To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
The year 2005, the first in my editorship of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, has been a year of significant change for the Journal, thanks to the efforts of our editorial staff and editorial board and the cooperation of our publisher, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Although many of the changes are easy to see, there have been substantial modifications to less visible but nevertheless important elements of the Journal’s enterprise. Retrospective analyses typically do not meet with much favor with the reviewers of manuscripts, but in this instance, it is helpful to cast a backward glance to see how far the Journal has come in 1 year and to let you know what is to come over the next year.
Changes have been most evident in the print Journal. Beginning with the January issue, three key elements of the publication showed updating: structured abstracts, the Topical Table of Contents, and the Preview Table of Contents.1,2 Abstracts were placed in a color field to offset them from the article. Beginning with the April 1 issue, abstracts for all articles were structured, with the following abstract headings: Background, Methods, Results, and Conclusions. The structured abstract helps readers to quickly grasp the essence of an article; readers with little time to read articles can preview large quantities of data in a short amount of time. Many journals feature structured abstracts, and we think that this element enables the Journal to keep in step with current trends in medical publishing.
In addition to the structured abstracts, the January issue featured a Topical Table of Contents as well as a Preview Table of Contents.1 The Topical Table of Contents enables readers to view all of the articles—original articles, case reports, ideas and innovations—that pertain to a particular body section in a single place in the Table of Contents. As the name implies, articles are organized by topic rather than by article type. The Preview Table of Contents serves to show what is coming in the next issue. Both of these features are in service to the reader who has limited time and who may want to quickly digest material pertinent to his or her particular practice or area of specialization.
Beginning with the February issue, online-only Case Reports and CME articles displayed a one-page “teaser” in the print Journal. These one-page samples allow the reader to get the flavor of the articles, and encourage readers to read the entire article on the Journal’s Web site. They also remind readers of the print Journal that there is additional peer-reviewed content online that does not appear in the print Journal.
April 1 saw a streamlining of the Letters and Viewpoints section.3 After receiving numerous verbose Letters to the Editor and not-so-brief Brief Communications, we decided to limit the text of the submissions in this section to 500 words, five authors, five references, and two figures. The effects of this policy change are just now being realized, given the large backlog that we needed to publish. However, the new policy enhances these submissions and enables authors to distill the essence of their communications into tightly worded packages.
An ongoing area of improvement has been with the quality of the figures. The editorial office has worked diligently with authors to improve figure quality. As with the Letters and Viewpoints, the fruit of these labors is only now beginning to be seen; it will become more evident in the next few months. In addition, as of August, there are no more color charges to authors.4 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, the Journal’s publisher, has graciously decided to publish all figures in color at no cost to the authors. This prompted me to write an editorial in the August issue, calling on all authors to submit color figures of the highest quality. Plastic and reconstructive surgery is a highly visual specialty. Because of this, only the highest quality visual images should be printed in the Journal. As time goes on, these improvements will become evident.
A final area of transformation with the print Journal is the publication of supplements. This year, PRS published the Annual Meeting Abstracts5 and Craniofacial Techniques6 supplements.
We are looking forward to more topic-specific supplements, and are pleased to publish them both in print and online.
PRS Web Site
The online Journal enjoyed substantial updating and advancements this year. Most obvious was the complete redesign of the Web site, www.plasreconsurg.org. After lengthy deliberations and design iterations, the final redesign went live on the Web with the September 15 issue.7 It incorporates a much more visually appealing home page, Editor’s Pick articles, articles grouped by section, a grouping of the recently published supplements, an improved CME interface, and an overall easier log-in process. The incorporation of videos, long a Web site feature, will become both more common and a primary feature of the site. We have already received numerous compliments on the new design, and are committed to continually refining and improving the site (Fig. 1).
One of the primary upgrades to the Web site came early this year. With the February issue, the Web site initiated the PRS Advance Online articles.2,8PRS’ Advance Online provides rapid online publication of selected papers that have recently been accepted for publication and that may have immediate implications for clinical practice or research. All the articles in Advance Online have undergone the same rigorous peer review process as all other papers submitted to the Journal, and the editors select the papers appearing in PRS’ Advance Online. Advance Online enables the Journal to publish papers online well ahead of their appearance in the printed Journal, thus greatly reducing publication times. Papers placed in Advance Online are available in a PDF format; the PDF is a provisional document that corresponds to the article as it appeared upon acceptance.
In both the print and online Journal, numerous other updates were made this year. We think that these changes not only provide aesthetic improvement but also confer functional assistance to the readership. We look forward to further advances in the coming months.
