Volunteers Integral to NATA Journals

April 23, 2021 by Claire Williams

Before the Journal of Athletic Training or the Athletic Training Education Journal publish new research, it is vetted and reviewed by health care providers, including athletic trainers, and other content experts who volunteer their time and expertise as part of the publishing process. 

In fact, the journals have access to databases of more than 2,200 volunteers to tap based on research topics and expertise for peer reviewing. In addition to athletic trainers, the journals utilize expertise from other health care providers, such as physicians.

Additionally, the associate editors who lead the process for each issue are volunteers, as well as the journals’ social media and digital teams.

“Overall, the amount of member contribution to the journal is fantastic,” said JAT Editor-in-Chief Jay Hertel, PhD, ATC, FNATA. “It really doesn’t work without [the volunteers] … all of our content is due to them.”

The JAT and ATEJ use the same manuscript management system to coordinate submissions and the review process, but each work with a different database of international volunteers, and are always encouraging athletic trainers to join the database as potential reviewers.

The JAT has access to more than 2,020 reviewers who are organized by their topics of expertise, such as prevention and risk management, examination, biodynamics, treatment, professional development and pedagogy. Based on those, volunteers are matched with the topics of new research submissions for associate editors. The ATEJ has a similar process for its 295 volunteer reviewers.

“Our ATEJ peer reviewers are experts with specialized knowledge on the content of the manuscript, as well as by educators and clinicians,” ATEJ Editor-in-Chief David Berry, PhD, MHA, ATC. “Our pool of reviewers with diverse backgrounds allows for many different perspectives which enhances the quality of a manuscript.”

The database allows reviewers to choose their expertise based on specific categories, ensuring someone qualified is available to review each new manuscript.

For example, if the JAT accepts a new research manuscript about the rehabilitation of nonmusculoskeletal trauma (i.e., brain) in the clinical setting, the manuscript management system would match volunteer reviewers who identified themselves as experts in rehabilitation, clinical physiology and brain injuries and recovery for the associate editor to connect with for peer review. Typically, two volunteers complete peer review before publication.

The JAT works with about 22 volunteers who act as associate editors for each issue, Hertel said. They rotate their responsibilities and coordinate content, select peer reviewers and lead research through the online-first and print publication processes.

“The peer-review process is the foundation of the scholarly publication system,” said Berry.

“Each volunteer plays a critical role in ensuring the journal produces high-quality research that advances the education of athletic trainers and the profession”

At the JAT, the digital and social media team that produces podcasts and handles social media content is also all volunteer-based. Hertel said there are about 10 athletic trainers on that team who are responsible for the JAT’s three monthly podcasts: The AT Tapes, JAT Chat and JAT Cast, which cover new research in the journal. This team also handles engagement and content on the journal’s social media profiles.

The JAT and ATEJ are always accepting new volunteer reviewers, and members can join through the JAT database and the ATEJ database. Hertel said the requirements are simple – know your content expertise and what you are qualified to review and be willing to offer the time.

“Peer review volunteers are great … and the biggest challenges sometimes is time; we’re asking a lot of them,” he said.

But, he also said that many reviewers appreciate the opportunity to offer their expertise in new ways and to advance research in the athletic training profession.

Berry echoed, “While all of our volunteers have very different areas of expertise, they all have one commonality – a concern for the educational preparation of athletic trainers across a wide spectrum of our membership.”

To join the JAT database as a reviewer, click here. For the ATEJ database, click here.

Note that if you’ve previously authored a submitted manuscript, you’re likely already in the database. If you don’t have your login info, clicking on “Unknown/Forgotten Password” will provide new default information that can be changed. If you’re a new user, click on “New users” on the JAT site and “New authors should register for an account” on the ATEJ site to complete the process.

For more information or to answer any questions about the volunteer opportunities for members, connect with the JAT at jat@slu.edu and the ATEJ at atej@slu.edu.