The 30th anniversary of Ecological Research: past, present, and future
In 2016, Ecological Research (ER) celebrated its 30th anniversary. ER’s goal is to be the leading ecological, evolutionary, and biodiversity journal in Asia. This article introduces the development of ER, improvements to its editorial system and their outcomes, and the strategies designed to achieve this goal. ER has already become a leading comprehensive and international publication as shown by statistical evidence and its strong editorial foundation. However, some members of the Ecological Society of Japan (ESJ) retain impressions of an old stereotype about ER. The discrepancy between the current status of the journal and its stereotype may explain why submissions from Japan remain static. A new article category for ER, Biodiversity in Asia, was created to encourage Asian studies. In addition, the Forum category is dedicated to promoting a broad understanding of the ESJ’s various activities. To promote open science, the proportion of open access articles in the journal is increasing. The publication of Data papers has been accelerated to improve the public availability of excellent open data sets. ER symposia and seminars provide good opportunities for members to participate. ER financially supports the invitation of scientists internationally to facilitate research exchanges with other countries and consequently promotes the internationalization of the ESJ. The ESJ is open to the world’s ecologists, and your participation in developing ER is welcome.
KeywordsEditorial system International research Editorial strategies Journal The Ecological Society of Japan
Ecological Research (ER) is the official English-language peer-reviewed journal of the Ecological Society of Japan (ESJ) and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. Submissions have greatly increased over that time and moved from print to electronic media. Along with changes by ER’s peers, i.e., other international ecological journals, ER has seen changes in its international position and in its expected role in the ESJ.
Asia includes a wide variety of climate zones, from tropical Indonesia to the Siberian tundra, which contain several heterogeneous ecosystems. However, despite the inclusion of China and India, which are, respectively, the most and second-most populous countries worldwide, the number of ecologists working in Asia has been limited and there are more opportunities for Asian studies. Thus, ER’s goal is to be the leading Asian ecological, evolutionary, and biodiversity journal to promote ecological research and outreach in Asia. To achieve this goal, the editorial office and board have improved ER’s editorial system, improved open access publication opportunities, and begun collaborations with other journals such as the Journal of Plant Research and Journal of Forest Research.
In looking to the future of ER on its 30th anniversary, we summarize a long-term direction of ER in supporting one of the objectives of the ESJ, i.e., “contributing to modern society via the progress and spread of ecology.” To assess the current status of ER worldwide and its recognition by ESJ members, we analyzed the journal’s publication records and conducted a web-based questionnaire from December 9, 2015 to January 15, 2016 (Supporting Information ESM 1, ESM 2), which we reported at the 63rd Annual Conference of the ESJ. The questionnaire was available only in Japanese and the respondents included non-ESJ members. The questionnaire results revealed that the efforts and strategies of the editorial office and board were not widely recognized. To share this information with more people in this Forum article, we introduce the development of ER to the present day, improvements to its editorial system and their outcomes, and strategies designed to achieve the goal. We need the involvement of all ESJ members to achieve ER’s goal. We hope that this article will encourage the participation of ESJ members in ER and thus promote ecology in Japan and Asia.
Development of ER to the present day
Improvements to ER’s editorial system and their outcomes
These improvements have contributed to shortening the time from submission to acceptance (and publication), even as the number of submissions increased (Fig. 9). Many Japanese editorial board members are aged in their 30 s or 40 s; therefore, they have great potential to contribute to the further development of ER. It is also notable that the editorial board includes many foreign scientists (37 people, 43% of total), who can promote ER in their own countries (Iwasa 2005). These editorial improvements provide ER with a good foundation for being a leading ecological, evolutionary, and biodiversity journal in Asia.
Copy editing by young ESJ members (promotion of future editor development) has also begun to improve the quality of accepted papers. Previously, submissions that did not follow the required format made the work of the editors and reviewers difficult. The copy editors now confirm the manuscript format, the integrity of the citations, and the accuracy of tables, figures, and captions. To help authors improve their figures, and tables, the copy editors created an online guide (see ESM 3) [The Ecological Society of Japan (n.d.)]. Nonnative English speakers are often supported by a qualified native-English-speaking editing service at the final stage of publication.
Strategies to achieve ER’s goal
As a means of exchanging information among members and world colleagues, ER encourages the publication of Forum articles such as this article. The Forum category is devoted to discussions of the future of ecology by ESJ-nominated authors. One Forum article (Kobori et al. 2016) is already highly downloaded and widely cited (5500 downloads and 10 citations, viewed April 6, 2017). The Forum category provides a key setting to promote ecology in Japan and Asia. In addition, to enhance the public availability of excellent ecological data sets through electronic archives, a special article type, Data paper, was launched in 2011 with the cooperation of the Japan Long-Term Ecological Research Network (http://www.jalter.org/). Many data descriptors of various data sets, mainly from Japan, have already been published. ER provides free access to basic information, abstracts, keywords, and data set URLs as an initiative to facilitate open science.
It is also worth noting how ER has adapted to the rapid changes in the publication of scientific journals. In the past decade, open access journals (e.g., PLoS ONE, Scientific Reports) have grown and are challenging the status of traditional journals. To remain competitive, ER has increased the proportion of open access articles published in the journal, which accounted for 16.8% of papers published in 2016. The ESJ has so far borne the open access costs for its ER award articles (e.g., Nakazawa 2016; Suzuki 2016) and for ER symposium papers (e.g., Papadopoulou and van Dam 2017). Further promotion of open access is under discussion with the journal’s publisher. The Editorial Committee also decided to increase the number of ER-awarded papers for ER in 2015 to recognize excellence in papers from various fields (Fujita and Koda 2015; Maldonado-López et al. 2015; Matsuura and Matsunaga 2015; Senga et al. 2015; Urakawa et al. 2015). Five or so papers are now selected annually for open access publication to reach a wider audience.
Submissions from ESJ members should be encouraged to balance the cost burden for the journal (i.e., editors, reviewers, and ESJ) and the beneficiaries (authors). In addition, fierce competition among scientific journals, especially North American and European journals, necessitates continuous efforts to hold or increase ER’s position. ER’s 2-year impact factor was generally unchanged during 2009–2015 (1.279–1.565). To improve its impact factor, ER should attract global audiences by inviting papers from leading researchers or publishing special issues focusing on timely and fascinating topics. The abovementioned strategies related to the journal’s broadening of authorship and its focus on Asia will help to strengthen its impact.
Such fierce competition among general ecological journals highlights the need for journals that publish research focusing on local issues. One possible explanation for ER’s steady impact factor is the high proportion of papers focused on locally important matters. Another explanation could be because of the high percentage of fundamental descriptive or case study researches in Asia, where the population of scientists is smaller and its history is shorter than that in North America and Europe (therefore, ecological knowledge is relatively scarce). Thus, it is also necessary to maintain ER as a reliable scientific journal that emphasizes the diversity of ecological research.
Ms. Akiko Suzuki of the Ecological Society of Japan office provided valuable information for this article. We gratefully acknowledge a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for “Publication of Scientific Research Results, Strengthening international dissemination of information” (No. 251011).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors are members of ER’s editorial team.
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