Manuscript Submission and Review
Visible changes to the Journal were not the only changes made this year. Subtle changes to many editorial procedures and systems were initiated that have greatly enhanced the Journal’s overall capability. Most notably, the Journal moved to a completely online manuscript submission and review system. Dubbed “PRS’ Enkwell” (www.editorialmanager.com/prs), this Web-based system has proven very successful, so much so that in May we mandated that any and all new manuscripts submitted to the editorial office had to be submitted using the Enkwell system.9 The traditional system of mailing in multiple copies of a manuscript, figures, and disks has now been completely replaced. The benefits of the new system include the following:
- Cost savings, to authors and the editorial office alike. Now, only one digital set of figures is necessary, compared with the multiple sets of glossy prints required in the past;
- Greatly increased speed of review. It now takes, on average, 2 to 3 weeks to complete a review, compared with 6 to 7 weeks in the past; and
- Increased number of overall submissions. An increase of 50 percent has been seen; the editorial office has received nearly 2200 new manuscript submissions this year, compared with 1400 in previous years.
The vast majority of authors and reviewers, after learning how to use the system, find its ease of use, speed, and cost savings to be truly remarkable.
Because the Journal is receiving 50 percent more manuscript submissions than in the past, and because we have a finite number of pages we can publish, we have necessarily needed to increase our rejection rate. We have asked our reviewers and editorial board members to subject the manuscripts they review to even more stringent criteria, so that only the very best papers will be published. We now require that any article submitted have at least a 6-month patient follow-up, with a year or more being preferred. In addition, any paper with a substantial number of patients, statistics, or an important study design is automatically sent out for biostatistical review as a first stage in the review process. Our papers need to incorporate correct statistical analysis and study design and methodology. Otherwise, the data will be flawed. Figure quality and color are now critical factors for the review of submitted articles.4 The editorial office is returning manuscripts because of poor figure quality, and requesting color figures to replace black and white photographs. And we are becoming more insistent that papers submitted to the Journal conform to proper English grammar. We believe that with more rigorous reviews we will be able to accept and publish better manuscripts, and make the Journal even better. This process will take time, however, and we appreciate your patience in seeing it take form.
Important Unseen Changes
Some important things have taken place that remain unseen but represent, nevertheless, important changes to the Journal. These include changes to the structure of the Journal’s editorial board, an improved Citation Index score, a new contract with our publisher, and assistance to hurricane victims.
In May, the editorial board voted to undergo numerous policy changes, the most dramatic of which was the creation of section editors. Section editors were elected for the following six sections: breast, cosmetic, experimental, hand/peripheral nerve, pediatric/craniofacial, and reconstructive. These section editors were approved by the Executive Committee of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in July, and they officially took their positions at the editorial board meeting in September. They will assist me in assigning reviewers to articles pertinent to their sections, provide tie-breaker reviews, and help provide overall leadership for the Journal. Their ideas and energy have already proven invaluable.
A second unseen change that took place this year was the improvement in the Journal’s Citation Index score. The 2004 Citation Index score for PRS was 1.872, which ranks the Journal first out of all plastic surgery journals and 33rd overall out of 139 surgical journals (which includes all surgical specialties). PRS articles were cited 14,107 times in other articles in 2004. This is a significant improvement over the previous year’s score, and indicates that PRS continues to be the most desired journal in which to publish plastic and reconstructive surgery articles. We hope that the score will only increase in the years to come.
Since 1946, PRS has been continuously published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. This year, the publisher proactively approached the American Society of Plastic Surgeons with an offer to continue the publishing relationship. After negotiations, we are pleased to announce that Lippincott Williams & Wilkins will continue to publish the Journal, having agreed on a new 6-year contract with the Society. Their support and partnership ensure a stable publishing “home” for the Journal, and we look forward to working with them.
A final unseen but significant item this year has been the Journal’s assistance to victims of the hurricanes that devastated Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas.10 Online Journal content has been given free of charge to all hospitals and plastic surgeons in those areas declared by Federal Emergency Management Association to be disaster zones. The Society has provided a large number of assistance initiatives to its members in these areas, and we are proud that the Journal is involved in these efforts.
The year 2005 has truly been a year of change, updates, and improvements to Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. It has been a challenging but rewarding first year for me as Editor-in-Chief. I am grateful for your support as we build on an already marvelous structure that was handed to us from our predecessors, especially Dr. Robert Goldwyn. I anticipate that there will be more changes in 2006. Stay tuned!
Just because everything is different doesn’t mean that everything has changed.
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