Guidance for special issue proposals

Human Relations invites proposals for special issues that focus on a specific area of research that has broad appeal and falls within the aims and scopes of the journal. Special issues provide an excellent opportunity to review an addressed topic, examine previously unaddressed aspects, propose and develop new approaches, exchange perspectives and encourage new lines of research.

We have Special Issues scheduled through to end of 2026; our call for Special Issue proposals will open in September 2024. Please take a look at the call when it is published in our August 2024 issue for more detail. 

Special Issues should focus on a specific area of research that has broad appeal and falls within the aims and scopes of the journal. Calls for papers for special issues are published in the journal and elsewhere; all submissions are welcome and are subject to peer review in the usual way.

Selection of special issues will be made by the Editor-in-Chief, in consultation with the Associate Editors, based on the proposal elements requested below. During the evaluation process, the Human Relations Editorial Team may ask experts in the area of the special issue topic to give their opinions on the proposal.

To help potential Guest Editors to prepare a special issue proposal suitable for evaluation by the Human Relations Editorial Team, we have provided the instructions below.

Special issue proposals must contain the following:

1. A draft call for papers for the special issue. The call for papers must include:

  • A provisional title of the special issue.
  • Names and affiliations of the proposed Guest Editors.
  • Justification for dedicating an entire issue of Human Relations to this topic. What is its broad appeal and what are its projected theoretical, practical and policy implications? What is the intellectual added value of the special issue? How will the special issue advance the research agenda? How does it relate to the aims and scope of the journal, and why does it fit Human Relations in particular?
  • The special issue’s objective.
  • The special issue’s scope: potential themes addressed in the special issue.
  • Examples of questions that would meet the objective of the special issue.

2. Details of any other special issues or special sections/themed content that have been published, or will be published, by other journals and which are devoted to the proposed or a closely related topic. In such cases, potential guest editors should show how their proposed special issue is distinctive in comparison, and explain how it will add to the existing literature.

3. A promotion plan explaining how the call for papers will be advertised (web sites, distribution lists, conferences, associations, etc.). Potential guest editors should be aware of the requirement that special issues must be truly open to any researcher working on the topic. This requirement means that special issues cannot be restricted to researchers participating in specific workshops, symposia or small group meetings.

4. An explanation about how potential guest editors plan to attract researchers from around the world. Guest editors should make an effort to attract contributors from around the world to help enhance the special issue content by providing a variety of perspectives.

5. Potential guest editors should explicitly agree to adhere to current Human Relations editorial policies, processes and prompt turnaround times (please see below) and to using the online submission and manuscript tracking system ScholarOne Manuscripts, for which training and support will be provided. These editorial procedures include a rigorous peer-review process that ensures that only the highest quality manuscripts will be selected for inclusion in the special issue.

6. Guest editors are asked to include a list of potential reviewers in their proposal. It is important for both reviewers and guest editors to adhere to the timing standards set by the journal.

7. Short CV of each proposed guest editor, including a list of major publications and details of editorial experience.

8. Human Relations is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. This means that we encourage guest editorial teams to include individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds and theoretical/methodological approaches to ensure that the domain of interest is addressed from a variety of perspectives.

9. Commitment to producing an accompanying video about the special issue to help promote it online and attract readers. Please describe the video ideas you have in mind and the degree of institutional support that is available to you. Existing videos can be viewed here.

A special issue will normally contain up to five papers plus an introductory review article of up to 8000 words written by the guest editors (see below).

If too few papers reach the required high standard for publication, the Editor-in-Chief may publish a themed issue that also contains regular papers or cancel the special issue entirely.

Nature and format of special issue submissions

Manuscripts submitted to a special issue should adhere to Human Relations aims and scope and contributor guidelines for submitting a paper.

The guest editors will screen initial submissions for their general adherence to the above guidelines and the call for papers. Good quality submissions that meet the journal’s aims and scope, but which do not meet the specifications of the special issue call for papers, may be recommended to the Editor-in-Chief for consideration for publication as a regular paper. Guest editors should be aware of page length restrictions, appropriate use of footnotes, endnotes, figures and tables as they manage manuscripts through the review process. Although formal copy editing occurs after manuscripts are accepted, Guest editors should not accept manuscripts with a poor standard of English or which include terms that might be unfamiliar to the journal’s international interdisciplinary readership.

Guest Editors will not submit their own papers

It is Human Relations policy that guest editors will not submit their own papers for consideration for publication in the special issue unless in very exceptional circumstances this has been specifically agreed in advance with the Editor-in-Chief.

Editorial process

The process for handling submissions to a special issue is almost identical to that for regular submissions to Human Relations. The use of a guest editorial team and selected reviewers allows for highly focused expert feedback and considerable development of the submitted manuscripts. All manuscripts are submitted to Manuscript Central, our online submission system. Guest editors will review all submissions and decide whether they should be sent for peer review. Papers that are unlikely to meet the journal’s standards, either for reasons of quality or because they fall outside the remit of the journal, will be rejected at this point. For those that pass this initial test, guest editors will assign suitable reviewers to each manuscript to be sent out for review. The guest editors will receive the reviews for each manuscript, make a decision about its status (reject, revise or accept), and communicate that decision to the corresponding author. All correspondence, including review invitations, review comments and decision letters, is channelled through the ScholarOne Manuscript Central online system. This process should be completed for every submission until all manuscripts are ready for final editorial decision (accept or reject). Authors are notified of decisions as they are made by the guest editors. Guest editors see all submissions to the special issue through to final decision and recommend up to five papers for inclusion in the special issue to the Editor-in-Chief. In the event that more than five manuscripts are considered acceptable, the guest editors may recommend to the Editor-in-Chief that they be published in regular issues of the journal. Ultimately, the Editor-in-Chief decides which manuscripts to include in the special issue.

Turnaround times

Naturally, authors wish to receive both timely and constructive reviews and decisions for their submissions. Therefore reviewers are asked to comment within one month and reminders are sent to reviewers once their review becomes overdue. Guest Editors are also given a one-week deadline for suggesting reviewers or drafting a decision letter after all the reviews have been received. The editorial process seeks to secure the same timely performance for special issue submissions as that provided for regularly submitted manuscripts.

Guest editors’ introductory editorial review

This introductory essay will be neither a very broad statement about the field nor a summary of the papers. Introductions can vary in their scope but should generally address the following themes:

  • Importance of the topic. Some established topics need no general introduction. Others, for example, those new to the field of management and organizations, may need explanation. Such an explanation should briefly explain to the typical reader of the journal how the topic relates to the journal’s scope and set out the ‘state of the art’.
  • Main lines of development of debates and controversies.
  • Ways in which the selected papers relate to these debates and to each other.
  • The developing research agenda and ways in which the special issue contributes to it.
  • Connections between the special issue and interdisciplinary research in the broad field of organizations, management, and the social relations in and around work.

This article is subject to review by the Editor-in-Chief and/or Associate Editors. They will normally make suggestions for improvement but may also consult experts (usually drawn from the Editorial Board). The Editor-in-Chief makes the final decision on whether to accept the article.

Guest editors’ vodcast

Guest editors will produce an accompanying video (or if agreed, an audio podcast) about the special issue to help promote it online and attract in readers. Existing videos can be viewed here.

Submitting your proposal

Human Relations accepts proposals during our annual submission window each year. Please refer to our call for proposals for more detail. Please send your special issue proposal to the Co-Editors-in-Chief by email c/o: Meg Davies

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