Science Communication – Year in Review & Look Ahead

By Susanna Priest, Editor-in-Chief, Science Communication 

We have just now (as of December 11) logged in year 2017 submission number 209 to Science Communication: Linking Theory and Practice (SC). This year, already a record year for submissions even though we are not quite at year’s end quite yet, continues an upward trend that has been obvious for some time: In 2016 we had 191 total submissions and an acceptance rate for research papers of 14%; in 2015 we had just 150 submissions and an acceptance rate for research papers of 18%. Before that things fluctuated quite a bit from year to year, but still with an upward trend overall. The bottom line is that we’ve been increasingly popular and increasingly competitive, with a current impact factor of 1.852.

Our new “Research Note” submission category, also peer-reviewed, has been partly responsible for this increase. As many of you already know, we now also publish shorter (about 4000 to 6000 word) Notes reporting on novel, emerging findings – including unexpected ones not predicted by theory or other results that can be expected to inspire new research ideas, going forward. Review and evaluation of Notes is expedited to the extent practical, as are revisions of earlier submissions. Full papers normally receive three reviews, although occasionally we can decide them on the basis of just two, while Notes typically get two reviews or – once in a while – even just one. This all adds up to a lot of reviews!

Even with three Associate Editors, the newest addition being David Secko, journalism program chair at Concordia University in Canada, it has been a challenge to keep up with this surge. We may look for a fourth AE, so if anyone is interested in this volunteer work on behalf of the field, please let me know directly at editorscicom@gmail.com. Despite the struggle to keep up, at the same time it is truly exciting to see our field and our journal being characterized by such a great and growing diversity of researchers from interdisciplinary backgrounds and international locations.

By being a bit more strict about article length (our preferred length for research papers is 7000 to 9000 words, while non-reviewed Commentary essays are generally limited to 3000) and by not publishing non-essential supplements or appendices, we’ve been able to accommodate most of this growth without much (if any) impact on total time to publication. And yes, we still publish in print as well as online, although most ComSHER members can probably access the online version through their university library services.

We still pride ourselves on finding the best reviewers for each paper, regardless of the discipline, the locations of the authors, and whether the work is qualitative or quantitative. Our cornerstones for evaluation are a focus on communication, a specific focus on communicating science (including health science, environmental science, and social science as possible foci of study), a rigorous empirical approach, and a theory-based design. Theory is expected; articulating implications for professional practice is also encouraged, wherever warranted.

For those not very familiar with us, I strongly recommend a good look at scx.sagepub.com to see the full range of things we actually publish, as well as more details about procedures. As always, I welcome questions on the process involved, as well as topic suitability; we use mc.manuscriptcentral.com/sc for submissions.

Our October special issue on social media and science communication appears to have been quite well received, helping to address a gap in our research and striving to adapt contemporary theory and method to problems involving less traditional forms of science communication. Perhaps as a spin-off benefit of that special issue, we’ve continued to receive submissions in this area. Watch the journal in the next few months for other contributions on this theme!

We’re still committed to quick turnaround times, as well as a thorough and constructive review process, resulting in a first decision very likely within two to three months of submission and nearly always available within four.

And we are continually revisiting our manuscript evaluation process with an eye toward efficiencies. Right now it takes us about six weeks to get a new research submission evaluated and (if warranted) reviewers assigned. This sometimes looms as a bit of a bottleneck because we take each new submission in the order it came in rather than skipping over any of them – and risk overlooking anything. We’d like to shave that part of the process back to as close to four weeks as we can get it under the present deluge, and we continue to work on this every day. Meanwhile, please be patient – the manuscript system does not actually allow me to lose papers, so if yours has received an acknowledgment, it has been received and will be read soon.

I wish everyone involved with the journal and all those hoping to become involved in future a great holiday season and a wonderful 2018. I wish I had time to individually thank every reviewer, every submitting author, every SC board member, and especially our hardworking AEs one by one. I am aware of your contributions, and deeply appreciate each of you!