Where scientific publishing is concerned, we live in a world of evolving ideals.
It is widely held now, for example, that scientific research needs to be both more open and easier to share. And woe betide anyone who measures the value of a piece of scientific work purely by the number of times it’s cited or the Impact Factor of the journal in which it is published, rather than assessing the merit of the work in and of itself.
Publishers – including IOP – are sitting up and taking note, listening to the communities we serve and responding with solutions.
It was with considerable excitement therefore that in March this year we launched Journal of Physics Communications. This new journal is part of the Journal of Physics series, which for 50 years has served the physics community, evolving in response to the development of new subject areas and new technologies, while holding on to the traditional values of rigorous peer review, high production values and strong editorial leadership.
Journal of Physics Communications will directly address two major concerns with the established scientific journal system: the aforementioned desire to ditch the obsession with impact, and the need for research to be more open.
Journal of Physics Communications seeks to achieve this vision by selecting articles for publication only on the basis of the high quality of the scientific research reported. Thus studies producing negative and null results also fall within the scope of the journal. All we ask is that the study was worth doing to advance knowledge in the area, and that it was conducted to the highest standards of scientific rigour and ethics. Unlike many journals, we are keen to publish high-quality work even if it happens to be in what are currently less fashionable areas or if it falls between established disciplines.
This change in emphasis has required a new approach to peer review from the usual Journal of Physics system. We have designed a completely new referee report form to remove any judgment of significance, and asked referees to focus on the quality of the scientific study itself. We ask authors to justify how their research contributes to advancing knowledge, but we don’t select an article on a referee’s assessment of whether or not it might be highly cited in the future.
It is exciting to start a new journal from scratch. With the opportunity to cast off some of the accepted norms of journals publishing, we were able to rethink our whole approach and also address some of the on-going challenges journals face. One such challenge is the diversity of our Editorial Board. We were keen to recruit a board that represents the full range of physics researchers, including early career researchers. During the selection process we kept in mind various factors such as gender, geographic location and career stage, and the result has been an enthusiastic and supportive group covering a range of disciplines and profiles.
The journal opened for submissions in April and has proven popular with authors making direct submissions and with those transferring their articles from other IOP journals. The first issue has now been published and, like every article published in Journal of Physics Communications, all the content is free for all to read immediately on publication.
Journal of Physics Communications will be funded by article publication charges (APCs). The first 150 articles accepted for publication in the journal will have the article publication charge waived completely. Thereafter the APC will be £1000, $1495 or €1200 depending on the currency it will be paid in. We’ve planned a series of discounts and waivers to help authors from less developed countries publish in the journal, and to reward our referees and Editors. All articles will be published under a Creative Commons attribution licence. This means that anyone can read, download and modify the work as long as the original source is cited, opening all sorts of opportunities to share the results more widely and perhaps open doors to new collaborations.
The JPhys series has 50 years under its belt, but the launch of Journal of Physics Communications demonstrates the series has plenty of life and will continue to adapt to the challenges of a changing environment over the next 50 years.
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