When Ed Koch was Mayor of New York City in the 1980s, he was famous for asking this question of everybody he met—from taxi drivers to bank presidents. If it's hard for mayors to know how things are going, it's even harder for scientific journals.
At Epidemiology, the signs are favorable. Our submissions continue to rise (10% over the last 2 years), and the submissions are getting steadily more interesting—lucky for editors and readers, not so lucky for authors competing for our page space. Even with an increase in pages, we were able to accept only 16% of original research papers in 2009. As slight compensation, our rejections were made in record time. We returned 63% of submissions without peer review, nearly all within 7 days. While the pain of rejection is unavoidable, we believe it is more tolerable (as with removing band-aids) if done briskly.
Among the manuscripts that advanced to full review, the median time to a first decision was just under 7 weeks; 99% were within 3 months. Papers that received full review had a 40% chance of being accepted.
What other clues can we glean about our performance? The International Society of Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) launched a new prize last year for the best paper in environmental epidemiology. Notwithstanding our status as the official journal of ISEE, we had no inside track in this competition—and we were pleased when the prize was awarded to an Epidemiology paper.1
World-wide access to Epidemiology continues to expand—more than 2000 universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and other institutions have paid access to the journal, and many more institutions in developing countries have free access.2 Our publisher launched a new platform for our website last year—more user-friendly and with new flexibility. There were 300,000 downloads of Epidemiology articles last year, and the number is growing.
As much as we dislike one-dimensional evaluations,3–5 we note that Epidemiology ranks among the top epidemiology and public health journals by any measure. We owe this not just to our authors but also to our reviewers and (in particular) our Editorial Board, who provide a disproportionate share of reviews. We give special thanks to 5 members who have just rotated off our Board: Donna Baird, Eduardo Franco, Frank Gilliland, Tom Koepsell, and Noel Weiss are a distinguished team, and we gratefully acknowledge their service. We are delighted to welcome a stellar class of new Board members: Stephanie Engel, Timothy Lash, Marc Lipsitch, Richard MacLehose, Maya Petersen, Lianne Sheppard, and Ira Tager.
Maybe Mayor Koch asked people how he was doing because he wanted an assessment on the spot—or maybe he was just trying to let people know he valued their opinions. At Epidemiology, we value your opinion. If you have suggestions or complaints, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org—or stop by our office in the Snow Building in downtown Durham.
1. Baccini M, Biggeri A, Accetta G, et al. Heat effects on mortality in 15 European cities. Epidemiology
2. The Editors. Epidemiology: New access, new opportunity. Epidemiology.
3. Hernán MA. Epidemiologists (of all people) should question journal impact factors. Epidemiology
4. Wilcox AJ. Rise and fall of the Thomson impact factor. Epidemiology
5. Hernán MA. Impact factor: A call to reason. Epidemiology