Optometry and Vision Science is the peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Academy of Optometry and has been in continuous publication since 1924. The journal’s launch was a testament to the founding principles of the society: to advance the practice and profession of optometry through a technical scientific publication. Current practices in scientific publishing have changed dramatically over the past 94 years, but the original priorities remain intact: to encourage the publication of clinical content in a scientific manner, to provide a venue for the latest discoveries in vision science, and to serve as a valuable archive for the transactions of the American Academy of Optometry.1
One of the hallmarks of a quality modern scientific publication is peer review. Despite its limitations and potential flaws, peer review helps maintain high standards and insure scientific integrity. For OVS, peer review truly means that the journal is guided by practicing scientists and clinicians. The current editorial board has more than 250 years of collective expertise as practicing and publishing scientists, with more than 700 published peer-reviewed articles. That is an astonishing wealth of practical experience from those who serve our community and that is just the Editorial Board members. Our reviewers are drawn from around the world and contribute further to the depth of subject knowledge and experience in their scientific disciplines. It is a priority for the journal that our authors receive fair and informed consideration during peer review, and the quality of the editorial board and our community of reviewers is an important part of delivering on that priority.
Editorial Review Process
When an article is submitted to the journal, it is received by the Managing Editor, who reviews the submission for adherence to the journal’s instructions for authors and graphical standards. Once the submission is approved for review it is assigned to the Editor in Chief or an Associate Editor for first review. Articles that are not appropriate for the journal (e.g., unrelated to vision or not yet ready for peer review) are rejected with cursory comments indicating why the journal does not wish to submit the article for peer review. For these articles, detailed review comments are not provided. Those that are suitable for peer review are assigned to a Topical Editor with appropriate expertise. Topical Editors then solicit Reviewers who provide detailed content reviews along with decision recommendations to the assigning editors (revise, accept, reject, etc.). Topical Editors are tasked with interpretation of the reviewers’ recommendations in the context of other considerations, e.g., ethical concerns, format, and length. Topical Editors may also have to adjudicate split decisions and provide any additional guidance necessary to the Associate Editors. Final decisions are rendered by the Editor in Chief. With every step of this process, colleagues and fellow scientists review the work, carefully consider its technical merit, relevance to the journal’s mission, and any potential impact on the field and the profession. In most cases (more than 75%), the decision is not to proceed with publication. However, in almost every case, detailed comments and opinions from the reviewers are communicated to the authors. It is important to recognize that editorial decisions are not a count of votes for and against publication, but a balancing of priorities (e.g., novelty, interest, and impact). The content expertise of reviewers is central to making appropriate decisions as we strive to stimulate our community with quality content that is important to our readers, the Academy, and larger public interests.
From 2014 to 2015, the time to decisions rose along with a record number of submissions to the journal. To better manage this workflow, the editorial staff was increased to two Associate Editors. Additional Topical Editors were appointed to help further improve throughput. At the same time, software for plagiarism detection was implemented and new editorial priorities were articulated to the community of authors, reviewers, and editors through new Instructions for Authors (http://edmgr.ovid.com/ovs/accounts/ifauth.htm), and this has brought closer scrutiny to submissions. The additional staff and new workflow reduced the time taken to render decisions, and this downward trend has continued through 2018.
Additional improvements to the workflow are ongoing and are expected to further improve the author experience; however, there is a limit that is dictated by quality standards. It is an editorial principle and priority that each submission receives careful review and thoughtful consideration; that takes time. The collegial exchange of constructive criticism and dialog between anonymous reviewers and authors undeniably improves a final published manuscript, and this exchange of ideas is critical if we wish to maintain high quality. There is an unfortunate emphasis today on speed at the expense of thoughtfulness. The editorial office makes every effort to appropriately balance these competing interests without sacrificing the quality and reputation of journal and the Academy.
Transparency and clarity of communication were priority goals for the Journal in 2016 and 2017. A new format for the journal was released in 2017. This design has a new section at the end of the article entitled “Article Information.” Here, readers will find a revised format for communicating author contributions, listing funding, disclosing conflicts of interest, appendix, and acknowledgments. The process for authors to provide this information during submission was streamlined and improved. After deploying this new template, we discovered a flaw in the production process and this information, while collected, was not passed through to the production team. This resulted in the errata that are published with this month’s issue; an unfortunate sign of growing pains as we implement new processes. Look for additional minor style improvements over the coming year that target improved graphical standards for the journal and other enhancements to reduce the burden for author submissions.
Statistical reporting guidelines were revised in the new Instructions for Authors (http://edmgr.ovid.com/ovs/accounts/ifauth.htm). In-line with previous editorials on reporting statistics, editors and reviewers will be placing renewed emphasis on these reporting standards.2–4 The basic task in science is to measure things. Reporting the results of those measurements as clearly and completely as possible should be the common goal. Whenever possible, show the raw data. Avoid tables, bar charts, P values, and other presentations that mask the raw data and their distribution. If authors report that they have found differences by their measurements, expect reviewers and editors to ask how much, in what direction, and the precision of these measured differences. It will not be sufficient to say that one is larger than the other (P < .001); the reviewers, editors, and ultimately readers deserve to see evidence.
The current major initiatives are to improve author services and enhance the journal’s online content archives. The journal is currently surveying authors, readers, and other stakeholders of the journal to help shape the next several years. We are working to improve accessibility for the journal and our valuable archives that extend back to 1926. We are working to bring you topical collections grouped by major themes, e.g., myopia, contact lenses, glaucoma, and vision impairment.
Despite the many changes happening in academic publishing, there are some constants that have not changed. Quality content that is easily accessible is valuable to our community and this will remain the journal’s top priority. In a few weeks the latest journal metrics will be published and OVS is poised to improve in standing. The journal is currently the only optometric journal indexed by Google Scholar. If our citation ranking improves, this will be some cause for celebration by those who track such metrics. Nevertheless, our focus and priority will remain on bringing the best possible content to our community of clinicians and vision scientists as we have done since 1924. This principle was proven valuable long before current citation metrics were devised.
Michael D. Twa
Editor in Chief
1. Hirsch MJ, Weiner G. History of the American Journal of Optometry. Am J Optom Arch Am Acad Optom 1968;45:43–57.
2. Twa MD. Transparency in Biomedical Research: An Argument against Tests of Statistical Significance. Optom Vis Sci 2016;93:457–8.
3. Twa MD. Transparency in Biomedical Research: Evidence-Based Reporting Guidelines. Optom Vis Sci 2016;93:559.
4. Twa M. Transparency in Biomedical Research: Beautiful Evidence. Optom Vis Sci 2016;93:225–6.