonstrate leadership in a particular part of the field, and to develop an argument or a theme with which he or she can be identified. Thus, the purpose of a Special Issue is twofold: first, to provide a group of papers themed around a specific topic and second, to provide an opportunity for a Guest Editor to develop and disseminate a view on the chosen topic. To help potential Guest Editors to understand the editorial decision‐making process about whether a Special Issue will be accepted, this document suggests a useful format for proposing a Special Issue.

  • Introduce and explain the particular topic or theme for the issue. Make clear that this is a specific area in its own right, rather than a new name for something that is already well known in the literature. Be clear about how this stands up in front of an international audience, not just your own country.
  • It should be clear that there is sufficient depth in the topic to provide for 12‐25 original, distinct and diverse contributions. There may be papers on the same topic, from different points of view and such contention is welcomed. But several papers extolling the same point of view on the same topic should be avoided. Contributions may be papers, notes, letters, book reviews or obituaries. It is a good idea to seek as many different types as will fit into the topic, in order to provide a balanced and complete issue of the journal. We can work with you to identify suitable books for review in the Special Issue.
  • The topic should be sufficiently developed internationally to ensure that there is a wide geographical spread. It is not necessary or even possible to cover every country or even every continent, but it must be clear in the proposal that the main research‐active people in this topic have been identified, wherever they happen to be in the world. If they are all in the same region, then it would be inappropriate to carry the Special Issue in this journal.
  • It should be clear that you are the kind of person that people working in this area would recognize as an authority on this topic, and that you are sufficiently knowledgeable and known to invite relevant and appropriate authors personally, rather than relying merely on an open call for papers.
  • The proposal should aim to satisfy these criteria and should suggest 12‐25 contributions (without committing you or any potential authors) that would indicate how these concerns would be met. It is usually a good idea to seek to elicit this many contributions to allow for rejections and non‐submissions, otherwise there is the danger that the Special Issue is kept waiting for recalcitrant authors. The form of the proposal should be an e‐mail or a letter with an appendix listing the kind of contributions you seek with authors, affiliations, countries, indicative title of contribution and type of contribution. You may include papers that have already been published as this list is not going to bind you or the authors: its purpose is merely to illustrate that there is scope for a strong special issue with international relevance that will provide interesting angles on the specific theme or topic. The list will not be circulated beyond the editors involved in the decision.

In speaking to potential contributors, it may be useful to provide an indicative timescale. Once the Special Issue has been approved by the Editor‐in‐Chief, you should allow for a schedule approximately along these lines:

  • Call for abstracts, both direct invitations to key researchers as well as open call – to be timed to fit among other calls
  • Invitation to submit full papers – 1-2 months depending on time of year
  • First draft submissions – 6 months for authors to prepare MSs
  • Decision with referee comments – average 3 months
  • Revised papers – average 2 months
  • Final submission and final edits – average 1 months
  • Production – average 2 months
  • Publication – 15 months from first call for abstracts

During this time, you could be working on your Editorial, but you may need time after the issue has been assembled before we decide that the issue is complete.

Please direct all enquiries about ideas for Special Issues to the Editor‐in‐Chief.

Footnote on conference-themed special issues:

Typically, we do not theme Special Issues around conferences. Although we never have done so in the past, we are not altogether closed to the suggestion. However, our Special Issues tend to be themed on specific topics in which the Guest Editor is in a position to invite papers from leading academics around the world. The problem with connecting a Special Issue to a particular conference is that the choice of papers is restricted to those who came to the conference. These are not necessarily the key academics in the topic. Our preferred approach would be for someone to keep a close eye on the papers, presentations and discussions at a conference, so that we can invite likely authors to develop their paper into a journal paper.  Also, we would be keen to use the momentum from a particularly lively session or conference debate to lead to a Special Issue proposal that would then be more in line with our usual expectations. Recently, we have initiated a new approach for the ARCOM Annual Conference, using the opportunity to create a Conference Issue, rather than a Special Issue. The difference is important; by labelling it as a Conference Issue, there is no misunderstanding about the extent to which papers will be themed. And, unlike Special Issues, the editorial control of a Conference Issue remains with the Editor-in-Chief, not with the Guest Editor.


About Will

Professor of Construction Management and Economics, University of Reading, UK. Editor-in-Chief, Construction Management and Economics (1992-2016). Programme Director, MSc Construction Management. School Director of Postgraduate Teaching Programmes.
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