SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
7 September 2017
Volume 18 Issue 9
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Survey Says! Results from the SETAC Journals Survey

Jen Lynch, SETAC Publications Manager

Earlier this year, the Publications Advisory Committee (PAC) and the editors-in-chief of the SETAC journals Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM) and Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) conducted a survey to determine how our publications were perceived by our authors, reviewers and members. I’d like to start this article by thanking everyone who contributed their thoughts – it was a terrific success, with 947 responses, and provided tremendous insight.

Operationally, the consensus was that the SETAC journals were on par with or better than our competitors. However, the survey results have mirrored what the editors and I have heard verbally at SETAC meetings – we need to improve our time to issue publication and pagination. When the journals moved to online publication, we implemented both “Accepted Article,” in which the accepted raw manuscript is published online with a DOI, and “Early View,” where the final typeset version of the article sans pagination is posted online. The survey and oral feedback indicate that this is insufficient for grant renewals and career progression. We are exploring options to remedy this.

Survey SETAC Journals
The evenly divided results solidified our current copyediting and proofing practices.

Two other survey results stood out with regard to timeliness. First, we asked authors if they prefer a light copyedit in favor of a faster time to publication or a thorough copyedit, even if it increases time to publication. The results were evenly divided. Therefore, we are not changing our current copyediting and proofing practices. We believe that quality cannot be sacrificed for speed and will continue to maintain high standards. The journals serve as the lasting archive of research output; we feel it is our job to ensure that the articles communicate the findings clearly and articulately. The second result concerned the time it takes to conduct a peer review, and both authors and reviewers preferred a detailed and thoughtful peer review over a rapid turnaround. Feedback also indicated that more journal-specific guidelines would be helpful so that reviewers are providing insightful and appropriate comments to the author. Both IEAM and ET&C have recently revised their reviewer guidelines in light of these comments.

The long-term, philosophical questions that we asked included data deposition, the impact factor, peer-review processes and open access. Generally, respondents stated that the impact factor was not the main driver for where they chose to publish. This result counters the verbal feedback we receive continuously when soliciting articles, where we often hear that the impact factor is not high enough to warrant consideration. Both journals saw impact factor improvements this year, but unless our members are submitting their best research papers to the journals, the impact factors will not continue to improve.

Open access is far more important to readers than it is to authors or funders. Likewise, overall demand for data deposition remains in its infancy. We asked if data should be shared on an open repository, if it was acceptable practice to ask readers to contact authors for data, or if journals should stop dictating how data is shared. Among SETAC members, the opinions fell roughly in thirds. In contrast, results from the authors survey were more comfortable with the current practice of soliciting data from the authors (49%).

Survey SETAC Journals
Some of the strongest and most animated open comments surrounded the questions about peer review.

Some of the strongest and most animated open comments surrounded the questions about peer review. ET&C and IEAM both conduct a single-blind peer review, where the identity of the author is known, but the reviewers are anonymous. A few people lobbied for double-blind peer review, where both the author and the reviewers are anonymous. These respondents felt that double-blind would reduce bias against women authors, younger authors and authors from developing world countries. On the flip side, many argued for open peer review, where all identities and comments are visible. Neither IEAM nor ET&C are considering a change to the single-blind peer-review system at this time, but it is a regular topic of conversation at PAC and journal editor meetings.

ET&C and IEAM are your journals and publish research that reflects SETAC science priorities. We continuously strive to maintain high quality standards and an author- and reviewer-friendly process. We appreciate all of your feedback on this survey, and we welcome it any time of year.

Author’s contact information: jen.lynch@setac.org

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