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From Editor to Author: A Matter of Perspective (With Some Tips for Authors)

Guarino, Alfredo

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Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: January 2010 - Volume 50 - Issue 1 - p 3-4
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181c95bb6
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After 5 years as European editor of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (JPGN), I wish to offer a few considerations to authors and to the readers, who are the true owners of JPGN.

Five years ago, as a scientist and a member of the academic community, my perception of an editor of a scientific journal was very different from what it is now. I thought that the editor merely decided which articles were “good enough” to be published. This is certainly true to a large extent. However, science is not a fruit tree and there is no seasonal harvest. “Epidemics” of excellent articles are followed by shortages. The editor selects articles, but time definitely plays a role in what is published. Accept too many articles, and there will be a queue to be included in the 1536 pages that are available in the 12 issues of JPGN in 2010 (there were 1280 pages in 10 issues until last year). Therefore, the editor needs to adapt to the flux of manuscripts, and the acceptance criteria may become more or less stringent accordingly. Of course, solidity and rigor are major criteria in the evaluation process, and novelty is perhaps the most important factor of all. However, other criteria are also important and at times play a major role in the success of a manuscript (what an obsolete word, by the way). A major criterion is the “temperature” of a topic, hot topics being highly desired by editors. In full agreement with NASPGHAN editors, we have tried to encourage submissions on specific topics and made calls for articles on obesity, then on hepatic and intestinal failure and transplantation, and recently, on developmental biology of the gut, liver, and pancreas. The choice of a topic is not necessarily based on the fact that the topic is currently hot but rather on what the editor thinks should be hot at that particular time. In other words, orienting science, I believe, is the major responsibility of an editor. This does not only imply selecting good articles but also requires a view of what is important or needed by the scientific community and eventually by children with clinical problems.

A factor that can improve the chances of getting published is clarity of presentation. A reader needs to understand immediately what is the background and what is the novelty of an article. Authors should consider that the title of their article will probably be read by 100-fold more people than will read the abstract, and that the abstract will be read by 10 times more people than will read the full article. We have been working hard in the editorial office to help authors improve their titles and abstracts, and I feel that authors, reviewers, and editors should pay more attention to these items.

Science is rapidly evolving. At the time of writing, the world is acutely facing the AHlN1 influenza pandemic. Taking a somewhat longer-term perspective, we are witnessing a major change in health care organization, as a consequence of massive movements of populations and of spiraling costs; finally, in an even longer perspective, psychological issues are emerging in pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition that are progressively requiring more attention, expertise, and understanding. Unlike 5 years ago, the major form of childhood malnutrition is now obesity, which, not surprisingly, strikes in the same areas where poverty is prevalent and was previously associated with undernutrition (hence the call for articles on obesity in JPGN). New issues are emerging. For example, we are becoming interested in alternative therapies for functional gastrointestinal disorders. Today, the half-life of medical knowledge is less than 5 years, and 5 years is, appropriately, the mandate of the JPGN editor.

While completing my editorship, I look forward to seeing the changes that the journal will bring to us as readers. I leave the journal in very good hands. David Branski visited the editorial office in Naples several times, and we have had ample opportunity to discuss various issues related to JPGN. I am sure David will successfully develop the journal, bringing the perfect combination of tradition and innovation. David's excellent local team will be completed by outstanding European associate editors.

Finally, a word of gratitude to all those who have contributed to the journal and worked to produce the excellent product that is JPGN today. I need to thank the ESPGHAN Councils for having selected Naples, and subsequently for their continuing support of editorial activity. A journal is a team and I had a stellar team of associate editors in Naples that covered almost all of the areas needed to effectively handle hundreds (actually thousands) of articles on all topics for the journal. I had the privilege of working with ESPGHAN President-Elect Riccardo Troncone, the former chair of the GI Committee Annamaria Staiano, outstanding ESPGHAN members including Eugenia Bruzzese, Roberto Berni Canani, Ciro Esposito, Luigi Maiuri, Francesco Raimondi, Maria Immacolata Spagnuolo, Pietro Vajro, Raffaele Iorio, Carlo Agostoni, and Alberto Ravelli, as well as with enthusiastic younger members including 2 John Harris prize winners, Vittoria Buccigrossi and Giulio De Marco.

The engine of the journal never took a break. The managing editors, Jean Gilder and Daniela Finizio, have literally built a wonderful machine, driving the journal to a highly efficient scientific product. It seems like going back to the Pleistocene era, but my introductory editorial only 5 years ago described my flight back from the Paris office of the former editor, Dr Desjeux, carrying 40 kg of article manuscripts (1). In the first few months of my editorship, Daniela Finizio was able to turn the entire JPGN submission system into pure electronics. The efficiency of the editorial office is even more evident considering that the number of submissions more than doubled in 5 years, yet the turnaround time progressively decreased, although not as much as we aimed. Our current publisher and their representative David Myers took an active part in JPGN's development. Since last summer, we have a new, attractive JPGN Web site that incorporates some useful tools, such as the option to transfer illustrations from an article to a PowerPoint slide presentation. In addition, starting with the present issue, the traditional, elegant, and formal dark blue cover has been replaced by a fresher and more stylish design.

Editors do not like impact factors, but the impact factor is the standard measure of the success of a journal. JPGN's impact factor increased progressively during the 5 years of editorship to 2.132, the highest ever, thus contributing to the prestige of all of the authors and of ESPGHAN.

My editorship was not without some mistakes and problems, for which I take full responsibility, and I count on the understanding of the many parties involved.

As editor, I wrote 3 editorials (including this one) and 1 article, the ESPGHAN Guidelines on Acute Gastroenteritis (2), for the journal and 19 articles published from 1995 to 2005. However, I did not stop working and have saved good data for submission to JPGN. I am crossing my fingers, hoping that the manuscript in preparation for submission to JPGN will be accepted (after revision, of course!)

Additional tip to authors: The JPGN statistical consultant told me that manuscripts submitted on Fridays have a higher chance to be accepted than those submitted in other weekdays. This is highly significant.

REFERENCES

1. Guarino A. JPGN in the next 5 years: from Naples to the net. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2005; 40:118–119.
2. Guarino A, Albano F, Ashkenazi S, et al. European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition/European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases evidence-based guidelines for the management of acute gastroenteritis in children in Europe: executive summary. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2008; 46:619–621.
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