The idea for this Special 30-Year Anniversary Issue of Australasian Journal on Ageing (AJA) arose from discussions with Anna Howe. Anna has contributed to the AJA as a member of the Editorial Board from its foundation in 1982–1987 and again from 1993 to 2005, as a Guest Editor and as a continuing reviewer; she is also a Presidential Life Member of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG), one of the AJA partners. First ideas for the issue were discussed in May 2012 in a meeting between Anna, Tony Coles (CEO AAG) and me, and planning for the issue was started in the June 2012 AJA Management Committee meeting. The 30-year anniversary in 2012 seemed to be a timely opportunity to appreciate the legacy AJA has generated and to consider our aspirations for the future of AJA.

In exploring the legacy of the journal, the editors undertook to attempt to identify seminal papers from AJA over the 30 years from 1982 to 2011. While the paper arising from this task is published in this issue [1], the process undertaken required an in-depth examination of past published papers (1982–2011), which deserves further explication. As a first step to identifying seminal papers, all research-based papers were identified, then coded and classified into themes according to abstract (or full text where needed). Over 800 research papers were published in AJA from 1982 to 2011, which was a daunting research output to process. The thematic analysis, the first step in processing that considerable research output, described 44 themes, a testament to the diversity of research published in AJA. Themes ranged across special older populations (e.g., aboriginal health and ageing; ageing in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities; and lifelong disability-implications for ageing), care for older people (e.g., aged care services-assessment and models of care; community care-models and outcomes; and health care services-ambulatory and acute), clinical issues in ageing (e.g., clinical-medical diseases; falls-epidemiology, risk factors, outcomes and prevention; and incontinence), psychosocial issues in ageing (e.g., grandparents and intergenerational perspectives; housing choices and impacts; and sexuality and ageing), health promotion (e.g., nutrition and ageing; physical activity, exercise science, and older people; and healthy ageing-physical), research issues in ageing (e.g., research methods-measures development and testing; research methods-special considerations in an ageing population; ageing research trends) and policy issues (e.g., policy-national perspectives, policy-international perspectives). The largest groupings of papers were classified into the ‘ageing in CALD communities’ (39), ‘healthy ageing-psychosocial perspectives’ (38) and ‘research methods-measures development and testing’ (33) themes; while the smallest number of papers were classified into the ‘lifelong disability-implications for ageing’ (2), and ‘aboriginal health and ageing’ (4) themes. While the vast majority of themes were well-populated (23 themes with at least one paper per 2 years, and 11 themes with at least one paper per 3 years), some themes could be identified as either emerging (e.g., lifelong disability-implications for ageing (2 papers); grandparents and intergenerational perspectives (5 papers); sexuality and ageing (6 papers)) or underserviced (e.g., aboriginal health and ageing (4 papers); community care – the client (6 papers) ). A couple of potential actions from the findings of this process would be to: (i) develop a series of virtual issues around the most prolific themes to showcase the depth of research published in each theme; (ii) proactively encourage more submissions in the underserviced themes through commissioned papers and special issues; and (iii) undertake updates of the thematic analysis each three years to underpin strategic planning for AJA.

The AJA Management Committee undertakes a three yearly strategic planning process involving the editors, and representatives from the Editorial Board and the journal partners (Aged and Community Services Australia, Australian and New Zealand Society for Geriatric Medicine, Australian Association of Gerontology, and Council on the Ageing). Several sources of information (such as, journal statistics, author surveys, editor perspectives, and strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) analyses) are used to explore journal performance, progress against agreed past action lists, emerging issues, and future aspirations for the AJA. One of the obvious indicators of journal performance is Impact Factor, and since achieving Thomson ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) listing, the Journal has been on an increasing Impact Factor trajectory, debuting at 0.319 in 2009 (24 out of 25 gerontology journals according to Thomson Web of Science 2008 JCR Social Science Edition), and advancing to 0.940 by 2013 (16 out of 30 gerontology journals according to Thomson Web of Science 2012 JCR Social Science Edition). Other indicators of the rising profile of the Journal are the increasing number of international submissions over the past few years (in 2012, 38% of submissions were from outside Australasia, an increase of 3% above 2011 submissions) (Wiley, personal communication, 2012), and the increasing international readership (in 2012, 59% of online downloads were from outside Australasia; Wiley, personal communication, 2012). These external indicators describe a strengthening journal that is continuing to expand its horizons.

