HEPATOLOGY by Hepatologists


  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

The current editorial team begins its 4th year of stewardship of the journal. From the onset, our goal has been to maintain and expand the role of the journal as a vehicle for publication of the “cutting edge” of the science and practice of liver disease. The January 2005 issue is an example of the excitement that accompanies novel ideas and observations. In fact, we decided to illustrate 3 published manuscripts in the cover, in contrast to our usual one figure, as there is much to be distilled from these studies: Infusion of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus eradicated hepatocellular carcinoma in rats, a noninvasive measurement of liver elasticity may help determine the extent of fibrosis, and HCV persists in lymphocytes and macrophages after the successful completion of therapy for hepatitis C.

A recently completed readership survey has affirmed the direction of the journal. We received 413 responses, for an overall response rate of 14%, an acceptable, though not optimal, basis for reaching conclusions. Respondents identified themselves as having a specific interest in one of the three editorial cores of the journal at rates of 39%, 37%, and 18% (Viral hepatitis, Liver disease, and Liver pathobiology, respectively). Despite all the effort invested in every page, only 1% of the readership read the journal cover to cover. We thank (!!!) the 4 individuals for their trust, but we also recognize the demands of time and accept the majority response, where 97% of the respondents said they read the table of contents and articles of interest. We asked in the survey for the readers to rate the journal in several categories from 1 (worst) to 4 (best); the data are shown below.

Several constructive criticisms are worth highlighting:

One reader complained our reviewers are mostly from North America, which in his/her view would tend to result in less favorable reviews from manuscripts from outside the United States. The hard data are that during 2004, 49% of reviewers were from outside the United States. Another reader complained that European authors receive better treatment. Again the hard data are that in 2004, 41% of accepted papers came from North America, 36% from Europe, and 18% from Asia, with other parts of the world covering the rest. HEPATOLOGY, the journal of the AASLD, is also an international journal.

Another group of readers wanted to see more clinical research and trials published in HEPATOLOGY. There is fierce competition among journals for such studies, with newer journals appearing constantly, including one this year that carries a reputable trademark. With an average of 32 days for returning a decision and an impact factor of 9.5, HEPATOLOGY is an attractive site to publish important clinical studies.

Other comments:

  • 1“Certain fields in HEPATOLOGY are controversial. One has the feeling of the power of the establishment in suppressing or overriding such controversies. I would like to see the editor take more chances and open things up.” (A fine line for an editor to walk.)
  • 2“While quality is high, reviews are often hypercritical. It has been noted that ‘Hepatologists eat their own.’”(A message for all involved.)
  • 3“I look at articles online, not journals.” (I assume the respondent belongs to the younger generation of readers.)

It is not possible to mention all comments, but we thank the respondents for their observations, which have been the subject of long discussions among the editorial team. In addition, the editors have targeted January 2006 for the publication of a 25th anniversary supplement, highlighting past accomplishments as well as providing a glimpse into the future of liver research. There is a lot to celebrate, as HEPATOLOGY is now a mature journal, meeting the goals of its founders. In addition, the journal is not simply a place to publish research papers; it is also a mirror for those of us who have chosen to concentrate our activity in the research and practice of liver disease. And rather than a reflecting mirror, we strive to magnify the images of a dynamic and vibrant research enterprise.

And a New Year's resolution: Read HEPATOLOGY. This January issue shines with superb articles.1

Table 1. Summary of Survey
Publishes novel scientific developments1%7%46%46%
Provides information not found on other publications0%8%49%42%
Provides practical, clinically useful information2%17%50%32%
Provides a good mix of clinical and basic material2%18%42%37%
Overall quality1%5%39%55%
Overall satisfaction3%11%57%30%