Science Communication: By the Numbers

by Susanna Priest, Editor-in-Chief

Camano Island, WA

Here is some good news, mostly numerical, about our journal. The acceptance rate records are now complete on 2016 submissions to Science Communication: Linking Theory and Practice (with the exception of one lone straggler undergoing revision that is expected to arrive by August). During 2016 we received 191 submissions overall (including commentary, editorial material, new book “roundups,” and other odds and ends that the manuscript system counts along with actual research submissions). Of these submissions, 160 were research articles intended for peer review. Of those 160, we have accepted 22 or 14% for publication.

Please take just a second to think about what a lot of reviews and decisions that entails, and please believe me what I say we are incredibly grateful to the ComSHER members, SC Editorial Board members, and other science communication specialists all over the globe who have participated in that process. This has allowed us to continue to provide timely feedback (almost always after three months or less from submission) to our submitting authors, without sacrificing the quality or depth of our reviewing process. For a closer look at what we actually publish (always recommended for anyone considering submitting to us, especially for the first time), visit us at scx.sagepub.com.

Just for historical context, in 2015 we received 150 overall submissions and accepted 23 (18%) of the 127 research submissions – yielding a very similar number of successful papers, interestingly enough. The acceptance percentages for each year from 2012-2016 varied, ranging from this year’s 14% up to 19%, and averaging 17% over the five years. A quick back-of-the-envelope moving average calculation reveals no obvious trend in those numbers, even though submission numbers themselves have varied quite a bit.

We use a “cohort” system for calculating acceptance rate. For submissions made during each calendar year, we wait until the entire cohort has been decided before considering our counts final. Some journals use decisions made during a calendar year instead. But looking at those numbers on a running basis, since relatively few papers get accepted after a single round of review, can be misleading. (Our acceptance data for the year don’t change as new items are decided, in other words.)

Our just-announced Social Science Citation Index/JCR impact factor for 2016 has nudged up just a bit from 1.820 to 1.856, scoring another gain consistent with the trend in each of the past five years. (In 2012, it was just 1. 436. Our new five-year impact factor is 2.138.)

Our new “Research Note” submission category has proved popular, with the first three accepted Notes scheduled to appear in our August issue. This category is designed to accommodate shorter empirical papers (quantitative or qualitative) and offers a slightly more efficient path to publication as we prioritize their processing whenever possible. They are peer reviewed but ordinarily with just one or two carefully chosen reviewers, in contrast to our normal three. They are ideal for getting intriguing empirical results that might inspire additional research into the literature efficiently. Theory is still needed but unexpected or not fully explained findings are welcome, and we expect most theory to be presented more succinctly than in a full paper.

Just like full research papers, Notes must have a theoretical foundation, however, and also have solid design and methods, be clearly about communication, and be about science (broadly defined to include technology, health science, environmental science, social science, and technology). Those last two – being about science and about communication – must seem fairly obvious for a journal titled Science Communication, but some of you would be surprised what we get on occasion! Please see my essay in the February 2017 issue for clarification on our submission categories, including length preferences, or feel free to write me directly at editorscicom@gmail.com. We consider papers about any form of communication, that is, mass or interpersonal or cross-cutural, strategic or journalistic, organizational or interdisciplinary, involving new media or older forms.

We do consider papers about public opinion formation, risk perception, and other directly related research topics, but we also expect those authors to offer some conclusions about what these mean to communication itself – either its process or its practice. And we are not limited to quantitative social science; we consider all empirical work, including case studies and both qualitative and rhetorical approaches. We do not normally consider purely theoretical papers, but we have occasionally published history and philosophy papers that are relevant to our work and rest on factual foundations as well as theoretical ones. We consider STS studies to be our close cousin.

Please keep an eye out for our upcoming special issue on “science online” later this year. See you all in Chicago in August!

Susanna