“Why should I publish in PRX?” We have heard this question often, and with the inaugural issue of PRX about to close, we have our first concrete answers.”
As I read this first line of the e-mail message, the thought goes through my mind “Well, I am interested in hearing these answers, because, frankly, I am still trying to understand what purpose this journal is meant to serve. If it should fill a hole in the current APS journal landscape, it must not have been a very noticeable one, because the last thing which I thought that APS needed at this time, was another journal.
But, hey, what do I know ? Let’s see what they have to say.”
• PRX continues the APS publishing tradition of selectivity and excellence, while expanding across traditional boundaries between fields and disciplines.
OK, what exactly is that supposed to mean ? Is it an interdisciplinary journal, aimed at including contributions that may not fall within the traditional boundaries of the conventional fields of our discipline ? If so, I am afraid that I shall not have much use for it.
For, the research work that I do, does indeed fall squarely within the accepted perimeter of a single, well-defined physics subfield (in my case, condensed matter physics). Boring, I know, but I think that it applies to the vast majority of physicists.
I think that most authors have in mind the community of scientists working in their own field, when they express their interest in submitting their research contributions to “the venue which will offer the greatest exposure” — journals that are merely read by a large number of individuals do not necessarily meet that criterion. Either that, or it is code for “I want a journal with high Impact Factor (IF)”.
There exists a well-respected APS journal for my area of physics, namely Physical Review B (PRB). If I want my articles to be read by a decent number of scientists in my field, who are the ones most likely to understand the work, assess its significance, provide useful feedback and, let us not kid ourselves, cite it if it warrants it, it seems reasonable to send it to the journal which most of said scientists read and where they publish their work.
On occasion, I may
get pissed at Editors who change titles of articles for no reason feel that PRB is too broad, that because condensed matter physics is so diverse, submitting articles to PRB sometimes has the undesired effect of drowning them in a ocean of other, typically vastly different articles, where they may not be noticed. In those cases, I prefer to re-direct my submission toward more specialized journals, such as the Journal of Low Temperature Physics, less widely read than PRB, but more focused on my target audience (another example of similar journals is the Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials).
And, every once in a long while I, like most of my colleagues, manage to complete a piece of work of which I feel particularly proud, or which in my humble opinion, might warrant consideration for publication in a more prestigious venue, such as Physical Review Letters where it will be featured together with articles in other areas of physics (but still identified as a “condensed matter physics” article).
Again, I am thinking that I am not “unusual”, I expect most of my colleagues to follow similar guidelines.
So, if the whole point is that of having an “interdisciplinary” readership, I am not sure how many of us will be interested. Personally, I would much rather have my paper read by someone who will say “OK, I think I disagree with this fellow, I need to write him and explain why”, rather than someone who will go “Oh… look at that… neat… wonder what all of that means… all right, dinner is ready” .
• PRX offers an open access publishing model, with all papers freely available to read and reuse, and authors retaining copyright.
(Am I the only one who bursts into laughter each time I read the word “reuse” ? How exactly is my paper going to be “reused” ?)
You mean, like the New Journal of Physics (NJP) ? Is that what this is all about ? Is APS starting to feel the heat from the competition ? If it is just about pursuing an “open access publishing model”, why not adopt that with the existing journals, instead of creating a new one ? Moreover, seriously, in the age of ArXiV, does “open access” really mean all that much anymore ?
• PRX develops new means to increase the visibility of published papers. Popular Summaries accompanying published papers, and an Editorial Commentary leading the coordinated publication of three superconductivity papers are the first two examples.
I think that many of us are eager to give a chance to other journals, like the NJP, because we like the idea of having an alternative to PRL — that means a journal with comparable Impact Factor (regardless of any “open access”, “popular summaries” and what have you).
APS should be proud of that because it is a clear proof of the success and influence of its flagship journal; at the same time, if and when an alternative to PRL emerges, it seems unlikely that it will also be published by the APS.
As for “popular commentary” — I thought that Physical Review Focus, Physics, PhysicsWorld, as well as a plethora of independent sites did that already. Again, call me a nay-sayer if you will, but I am not sure how many of us will think twice, from now on, before submitting our article to PRB, because PRX will offer a “popular summary” of our accepted paper.
The journal’s first accepted paper … on the connection between human-mobility patterns and the spread of disease, has already received coverage in several national media, including India, Germany, and Brazil, as well as the US.
Well, I am sure it is an excellent article… I am sure that there may even be some physics in there, though, frankly, I wonder how many specialized journals that deal with spread of disease and human-mobility pattern would be interested in my work on superfluidity in random media… Wait a minute, maybe I see where this is going — hear me now.
So, Nature and Science, which are not physics journals, have a high Impact Factor. They mostly publish articles in other disciplines.
So, if APS makes a journal that does the same, namely publishes mostly non-physics articles, there is a chance that it may attract articles from zoologists and neurosurgeons, and those articles will be highly cited. At that point, finally APS will have a journal with an Impact Factor as high as Science and Nature, and therefore physicists will submit their articles to it, ending this nonsense of us sending papers to journals just because they are glamorous, as opposed to pertinent… of course most of these papers will have to be rejected, since they are on a subject about which no one cares, and therefore accepting too many would be detrimental to the journal’s Impact Factor… we have a bit of a catch-22 here, don’t we ?
 Now, don’t get me wrong — Of course, physicists submit their papers to interdisciplinary journals such Science or Nature, because they sincerely believe that even zoologists and neurosurgeons will drop their jaws reading their latest, dazzling results on superfluidity in random media — the ridiculously high Impact Factor of those journals, and the fact that by publishing therein we may score points with our university administrations have nothing to do with it — nothing at all.