i am writing to the readers of AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology a little more than a year after assuming the stewardship of the journal. I am one year older, and I hope, a thousand papers wiser. This first year has been a wondrous learning experience, full of twists and turns. We started in July 2007 with nine associate editors struggling to learn how to use the peer review system, just to have to do it all again nine months later. Despite a few growing pains, we are pleased with the transition to eJournal Press, and we hope that authors and reviewers are finding it a pleasant change. Electronic review came to the rescue when the editorial office had to temporarily close in mid-June during the height of the Iowa City flood. Although the Medical Campus is on high ground, the stress on basic services caused by the flooding of critical buildings, such as the power plant, required our evacuation for about a week. Journal business continued unabated thanks to Vickie Akers, our editorial manager, who administered the journal from home. We are back, but the University, in particular the arts campus, will suffer long-lasting effects.
One of the early challenges we faced was the much larger than anticipated number of submissions in the area of exercise physiology. Although it took some time, we were permitted the opportunity to enlist the help of a 10th associate editor to cover this expanding area of the journal. Scott Powers from the University of Florida joined the team in May 2008 to fill in this niche and is now among the busiest of the editorial team. Scott's current research focuses on skeletal muscle redox biology, and one of his scientific interests is to determine the cellular mechanism responsible for ventilator-induced diaphragmatic dysfunction. I refer you to my initial editorial for an introduction to the other members of the team (2). I personally want to thank every member of the editorial team (Drs. Kim Johnson, Martin Klingenspor, Ulla Kopp, Barry Levin, Hiroko Nishimura, Quentin Pittman, David Pollock, Scott Powers, Rick Samson, and Celia Sladek), the staff in Bethesda, and Vickie Akers in Iowa City. I also want to express my gratitude to our “star reviewers” who have, on behalf of the journal responded “above and beyond the call.” We presented a gift to three of our star reviewers at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting. They were Virginia Brooks, Armin Kurtz, and Lisa Leon. Other star reviewers, and I admittedly risk leaving some out, who deserve special recognition are Barbara Alexander, Tim Bartness, Ken Olson, Bill Welch, Mike Wyss, Thomas Ruf, Tim Moran, Roger Dampney, Mike Brands, David Mattson, and David Randall. Thanks to them and all who review on behalf of the journal.
How are We Doing? The Dry Statistics
I can report that the journal is doing well. Our 2007 Impact Factor is 3.66, and perhaps more importantly our submissions are increasing. We received nearly 900 submissions from July 2007 to June 2008, and we are on track to equal or surpass that number this year. In the month of June 2008 alone, we saw a 20% increase over the same time last year. For those who crave statistics, our rate of initial rejection is holding steady at about 42%. Of the remaining 58%, a small fraction are outright acceptances, about one-third are “minor revisions,” and about two-thirds are “major revisions.” Our average time to initial decision is about 24 days. What about triage? We are very reluctant to triage papers, and we do so only when three members of the editorial team (Editor and two Associate Editors) strongly feel the paper either is not a proper scientific fit for the journal or will not be competitive after a full review. This has rarely occurred (<1% of submissions), and when it has, the decision is transmitted to the author within 2 days of receipt. I have tried, whenever possible, to abide by requests for specific Associate Editors, although this is not always possible, and the Associate Editors try whenever possible to use at least one of the author-suggested reviewers. Parenthetically, authors may be interested to know that it is debatable indeed whether a suggested reviewer is more supportive of publication than one chosen by the editor.
The Calls for Papers
We had two very successful Call for Papers entitled “Physiological and Molecular Mechanisms Implicated in the Neural Control of Circulation” and “Neural Integration of Peripheral Signals Implicated in the Control of Energy Homeostasis and Metabolism.” Each garnered over 20 submissions. Through December 1, 2008, we will be continuing our experiment to solicit ideas for review articles. This “Call for Proposals for Review Articles in Integrative Physiology” amounts to a presubmission inquiry. As detailed on our journal web site (http://www.the-aps.org/publications/ajpregu/proposals.htm), interested individuals should include (in a single PDF file): 1) a tentative title and abstract outlining the review and its significance, 2) citations of previous reviews on the same topic, 3) a list of publications from the past 5 years by the senior author, 4) a short list of potential peer reviewers, and 5) a brief letter of intent indicating your expertise, names of coauthors, and potential submission deadline. So far, we have commissioned about 10 review articles as a result of these proposals and have obtained a number of additional proposals that are under consideration.
Reviewers, Authors and Reviews
The most pleasant aspect of being an editor is experiencing the large number of high-quality papers submitted, the willingness of reviewers to carefully examine papers, and the responsiveness of “most” authors to reviewer comments. Even in this time of increasing stress over research funding, our reviewers still eagerly accept their assignments and review papers with an open mind. A recent letter published in Science entitled “Painful Publishing” is critical of the unnecessary demands for additional experiments made by reviewers (1). Dr. Raff and his signatories suggest
“Referees need to be more thoughtful when recommending additional experiments and to make sure that these experiments are truly needed to justify publication. Editors should insist that reviewers rigorously justify each new experiment that they request.”
Do our reviewers suggest unnecessary experiments? No doubt editors, reviewers, and authors will disagree on the answer to this question. In our experience, most reviewers are quite circumspect and thoughtful in their requests for experiments, and indeed we often see multiple reviewers requesting the same data. I truly believe our reviewers recognize that they are reviewing papers and not grant applications. Nevertheless, Dr. Raff's advice seems sensible and so I remind reviewers (and the authors reading their reviews) that suggesting additional experiments should occur if a conclusion requires additional experimental support, if the experiment will provide a significant increase in our mechanistic understanding of the question at hand, and if the experimental results garnered will significantly improve the paper and its impact on the field.
Two Final Thoughts
Before closing, permit me a little editorial license to make a few reflections (or musings) on our first year. One of the things I have come to appreciate about the AJP journals is the opportunity to publish a complete story. I have been frustrated on occasion when other journals insist on counting every word or have such strict limitations that half the data ends up in an online supplement. I recall saying “tongue in cheek” to another journal editor that “I'd like to submit a paper to your journal, but it has data.” If your experience is similar then remember that we will continue to publish the highest quality papers in regulatory, integrative, and comparative physiology whether they have two figures or twenty.
As you might imagine, we receive some interesting and memorable comments from reviewers. My three favorite “gems” from our first year are: “due to the low significance of the findings we are afraid to recommend rejection;” “there are holes here that one could drive a Mack truck through;” and “the text is over referenced but at the same time inadequately referenced.” I am still trying to figure out the latter. Thanks to these unnamed contributors.
In closing, I have come to appreciate the kind words received from authors regarding the review process and their experience with AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. I look forward to another year as Editor of AJP: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Please contact me directly with comments, concerns, and, most importantly, ideas.
- Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society