The RCM ‘Instructions for Authors’ have not been changed significantly for some time. In view of the often dramatic developments in our discipline over the past few years, some changes are overdue. This Editorial describes three changes in editorial policy that will be reflected in a revised version of the ‘Instructions’, but that will be applied to all future submitted manuscripts.
Protein identification by mass spectrometry
Following this Editorial, readers will find a Letter from Professor David Goodlett, an Editor of RCM, that describes the criteria expected for identification of a protein on the basis of mass spectrometric data. This is an issue of increasing importance, and these criteria will be applied as RCM editorial policy with immediate effect.
Hypothesized ion fragmentation mechanisms and fragment ion structures
The postulation of detailed fragmentation mechanisms has a long history in organic mass spectrometry, and has its place in that it is the only way to systematize many otherwise unrelated observations. Modern quantum chemistry calculations can provide useful information for ions of modest size, but are not always available at levels of theory that provide reliable results, so most investigations must fall back on experimental information about structures of fragment ions and their mechanisms of formation and decomposition. Accurate and precise mass measurements can place limits on (and sometimes define unambiguously) the atomic composition of an ion. The reaction connectivities among all ions in a mass spectrum can also been sought by MS/MS and MSn techniques. Mass shifts of fragments from judiciously altered sample molecules, for example, a methyl replaced by an ethyl group, or appropriate specific isotope labeling, have long been used to provide information about which part of the original structure has survived in any particular fragment or to reveal details of the fragmentation process itself. Other subsidiary techniques, like kinetic energy release measurements, can sometimes suggest whether a fragmentation reaction is, for example, a simple bond cleavage or a complex rearrangement process. All of these experimental methods may not be available or even appropriate in any specific case. Nonetheless, the Editors of RCM have concluded that papers that are mainly devoted to postulation of ‘fragmentation mechanisms’, involving hypothesized ion structures, must provide a level of experimental evidence that justifies the amount of speculative discussion. Papers that do not meet this requirement in the opinion of the Editors will be returned to the authors.
Level of English usage
Since its founding in 1987 by John Beynon, RCM has sought to assist authors whose first language is not English by editing the text prior to sending the paper for review, and repeating the process for the revised version if accepted for publication. This was done as a contribution to the international spread of our discipline. However, the recent growth in the number of manuscripts submitted to RCM has meant that this feature is no longer sustainable. Manuscripts received in the future that are written in English that is ambiguous or incomprehensible, in the opinion of the Editor, will be returned to the authors with a request to resubmit once the language issues have been improved. Of course, this policy does not imply that all papers must be written in ‘perfect’ English, whatever that may mean. Rather, the criterion will require that the intended meaning of the authors must be clearly understandable, i.e., not obscured by language problems, by referees who have agreed to review the paper.
All of these changes will be reflected in an updated version of ‘Instructions for Authors’ that will appear in the journal very soon.