Editor in the Spotlight - Lynn E DeLisi
"Often one can even just tell from a title of a manuscript whether it will ultimately make the cut"
By Lynn E DeLisi Posted on 10 November 2014
Dr. Lynn E DeLisi, MD, is a psychiatrist in the VA Boston Healthcare system and cares for very acutely ill psychotic patients. She is also a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where she teaches residents and directs several research projects, the majority of which are on schizophrenia.
She is a founding editor of Schizophrenia Research along with her co-Editor, Henry Nasrallah, MD. They have edited the journal together for the past 28 years.Schizophrenia Research is now the largest specialty journal in the field. Over the years it has had a major impact on the field and reports on new data generated worldwide by established researchers.
Q. What does being a journal editor mean to you and what do you find most rewarding about this role?
A. I love being a journal editor, and particularly in the area of schizophrenia research. I feel that I contribute substantially to the field by facilitating the communication of important new research and advance the field through first rate journalism.
Q. What are your biggest challenges as editor of Schizophrenia Research? How do you overcome these challenges and what extra support can Elsevier provide?
A. Probably the biggest challenge is moving submitted papers along in a timely fashion. As our journal has grown, more and more papers are submitted each week and, on average, I now process 40-50 manuscripts a week. Since this is not my “day job” you can see this is quite a challenge. In addition, when a paper is sent out through electronic means for review, reviewers often ignore the invitation, decline it, or accept and then forget that they accepted it. Even with website sent reminders, they still do not review in a timely fashion. In addition, reviewers often change their email addresses, so the database we use to send out the emails needs constant updating.
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 is the solution to this problem and how do you see the peer-review process changing in the future?
A. This problem stems from the custom to make reviewing manuscripts a voluntary chore. There is nothing that reviewers receive, except perhaps being acknowledged as a reviewer once a year. This is not enough. Reviewers should be rewarded for timely completion of a review, either with money and/or with CME credits.
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. I doubt this affects authors at all; when considering which journal to submit to, authors look at where articles of interest are published, the Impact Factor of the journal and how quickly the journal will publish their paper. Online access to individual papers does not diminish this.
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. Time will tell how open access affects our journal. Times are hard and individual researchers do not have a lot of grant money. Even if the concept is good, the means to get there cannot financially burden the researcher. There are costs involved in publishing an article. That means publishing companies, funding bodies and libraries need to work together to come up with ways to provide sustainable open access.
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. I think about it all the time when processing manuscripts. A paper may contain perfectly good research and be well written, but if it is a topic that is only of interest to a small group of people, it will obviously not be widely read or cited. The Impact Factor is imperfect at best and it may not accurately reflect the quality of a journal that specializes in publishing many small data papers and not many long review articles.
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. Having interactive websites with videos and perhaps an ‘Ask the expert’ section. Websites need to be expanded. I believe that paper copies of journals will soon no longer exist. We need to consider having apps for the journal and also be able to display an entire journal on an electronic book/tablet.
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. Networking both online and in person is extremely important to keep up with the field and have the journal keep up with the field as well as solicit the best manuscripts.
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.
- Modifying the journal structure: Editor-in-Chief; Associate Editors (approximately five in different fields); Senior Advisory Board; and Peer-Review Panel/Board to do reviews, balanced by specific expertise, geography and sex.
- Developing reviewer incentives such as the above.
- Modifying the instructions to authors so that findings are put in a context that can be shown to eventually have clinical utility.
- Having new monthly summaries or commentaries on new findings in the field as a whole. In addition, having a news section about what is happening politically in the field as well.
- Being more able to facilitate international communication and collaboration by having a collaborations section and classified section and, in addition, announce funding opportunities, as well as jobs in the field.
- Must have more widespread Elsevier help in editing English language for non-English speaking people, as well as worldwide translation services.
- The journal can also work to increase the public understanding of schizophrenia through supplementary newsletters translating issues for clinicians and the public. We could have a section of the website for understanding clinical implications of current research, and routine dissemination of information about research through public support organizations.
Q. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow editors about being a journal editor?
A. The best I can think of is to learn ways to triage papers. After you have had experience over a long period, you can see what is likely to be of interest to readers and what is likely to be looked at favorably by reviewers. Often one can even just tell from a title of a manuscript whether it will ultimately make the cut. Certainly once you read the abstract, you can get a good idea of the impact a given manuscript will have. Finally, keep up with all the electronic media available, as they change each year - publishing will shortly no longer exist on paper!