Fifty years, half a century, are a long time not only for human beings, but also for scientific journals. When physica status solidi was founded as a new journal dedicated to all aspects of solid state physics by K. W. Böer, W. Franz, P. Görlich, P. T. Landsberg, A. Seeger, and F. Stöckmann on 12 December 1960, nobody would have expected this new-born child conceived among quite turbulent boundary conditions to have such a long and prosperous future. Only one month after the first issue of physica status solidi was published on 1 July 1961, the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain erected since August 1961 completely transformed the world in many ways, and science certainly also was severely affected by this change. During the time of the Cold War, under the Editorship of K. W. Böer (1960–1961), P. Görlich (1962–1986), and E. Gutsche (1986–1995), physica status solidi fulfilled the important task of providing a forum for the scientific exchange between researchers from the East and the West. During those times, physica status solidi also became known for the excellent service the journal provided for its authors in terms of editorial support in copy-editing and production. More importantly, physica status solidi from the start was dedicated to keeping production and publication times as short as possible, without compromising on the quality of the peer review that published articles have to satisfy. We have done our best to maintain this philosophy over the years, also after the iron curtain came down in 1990. At that time, physica status solidi suddenly was exposed to the “advantages” of capitalism and went through several iterations of changes in ownership (Akademie-Verlag, VCH Publishing Group, Wiley-VCH) and the corresponding changes in management. The fact that physica status solidi has weathered all these changes in good spirit as a scientifically and economically sound enterprise on its own clearly demonstrates that the general concepts and ideas behind an international journal started 50 years ago are still valid today: broad coverage of all aspects of solid state physics, strict and fair peer review, and last but not least excellent day-to-day editorial support of our authors.
However, the prospects of physica status solidi were not always as positive as they are now. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain, the submission of high quality original papers to physica status solidi was dwindling, the Impact Factor of the journal had reached an all-time low, and the international awareness of the journal was decreasing rapidly. In order to counteract these negative developments, three measures were taken: (i) publication of the proceedings of international conferences with a high international standing in order to increase the awareness of physica status solidi in the scientific community, (ii) increasing the visibility of the journal by a very active distribution of published articles via the World Wide Web, and (iii) establishing a new medium for ultrafast publication of peer-reviewed articles, the Rapid Research Letter section of physica status solidi. As you can find out from the following section “Facts and Figures”, all three strategies have paid off in the long run. The publication of special issues and conferences started in 1996 and enjoyed a rapid growth, eventually leading to the foundation of physica status solidi (c) in 2002 to accommodate the by then more than 1000 conference papers submitted per year. After a short delay, this also lead to an increase of regular paper submissions, as scientists became more and more aware of the excellent service provided by the Editorial Office in Berlin and the numerous Guest Editors of major international conferences, the proceedings of which were published in pss (a), (b), and (c). Also the letter section of physica status solidi, the highly successful Rapid Research Letters pss (RRL), experienced a rapid increase since this new format was established in 2005. An extremely short publication time of, on the average, less than 15 working days plus an Impact Factor above 2.5 turned out to be a very interesting combination for many scientists.
As a consequence, the number of submitted manuscripts has increased by a factor of three since 1995, and the editorial team lead by Stefan Hildebrandt works extremely hard to process these manuscripts in a timely fashion, despite a fairly steady headcount in the Berlin office. In order to organize a fair peer review by at least two knowledgeable experts for regular submissions and outstanding conference papers, we have systematically expended our referee data base to by now more than 10 000 scientists. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of them for their help in maintaining a high scientific standard for all papers published in physica status solidi. Please also have a look at the list of the 50 most active referees in the following section, to whom I extend my particular gratitude on this occasion! A clear indication of these high scientific standards is the development of the acceptance rate for submitted manuscripts, which decreased from 70% in 1996 to less than 30% at present, both for Original Papers and Rapid Research Letters. A direct consequence of this is the steady increase of the journals' Impact Factors by almost a factor of three in the last two decades. Moreover, since physica status solidi went online in 1996, the number of full text downloads virtually took off, now approaching one million downloads per year. This also holds for the backfiles of pss (a) (1970–1996) and pss (b) (1961–1996) available online since 2006, showing the longevity of scientific results published in physica status solidi.
All in all it can be concluded that physica status solidi celebrates its 50th anniversary in very good health and spirit, and can look forward to a prosperous future. For me personally, this is the last Editorial which I have the pleasure to write since I assumed responsibility as Editor-in-Chief in 1995. Obviously, I am very pleased with the development of the pss family of journals during that time. As one should leave a party when it is at its best, I will resign as Editor-in-Chief after the pss birthday celebrations at the end of 2011 and go on to new endeavors. For me, the past 16 years were a great experience with many challenges, but also many rewards. In particular, I am deeply grateful for the unique opportunity to work with so many highly dedicated authors, referees, editors, and a wonderful editorial team towards one common goal: advancing science!
Thank you all, my best personal wishes for 2011, and happy 50th birthday, physica status solidi!