Page 54 - Summer 2018
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Publications Quality Spotlight
Our own (admittedly tailored) list includes (1) speed (in handling, review, revision, publication); (2) standard met- rics other than impact factor (IF) such as acceptance rate, eigenfactor score (, cited half-life, usage, and immediacy index (all to be defined and discussed below); (3) altmetrics; (4) quality of reviews; (5) customer service and professional courtesy; (6) ease of submission and revision; (7) having a full suite of features (e.g., open access, multi- media, supplemental material); and (8) language services for international authors and others needing assistance. There are certainly many more items that can be added, and some academic articles list up to 35 different factors! But our short list, along with that from Boston College, includes the fac- tors we need and should suffice for now.
Reputation, Speed, and Quantitative Metrics, Including Impact Factor:
Where Do We Stand?
Having created a usable list of factors for determining the quality of publications like JASA and JASA-EL, let us now discuss these factors individually, concentrating on where our journals are at present.
We begin with the most intangible but perhaps the most im- portant factor, a journal’s reputation. The reputation of JASA (and, by association, JASA-EL) has been excellent since the inception of JASA in 1929 and continues to be so based on brief postpublication author surveys by our publisher, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) Publishing (AIPP), and our recent JASA author and reader survey conducted by KWF Consulting (Hager and Rivera, 2018). This is good news for us because a good reputation helps attract good au- thors, reviewers, and editors.
However, reputations are fragile things and must continually be earned and maintained. Our attitude at ASA publications is that JASA and JASA-EL are two of many good journals competing for high-quality material to publish and that we have to keep our standards high in all aspects of the publica- tions enterprise to stay competitive.
Besides an author choosing to publish based on the reputa- tion of the journal (assuming it is appropriate for the au- thor’s material), the two other most commonly asked ques- tions by potential authors are (1) how fast is the journal editorial process and (2) what is the journal’s IF? Since we recently published an AT article about the speed factors of JASA (Lynch and Lee, 2017), let us deal with that first be- cause it is a fresh topic in our minds.
When James Lynch first came on as editor in chief in Novem- ber 2014, perhaps the biggest criticism of JASA and JASA-EL was that speed to publication was, on average, far too slow and that some manuscripts could linger for unduly long times with little attention. This problem needed an immedi- ate solution, and toward that, two strategies were pursued.
The first was hiring a full-time managing editor (Elizabeth “Liz” Bury), who, along with the publications staff, now carefully monitors the timelines and progress of all of our manuscripts and takes active steps to remind the pertinent editors, authors, reviewers, and others when one appears to be lagging. Understaffing was a problem that resulted in a slower system, and ASA publications has, with the help of the ASA’s Executive Council, now mostly filled those needs with Liz and other hires.
The problem of the “mean time to publication” was addressed by doing a careful systems analysis of the stages of the publi- cation process and identifying the significant delay areas for our publications. Time to first decision was the first piece ad- dressed, with the time in review and the time in revision com- ing next. As far as the mean time to first decision goes, we can let the numbers speak for themselves. From about 100 days in 2015 and before, the mean time to first decision for JASA has come down to its (initial) goal of 60 days in 2017. And the time to accept decision for JASA has come down from about 200 days in 2016 (and a few years before) to 147 days in 2017, with our eventual goal being 120 days (4 months).
JASA-EL has shown similar improvement, coming down from 69 days in 2016 to 46 days in 2017 for a mean time to first decision and trimming the time to accept decision from 113 days in 2016 to 86 days in 2017. These are significant gains, and the editorial team is working to improve these gains even more.
Time in review and time in revision are currently being examined to see what possible gains can be made in these areas. But in the meantime, we carefully monitor the times spent in these areas, and our use of frequent “reminders” has helped speed them up already.
However, being the fastest journal around is not our ultimate goal; being the highest quality journal we can is our goal. This means that if we need to take some additional time to ensure that a manuscript is given proper review and treat- ment, we will concede some speed to quality.
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