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Editor in the Spotlight - Mirjam Cvetič

February 10, 2016

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"I believe that strong scientific ties to the community are crucial"

Mirjam Cvetič(opens in new tab/window) is Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Professor of Physics at the Department of Physics & Astronomy(opens in new tab/window) at the University of Pennsylvania(opens in new tab/window), Philadelphia, USA; an institution with which she has had a primary affiliation since 1987.

Her research encompasses broad areas in fundamental particle theory, including gravitational physics in string theory (with her seminal work on black holes). She has published close to 300 papers with over 15,200 citations - more than 5,000 per author - and has an h-index of 71 (source: INSPIRE(opens in new tab/window), the High Energy Physics information system).

Mirjam Cvetič

She has been a Physics Letters B(opens in new tab/window) editor since 1999. The journal ensures the rapid publication of important new results in nuclear and particle physics and the editorial team is comprised of specialists in their fields; Professor Cvetič primarily handles papers in theoretical high energy physics. Physics Letter Breceives more than 1,500 submissions per year with a rejection rate of around 50 percent. Among the articles it has published are the two papers proving the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN. It has an Impact Factor of 6.019.

Physics Letters B cover

Q. What does being a journal editor mean to you and what do you find most rewarding about this role? A. An important reason for accepting the offer to become an editor of Physics Letter B was the opportunity it offered to oversee and contribute to improving the quality of published papers in my field. One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is the opportunity to closely view the forefront of scientific activities in this field, as the letter format is a rapid way of disseminating the latest results. Another aspect is the intermediary role that an editor plays between the authors, referees, and all members of the same scientific community.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as editor of Physics Letters B? How do you overcome these challenges and what extra support can Elsevier provide? A. I joined the Editorial Board at a time when the online posting of theoretical high energy manuscripts on an electronic bulletin board (arXiv) became the norm. There was a sense in the community that publishing in refereed journals would soon no longer be necessary. We kept in close communication with Elsevier about these issues and it was great to see that the electronic publishing process improved significantly in a very short time. I have also been vigilant about processing the submitted manuscripts as efficiently as possible by closely overseeing the refereeing process and I have made efforts to inform colleagues in my community about these improvements. I believe that this has contributed to a steady submission of manuscripts in broad fields theoretical high energy physics to the journal.

Q. In many areas of research, the growth of paper submissions is outpacing the growth of qualified reviewers and resulting in pressure on the peer-review system. What do you think the solution to this problem is and how do you see the peer-review process changing in the future? A. I believe that the peer-review process is critical in maintaining the quality of scientific publishing and it is here to stay. As an editor, it is important to have close scientific ties with the community. It is colleagues in the field who accomplish the arduous task of preparing a timely review, motivated by their responsibility to the field and my editorial office.

Q. We have observed that researchers are increasingly accessing journal content online at an article level, i.e. the researcher digests content more frequently on an article basis rather than a journal basis. How do you think this affects the visibility of your journal among authors? A. Indeed, the articles in my field are typically posted on a bulletin board (arXiv) prior to being published. Thus my community has access to the articles prior to their publication. Nevertheless, the community still insists on publishing in peer-reviewed journals and it then accesses the published versions online.

Q. Academic publishing is increasingly embracing open access. How do you see these open access changes in your country? And how do you see them affecting authors who publish in your journal? A. I am delighted that Physics Letters B has become an open access journal (as part of the SCOAP3 project(opens in new tab/window)). I believe that the majority of my community continues to publish in peer-reviewed journals and this gives Physics Letters B an edge.

Q. Researchers need to demonstrate their research impact and they are increasingly under pressure to publish articles in journals with high Impact Factors. How important is a journal’s Impact Factor to you, and do you see any developments in your community regarding other research quality measurements? A. In the field of theoretical physics, citations of scientific work remain extremely important. Work is often conceptual so the number of papers that follow up and develop that work is considered a major metric of its impact.

Q. As online publishing techniques develop, the traditional format of the online scientific article will change. At Elsevier, we are experimenting with new online content features and functionality. Which improvements/changes would you, as an editor, find most important A. In the field of theoretical physics, open, online access to published work is crucial. Primarily, this involves the ability to access the published papers, but sometimes access to available computer code that may be provided along with the published article can be useful. Another aspect that is important to my community is online access to work published prior to the advent of online publishing. It is important that Elsevier ensures it is made available digitally.

Q. Do you use social media or online professional networking in your role as an editor or researcher? Has it helped you and, if so, how? A. To some extent I have been involved in some online professional networking (LinkedIn(opens in new tab/window) and ResearchGate(opens in new tab/window)) and I believe that social media may become more important for scientific communications. Nevertheless, I believe that the primary model of disseminating research results in my field will remain via online submission to arXiv and peer-reviewed journals.

Q. How do you see your journal developing over the next 10 years? Do you see major shifts in the use of journals in the future? A. I believe that the shift toward online posting of research papers - which was actually initiated in the theoretical high energy community in the mid-90s with the advent of the arXiv bulletin board - is here to stay, at least in the field of high energy physics. Nevertheless, the peer-review process also remains a cornerstone of the scientific publishing model. Therefore, journals such as Physics Letters B, with editors whose close scientific ties to the community allow them to run efficient editorial offices, play an important role in the field. This is particularly true in my field, where unforeseen new physics results in experimental high energy and astrophysics trigger strong research efforts in theoretical physics. Physics Letters B is a prime journal in which to publish this research.

Q. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow editors about being a journal editor? A. I am extremely fortunate that the excellent administrative support of my assistant, Ms. Kulynych, contributes to the efficient running of my editorial office. I believe that strong scientific ties to the community are crucial; this allows for the speedy assessment of the scientific quality of submitted manuscripts and a choice of referees who often promptly fulfil this arduous task as a personal favour to the editor.