What’s real and what isn’t? This seems to us a useful framework for a year-end look at Optics Express. From viewpoints that are either too close or too distant, perceptions of reality can be distorted, and sometimes a reality check is needed. Let’s say that the inside view of Optics Express is the one the Editorial Board and the OSA staff have, and the outside view is the one readers, authors and reviewers have. From both sides achievements and shortfalls are evident.

On the achievement side of the ledger, we’ve just concluded volume 3 of publication. The page count and article count are both satisfactory, informal indices of quality and reliability stand at higher levels than before, and the ability of the Editorial Board and the OSA staff to publish peer-reviewed research to tight deadlines remains unsurpassed. OSA guarantees publication of general submissions within eight weeks.

Keeping in mind the fairly inflexible interval needed for two written reviews by external referees, we suspect that no comparable performance has been delivered by a regular science journal in this decade, and maybe never in the period since 1958 when citations began to be collected by the Institute for Scientific Information. The citation impact factor plays a role in many author’s decisions about their journal of choice for submission, so we like to remind potential authors, and readers too, that Optics Express articles are included in the ISI citation database, and that Optics Express was accepted for inclusion in the database after only six months in operation, more or less immediately after ISI arrived at standards for recording citations of electronic publications.

On the other side of the ledger, the list of shortfalls is unfortunately not empty. It’s true that most of the shortfalls are being registered against internal goals and are largely out of sight, but some are quite evident. The most troublesome shortfalls are Internet-related, and might be deemed not our fault, but we chose the Internet as our medium and don’t propose to back away. Nobody applauds a newspaper whose deliveries are late, and we’re in something like that position when the Internet doesn’t perform as expected. For reliable deliveries newspapers count on the absence, or at least the general predictability, of traffic jams, but predictability would be an entirely different matter for newspapers if street traffic were increasing daily at the rate of Internet traffic. While this is good on the whole, it is definitely not something Optics Express can control.

Recommendation of specific commercial service providers is still troubling, but it continues to be necessary in some important cases. We would like readers and authors to have a wide choice, and are still frustrated by the inability of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to support ftp procedures fully, allowing Netscape to remain the only recommended submission channel. In another area where we would prefer an alternative, we nevertheless recognize that the rigid control of the QuickTime movie format by Apple gives readers a good platform-independent basis for reception of multimedia video publication. Also, we know that many authors would prefer a more friendly submission process, and we would quickly offer one if easy-to-use templates could be provided. However, as yet no major word processing vendor offers templates that have been stable through even two modest product upgrades.

On the positive side, all of these and other Internet and software-related problems are certainly temporary. The ability of the optics community to make increasing use of Optics Express in the face of them is encouraging. The start-up of other all-electronic journals in physical science is also encouraging because it will bring further increases in familiarity with electronic publication by both authors and readers. In the meantime, while we’re waiting for the future to happen, we have two New Year wishes: we’d like to hear from anyone who wants to share experiences, good and bad, and give us suggestions for improvement of Optics Express, and we’d like the chance to publish an article by each reader of these remarks (but please don’t send them all at once).

With best wishes for a productive 1999,

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