Optometry and Vision Science (OVS) enjoyed a very successful year in 2008 and while the acceptance rate for submitted manuscripts is lower than it has ever been, the submission rate has increased noticeably and the quality of submissions has increased with it. OVS increasingly attracts authors from around the world in many different disciplines whose research interests are in vision and the eye and in the clinical implications of their work. I believe this attraction to OVS comes from both its high Impact Factor rating and the increasing awareness of the quality of OVS publications evident, for some new authors to OVS, from its regular and dedicated feature issues.
At the same time the positive responses from clinicians has been most gratifying. I believe this stems in part from the previews of upcoming articles (OVS Announces) which is publicly posted on the American Academy of Optometry website and which is sent by email to all Academy members (close to 4000) and any others who request it. It also stems from the fact that, beginning in 2008, the Editorial Office has required authors to explicitly state what they see as the clinical relevance and implications as part of their published article in the Instructions for Authors “it is important to include the main potential clinical implications of the work, even if it is not a clinical study.”
All of this is most positive and entirely consistent with the mission of the American Academy of Optometry, which owns the journal. So where is the embarrassment?
The wonderful challenge to the Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Board is to balance the increasing popularity of the journal with assuring its capacity to become even more responsive to its authors and readers. This is not really an embarrassment, as my Editorial title suggests, but is more correctly characterized as “an exciting challenge born from success.”
As Editor-in-Chief, I have been working with our Managing Editor, the Editorial Board and the publisher (LWW) to bring our very best manuscripts to the clinical and scientific community as expeditiously as possible. Frankly, this is one of the greatest challenges of all good peer-reviewed refereed journals.
In 2008, authors and reviewers contributed a great deal to trimming the “time to publication.” The vast majority of our authors receive a first decision within 3 to 4 weeks of submission. More than half of the manuscripts that will not be published by OVS are decided at this point and the authors thus learn about this promptly and they are able to use the excellent critiques of two to three different reviewers, the Topical Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief to quickly take steps to resubmit to other journals or use the expert critiques to redesign their research. For those whose manuscript is not rejected in those first 3 to 4 weeks after submission there may be one to three revisions needed, over time, to strengthen the manuscript to meet OVS standards before publication. A great deal of that time before acceptance is actually time in the authors’ hands (not a popular statement for an editor to make to authors!); a smaller percentage of the time needed before acceptance involves reviewer time in the constructive editorial peer-review process itself.
Both authors and reviewers have made significant cuts in the time involved in both the author rewriting/revising and the reviews. In 2008, authors actually cut the “time in authors hands” by a factor of 2. The Editorial Office is also persistent in reminding reviewers to submit their reviews within the standard 2-week review period. Taken together this helps reduce the total review time. As with other Journals in this field there will always be a few months after acceptance, of combined Editorial Office, publisher and printer time, before the actual hard copy reaches the subscriber.
This year OVS has worked with the publisher to arrange for prompt e-publication, i.e., electronic publication before the release of the hard copy (PAP, publish ahead of print). OVS does not allow e-publication until the authors and editor have approved the final proofs. (With some journals the paper, as accepted, and before final proof corrections, is the basis of e-publication. Your editor and Editorial Board are unwilling to do that given the kinds of important author corrections that invariably need to be made in all journals at the proof stage.) Our readers can be assured that the full individual e-publication they see in OVS will be as it will appear in the hard copy journal form, albeit without page numbers.
E-publications benefit our readers and our authors. They essentially offset the time delay necessarily imposed by the planning of the content of monthly OVS issues and the time needed for printing and mailing by the publisher.
Finally, the Editorial Office is working with LWW to capitalize on their new web platform for publication. The new platform will be fully implemented by August 2009. The improvements include advanced search features, better article readability in HTML, embracing rich media for publication, superior tools to manage content, and improved ease in finding supplemental material. All are welcomed advances for your Editorial Office and for our authors and readers.
So there are indeed challenges! The challenges are just the kind that this Journal and this Editor had hoped for. They are directly a result of the journal’s success and its growing appeal to authors and readers around the world. In meeting the challenges our readers benefit and we advance discovery. There really is no embarrassment in that!
Anthony J. Adams