This is my final year as Editor-in-Chief of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise ® (MSSE ®), and I am pleased to again report that the state of the journal continues to be strong. In my first editorial back in January 2006, the goals outlined for my editorship were “to continue improving fairness, thoroughness and timeliness of manuscript reviews, and enhance the quality of basic, applied, and clinical science published by our journal.” Although much remains to be done, in my opinion, our editorial team has largely achieved those goals over the past 7 yr, and a review of some of these accomplishments seems timely.
At the start of my editorship, the greatest challenge to our journal’s editorial operations was the increase in annual submission rates that had begun before my editorship, when MSSE ® converted to an online manuscript submission process. That challenge threatened to swamp the journal’s ability to provide timely reviews of manuscripts. The increasing submission rates have continued unabated throughout my editorship, and MSSE ®’s annual submissions will approach 1300 this year, almost 20% more than during my first year as Editor-in-Chief. To cope with the heavy editorial workload, we expanded our roster of Associate Editors by 50% over my editorship. Besides adding new Associate Editor positions, we also converted Foreign Consulting Editors, previously a largely ceremonial designation, to regular Associate Editor status, enabling better editorial workload distribution and positioning MSSE ® as a truly international scientific journal. We also implemented a triage style “pre-review,” in which the Editor-in-Chief and teams of Associate Editors conduct rapid electronic review and discussion of all new submissions so as to quickly identify and return to authors, without a lengthy peer review, those submissions clearly inappropriate for publication in MSSE ®. Lastly, we now ask reviewers to submit their evaluations of manuscripts within 2 wk rather than the 3 previously allowed. As a result, MSSE ®’s submission-to-acceptance and submission-to-rejection times have declined by 16 (12%) and 23 d (40%), respectively, during my editorship, and our review process remains timely for authors despite the 20% increase in submission rate.
Increasing submissions also threatened to unacceptably increase the in-press delay time for accepted manuscripts and even to degrade the overall quality and utility of MSSE ®’s scientific content. Contractual limits to MSSE ®’s annual page allowance permit publication of about 275 articles per year, representing approximately 22% of total submissions at current rates, and if acceptance rates are higher, the excess adds to the “in-press” delay. Acceptance rate in the year before I became Editor-in-Chief was 32%, and throughout my term, I have pressed the Associate Editors to increase selectivity by decreasing manuscripts accepted for publication to less than 25% of submissions. MSSE ®’s acceptance rates declined progressively, and last year, the Associate Editors achieved my target. However, in-press delay continued rising and reached almost 230 d during the fifth year of my editorship. Therefore, we obtained approval from the college for a purchase of additional pages for MSSE ® during 2011 and 2012, and implemented a number of new formatting rules for authors that aimed to constrain average article length. As a result, in-press delay has now fallen to 156 d. Also mitigating in-press delays, MSSE ®’s online journal implemented e-publication in advance of print for accepted manuscripts, which provides reader’s online access to fully citable versions of all manuscripts within about 3 wk of acceptance. The online journal Web site now also offers readers access to MSSE ®’s entire legacy content.
We believe that the Associate Editors’ increased selectivity has improved quality and relevance of MSSE ®’s content. MSSE ®’s Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Report impact factors have risen progressively from 2.552 (2004–2005 articles) at the beginning of my editorship to 4.431 (2010–2011 articles). In addition, MSSE ®’s Web site continues to experience growth in the number of visits and page views over the previous years. The continued increases in submission rates suggest that exercise science and sport medicine researchers recognize our journal as one of the best choices for disseminating their most important scientific findings, and the fact that about 70% of 2012’s submissions came from outside the United States is evidence that our journal’s reputation is international.
The linchpin for MSSE ®’s responsive and selective editorial review system is our team of dedicated and scientifically expert Associate Editors. Each year that I have served as Editor-in-Chief, I asked several long-serving Associate Editors to rotate to the Editorial Board to create new opportunities for college scientists to get involved in journal operations and infuse fresh editorial perspective. This year, we welcome incoming Associate Editors Timothy Derrick, Mark Grabiner, and Michael Welsch as we thank outgoing Associate Editors Ross Arena, Randy Braith, and Stephen Messier for their many contributions and service to MSSE ®. Over the course of my editorship, 60 volunteer scientists have served MSSE ® as Associate, Consulting, or Book Review Editors, and their dedication and expertise underlie our journal’s success.
If the Associate Editors are the linchpin, the Editorial Board Members and invited guest reviewers are the gears that power MSSE ®’s editorial review system. These volunteers share their expertise and time providing evaluations of manuscripts under consideration. However, Associate Editors consistently have difficulty identifying qualified and willing reviewers to participate in the peer review process. Furthermore, although most reviewers provide fair, thorough, and respectfully articulated evaluations, we continue to receive too many superficial and thoughtlessly worded reviews that do not facilitate the Associate Editor’s decision-making process. I believe that participation in peer review is an important and necessary responsibility for all members of the scientific research community, and therefore, I urge you to prioritize participation in journal peer review and, when invited, to take the time to prepare scholarly and constructive reviews.
Except for our superbly talented Managing Editor and Editorial Services Office staff, MSSE ® is almost entirely the product of contributions from dedicated, part-time volunteers, and as I have said, I believe that the product has been remarkably high quality. However, as MSSE ® moves to the future, I believe that online and other electronic means of content delivery will supplant traditional print content delivery. In that environment, the tempo of editorial operations will almost certainly need to be much faster and more complex than is acceptable for our current print-oriented delivery processes. The college should consider new approaches to journal operations, such as employing a salaried and full-time Editor-in-Chief and a cadre of senior Associate Editors who would be able to devote the energy and time necessary to take the journal to that next higher level of success.
My final observation is that being the Editor-in-Chief of MSSE ® has been one of the most rewarding activities of my professional career. The breadth of our journal’s content has educated me to research concepts from many areas outside my own. Working with the authors, reviewers, Associate Editors, and Editorial Services Office staff been a pleasure. As I write this, the American College of Sports Medicine Publication Committee’s search for the journal’s new Editor-in-Chief is still underway, but I expect that my successor will have been named by the time that this issue is published. I am eager to finish strong in my final year as Editor-in-Chief, and I look forward to working with my successor to ensure a seamless editorial transition during the second half of this year.
Thank you and happy new year.
ANDREW J. YOUNG, Ph.D., FACSM