The sky is not falling and the state of the journal is good. These are essentially the conclusions of the committee that reviewed Applied Optics in 2012. The conclusions speak directly to the concerns stated in my December 2010 editorial “Identity Crisis.” The committee’s report is reassuringly positive, but it also provides recommendations to ensure the journal continues to fill an important and unique niche for the optics community.
The committee surveyed readers, authors, reviewers, and editors about their impressions of the journal, including the quality of the journal and their regard for it. The committee also held follow-up interviews with some of the respondents.
Indeed, the journal is held in high regard. A substantial majority of respondents (more than 75 percent) feel the quality of the journal has stayed the same or increased in the past five years. A minority of respondents felt the quality had decreased. The reasons cited for this decline were the publications were not science (I actually take this as a positive comment because Applied Optics is not a science journal but an applied one), contained poor analysis, were duplicative, or provided poor interpretation. I take these criticisms seriously. They indicate our reviews need to improve and our criteria for publishing manuscripts can be more stringent.
The report conveys an important message applicable to all OSA journals: Impact factor should not be the sole measure of a journal’s value. Given the applied nature of the journal, impact factor is not an accurate reflection of Applied Optics’ value. For example, a search of U.S. patents issued in the past five years reveals that, in terms of optics journal citations, Applied Optics is second only to Physics Review. It would appear that many in our reader community are involved in technology development. They rely upon published results to drive company interests. Since patent citations do not contribute to impact factor calculations, we need to highlight this fact to potential authors.
The report’s primary concern was the confusion that exists between manuscripts best suited for Applied Optics versus Optics Express. This issue is being addressed by OSA’s Board of Editors. Consequently, the board asked the editors of all OSA journals to look carefully at their journal definitions and to update reviewer feedback forms to ensure the form properly reflects the journal’s character. This will continue throughout the year.
The planned upgrade of OSA’s review system, ADS, should help remove some of this confusion. I have proposed that, during manuscript submission, ADS should present authors with information that helps them select the journal best suited to their manuscript. I am also working with OSA staff to develop a transfer letter that editors of other journals should send to authors pre-review when they receive an applied paper that is better suited for Applied Optics. In light of the definition process and submission process to a specific journal, the editorial staff and I will reconsider the resubmission policy we instituted two years ago.
Looking to the future, the review committee cautioned against the journal content remaining static. We need to ensure that the journal scope remains sufficiently broad to meet the needs of all applied work in optics. The journal needs to be nimble and capable of drawing in developing areas searching for a technical home. My editors and I will develop a process to identify and capture new topic areas. A primary tool we will use is special issues.
The committee also recommended that Applied Optics promote the use of supplementary data, such as video explanations and optical design files from Oslo or Code V, and that we revive a brief article format, such as “Laboratory Notes,” to encourage practitioners to share insights, methods, and tips to others without the overhead of preparing a full article.
Over the next year, the journal’s division editors, topical editors, and I will develop a plan for implementing several of the committee’s recommendations. I am also open to ideas from you, the reader community. Please feel free to submit your thoughts and suggestions on the journal’s future to me. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph N. Mait
Editor in Chief, Applied Optics