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Exploring the Endless Frontier

Buchman, Timothy G. PhD, MD, MCCM

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doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000002
  • Open

Progress in the war against disease results from discoveries in remote and unexpected fields of medicine and the underlying sciences.—Vannevar Bush (1)

Half a century ago, the founders of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) conceived an international professional society dedicated to the art and science of caring for the critically ill and injured. They soon recognized the necessity of timely communication of peer-reviewed specialty science and chartered the first periodical, Critical Care Medicine (CCM). Decades later, society leaders would recognize an additional need for a second official peer-reviewed periodical and launched Pediatric Critical Care Medicine (PCCM). Both CCM and PCCM have stood the test of time, now widely embraced and highly accessed as sources of contemporary knowledge and guidance in critical care. Readers and practitioners continue to rely on both journals and their exhaustive peer-review processes as a basis for changing their thinking and their practice of critical care. Competition for publication in those journals remains fierce. Many promising reports are ultimately declined both because space is limited and also because they are too close to the knowledge frontier. Publication in CCM and in PCCM requires extensive evidence to satisfy the editors and reviewers: as the “journals of record”, accuracy and completeness are paramount.

When CCM and PCCM were conceived, manuscripts and reviews were communicated by mail. Authors and subscribers eagerly awaited monthly delivery of the paper issues. The pace of exploration was in many ways limited by this pace of communication. Enter the desktop computer: while electronics accelerated the submission and publication arc, the rate-limiting steps are now the cycles of intense review, revision, and re-review. At the same time, contemporary informal communication via pre-print servers, social media, and self-publishing have accelerated the exchange of ideas. Journals are not obsolete, but neither can they ignore the relentless pressure for faster dissemination. New problems have emerged: what is the provenance of the report, and to what extent can the reader rely on the claims and the logic supporting those claims? Caveat lector is a necessary yet surely insufficient response.

Members of SCCM asked for a journal that enables rapid communication of new ideas, pilot studies, early observations, technological advances, quality innovations, therapeutic strategies, and integration of the latest studies into the knowledge base. They have also asked for that journal to maintain high standards for integrity and peer-review. There is a different balance to be struck between alacrity and certainty, between insight and vision, between accounts and guidance.

SCCM has responded by creating a third official journal dedicated to the rapid communication of new knowledge as it is generated at the endless frontier. The new journal signals its purpose in its title: Critical Care Explorations (CCE). It differs from the prior journals in several respects.

  • The timeline from submission to full publication is rapid. Our goal is 35 business days.
  • Every submission will be read and assessed by the Editor-In-Chief and a Senior Associate Editor. This editorial leadership consists entirely of seasoned editors with the experience necessary to recognizing submissions that will—or will not—make it to publication. If unsuitable for the new journal, the submission will be rapidly returned to the authors. No author wants to be kept waiting on a “not right for this journal” decision.
  • If a submission is sent for review, it means that the editors believe that it can reach rapid publication. Reviewers will be asked to identify gaps in logic, inconsistencies and ambiguities in presentation, and unsound conclusions. Reviewers will offer one of two recommendations: revise or reject. Authors invited to revise will be asked to rapidly address the concerns. The editors will then make an accept (or reject) decision. Accepted articles should be published online within ten business days.
  • Publication never awaits “the next available issue”. The journal is published by article, online only, and all articles published that month are collected into an issue for indexing purposes. In this way, authors can be confident that their report has the greatest chance for priority.
  • Publication is open access (“OA”) via a Creative Commons license. Articles are freely available to the world in perpetuity. The journal positions itself squarely in the marketplace of ideas and insights, and open access simplifies the marketing of those ideas and insights. The journal aims to disseminate those ideas to readers who are likely to have greatest interest.
  • Like all OA journals, article processing charges are levied in lieu of subscriptions. Unlike many OA journals, those article processing charges are set as low as possible to give authors as much access as possible. The decision to accept or reject a submission will always be made independent of the authors’ and institutions’ financial resources. The editor-in-chief has the discretion to reduce or waive processing charges where a severe financial hardship can be demonstrated.

The editorial leadership of this new journal— veteran explorers all—have volunteered their time and their accumulated wisdom to accelerate the evaluation, dissemination, and diffusion of new ideas. This comes from a sense of wonder, and also from that sense of duty we owe future generations. The urgency is greater than any time in the history of the medicine.

We invite you will join us as authors, reviewers, editorial board members, and readers in these journeys to the endless frontier. Echoing the poet T.S. Eliot, we aim to arrive where we have started—at the bedside of the critically ill and injured patient—caring in ways that were yesterday unimagined, today unknown, and will become tomorrow standard.

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.

-- T. S. Eliot (2)


1. Bush V. Science the endless frontier. 1945. Washington: United States Government Printing Office Available at: Accessed December 29, 2018
2. Eliot T.S.. Little Gidding. Available at: Accessed December 29, 2018
Copyright (c) 2019 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.