Editor in the Spotlight - Mira Petrovic

"Build up a good, reliable network of reviewers (and treat them with lots of love ;-))"

Mira PetrovicMira Petrovic is research professor at Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), Girona, Spain andCatalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain. She is an environmental analytical chemist with expertise in analysis of trace organic emerging contaminants in environmental samples, and study of these contaminants’ fate and behavior in the aquatic environment and during wastewater and drinking water treatment.

Trends in Environmental Analytical ChemistryShe is the Editor-in-Chief of Trends in Environmental AnalyticalChemistry; a relatively new journal launched in March 2014 devoted to publishing concise and critical overviews of the rapid changes and development in the field of environmental analytical chemistry. It publishes 4 issues per year. It currently has no Impact Factor and the rejection rate is 60% but this is mainly down to the papers submitted often being out of scope.

Q. What does being a journal editor mean to you and what do you find most rewarding about this role?

A. It's an honor to be Editor-in-Chief of a journal such as Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry. It allows me to have a unique international perspective of cutting-edge research in the field.  The most rewarding and gratifying part of it is to see a good paper published and then cited by other scientists in another journal. It is kind of an endorsement that I am doing my job well.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as editor of Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry?How do you overcome these challenges and what extra support can Elsevier provide?

A. As mentioned above, Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry is a new journal devoted to publishing concise and critical overview papers mainly by invitation. So, my biggest challenge is to operate its take-off and convince researchers, especially those at the highest level, to submit papers to a journal with no Impact Factor as opposed to a more well-known journal in the field. It is not an easy task and I have, just like many editors, experienced rejections (or no responses at all) to my invitations.

At present, the Elsevier representatives provide excellent and rapid advice and assistance.  They have been very supportive and help with professional editing and promotional campaigns to name a few. At this stage of “infancy” the imperative is to publicize the journal and increase the visibility of the good papers that we publish.  If we make sure that our papers are noticed by the community, I am convinced that the number of citations will grow and eventually we will get a respectful Impact Factor.

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. Peer review is crucial in maintaining paper quality. However, finding good reviewers who are willing and ready to do a review can be a frustrating task for an editor. As a researcher, I can say that I am overwhelmed with the number of invitations I receive to review papers for other journals. My workload simply does not allow me to accept them all. But, also I am an author and it is evident that it is in the interest of every scientist to act as a referee.  I would almost go so far to say it is an obligation, since every scientist needs his/her article to be peer-reviewed. Therefore we should “pay” this service by providing a service. For editors, the key is to have a good record and not to approach the same reviewer too often. We should aim to balance between approaching typically busy experienced researchers and young researchers.

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 do not think the visibility of the journal is reduced; researchers still pay attention to the journal in which the paper is published. However, the temptation of the readers to see the full content of the journal and other papers can be increased by introducing more attractive links to the journal and its content when viewing papers 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. In my opinion, open access is still not a sufficiently developed concept.  From one side we have increasing mandate for funding agencies (for example EC Horizon 2020, national agencies) where all publications resulting from funded projects need to be freely available, but from the other side there is no clear mechanism to cover the cost (with the exception of some institutions). So in practice, it results in top slicing research grants to pay for publication. Another challenge is around both improving the perceived quality of open access journals and also in attracting good authors to submit to those titles.

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. The Impact Factor remains the gold standard in my field. At the same time there is also a lot of criticism regarding its validity as a measure of journal importance (and especially of article importance). Therefore, it should be used with restrictions just as one of the indicators of the journal quality, but not as the only one. I think, in future, new ways (for example Scopus Article Metrics) to calculate impact in a field will become more relevant and more widely acknowledged.

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. The presentation of papers online improved dramatically over the years with different options available today, such as linked references, Interactive Plot Viewer, video presentations etc. All of these stimulate the interest of readers, however the authors need to be encouraged to use them.  I am sure in the future we shall experience wider acceptance of these new tools.

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. I have to admit that I am not big user of social media (totally against Facebook), but to a limited extent active on online professional networking.  Personally, I have a LinkedIn account and an account on ResearchGate that I sometimes use to find information and check researchers before soliciting articles for the journal.  Twitter in my opinion has some real possibilities for highlighting important upcoming articles, but I still need to pursue this option.

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. By nature, I am always optimistic so I see Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry listed in all the major databases, with a high Impact Factor.

Q.Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow editors about being a journal editor?

A. Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry is a new journal and my first experience as an editor, so I am still “learning the ropes” so to speak. But, I quickly learnt several things:

  • choose carefully your team (editorial board)
  • build up a good, reliable network of reviewers (and treat them with lots of love ;-))
  • distill the manuscripts before sending them to the reviewers
  • promptly process the manuscripts (one of the keys of success)
  • speed up communication with the authors and reviewers
  • above all, maintain the integrity. Or in other words reject what is not worthy of publication even though each published paper counts a lot in a new journal
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