EHJ editor-in-chief Thomas Lüscher: “It’s quite clear now that the journal is not just about original research, but also about influence and education.”
While impact factors may still be controversial in some corners of science and clinical research, in academic publishing they remain the clearest statement yet of journal quality. This is why the ESC and its journal publishers had such huge cause for celebration last year when the ISI Web of Knowledge announced its impact factors for 2010 and the EHJ’s move into double digits.
This drive to improve the journal’s quality is not just evident in original research articles, but in its full editorial spread, which has seen substantial recent efforts in the range and quality of invited content. “We’ve been extending our news coverage with CardioPulse,” says Lüscher, “and publishing more guidelines, editorials and commentaries. We think these can be extended even further.”
More invited manuscripts is one important strategy for next year, when, in January 2013, the EHJ will become a weekly publication. “It will bring us in line with JACC and Circulation, which are both weekly,” explains Lüscher, “and give us a better reading rhythm. The psychology of reading is changing, and we have to change with it.”
“It’s also quite clear now that the journal is not just about original research, but also about influence and education,” he adds. To illustrate, Lüscher cites the instance of the ESC’s 2009 guidelines on infective endocarditis, which since publication in the EHJ have generated 119 citations but a remarkable 48,000 downloads. “It’s a typical example of how the journal is moving,” says Lüscher. “Here is use by physicians in practice for their own education and resources. It’s not just about impact factor but about the influence the journal is having on the everyday life of physicians.”
Such a huge number of downloaded papers also reflects the publishing drift of medical journals - away from the print-only concept of just a few years ago to one which, eventually, will be electronic only. “It’s not a question of if, but when,” says Lüscher, “but it will happen, probably within the next ten years. Already, we’re well aware that our younger subscribers are online users only, and we’ll see this even more here in Munich when subscribers choose paper or electronic.”
With weekly publication the business model of paper publishing - with print and distribution costs - also becomes increasingly challenging. Electronic publication will make the finances of weekly publication more manageable.
However, Lüscher does not expect weekly publication to dilute the quality of the journal, or increase the acceptance rate, which remains at around 10%. “We have been seeing a steady increase in manuscript submissions,” he says, “which this year will rise to around 3700. We anticipate that the growing impact factor and weekly publication will make the journal eve more attractive and continue the trend. It is already a very high rejection rate, which makes more people unhappy than happy with the outcome, but our main aim has to be manuscript quality.
To soften the blow of rejection, the EHJ recently introduced a scheme for transferring good quality rejected papers to appropriate sister titles in the ESC journal family, and this, says Lüscher, is already seeing huge benefits. More than 500 manuscripts have so far been transferred to other ESC titles, from which both the authors (75 papers published so far) and the journals have derived benefit. The European Journal of Heart Failure, for example, increased its impact factor to 4.896 in June, now ranking it in the top twenty of world cardiology journals.