One of the important sources of information for the AJA 2012 strategic planning process was a survey of authors' views on the AJA and their motivations for publishing in the AJA. The survey identified some myths about the AJA which were reported, and hopefully dispelled, in an editorial published in the December 2012 issue of AJA [2], but are worth revisiting here. First, the perception that it is easy to publish papers in the AJA is not correct. The AJA currently has a rejection rate of above 70%, so our standards for acceptance for publication are very high. Second, the perception that the AJA is only a medical journal and is not friendly to the social sciences is clearly debunked by the results of the thematic analysis outlined earlier. The AJA publishes papers about human ageing from many disciplines, and includes quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research. In 2012, a specialist Social Science Associate Editor was recruited to AJA to increase the qualitative expertise of the Editorial Team and to ensure appropriate coverage of these submissions. Interestingly, the two major factors that authors reported would increase their submissions to the AJA are also of major importance to the journal: increasing the Impact Factor and decreasing the publishing lead time. A continuing aspiration for the AJA is to achieve an Impact Factor beyond 1.0, which would position it as one of the leading ageing journals internationally. The lead time to publishing has been a strong focus of the AJA Management Committee, and strategies used to decrease this have included increasing the rejection rate and increasing the number of pages per issue. While these strategies have assisted us to manage the journal's lead time, they have been unsuccessful at reducing it within the context of increasing submissions to the AJA: the number of submissions has risen from under 100 per annum in 2009 to over 180 in 2012. There is the potential to increase the number of print issues, if submissions continue to rise at this rate. Another strategy to reduce publication lead time is to make papers available online; since 2010, AJA has provided an Early View online service, where papers are published online and are citable within four months of acceptance.

Some other aspirations for the AJA, as expressed by the Editors in the October 2012 strategic planning day, include increasing the reach and coverage of the journal; increasing the journal's accessibility; and capitalising on the promise of emerging technologies. In terms of reach and coverage, since 2010 the AJA has been working towards enhancing contributions from the Pacific region by inviting more New Zealand representatives onto the Editorial Board, recruiting a New Zealand Associate Editor and encouraging more New Zealand manuscript submissions; expansion into Asia has also been suggested and the journal has included on its Board representatives from Asian countries [3]. Accessibility aspirations include ensuring that the AJA is meeting the needs of authors and readers, maximising access to the AJA to optimise citations (such as promoting Early View online access and maximising open access options). Emerging technologies in publication could present a real opportunity for the AJA to embrace some of the new social media platforms to enhance visibility and accessibility.

The SWOT analyses for the October 2012 strategic planning day provided some ideas around the strengths and opportunities for the AJA as we look towards the next 30 years. Strengths include: an increasing Impact Factor; Medline listing; good turnaround time from submission to acceptance; strong position as an outlet for Australasian research; special features and invited commentaries as content; trust in AJA's ethical peer review system; support of the four partner organisations; a multi-disciplinary focus; good coverage of Australian and New Zealand practice; a focus on research translation; and a solid financial platform. Perceived opportunities that emerged were: promoting Early View online; encouraging potential links with International Association of Geriatrics and Gerontology; attracting authors from other areas of the world; becoming a leading journal within the Australia/New Zealand region; lifting the AJA profile by emphasising the value of the peer-review system; publicising the 70% rejection rate (without being discouraging); encouraging submissions on topics of interest or with limited coverage (e.g., consumer-directed care; older Indigenous people); adopting a name change to reflect a more international focus; holding ongoing dialogue with principals in the sector to find out what they are researching and whether findings could be published in AJA; increasing the focus of AJA as a writing mentor; analysing ‘gaps’ in the current span of content of the AJA (undertaken in the thematic analysis); promoting awareness of both the journal and how to get papers published to authors and funders; and holding webinars on highly cited papers.

The recurring themes, from all these sources, for the focus of AJA into the next 30 years are: increasing the Impact Factor; focusing on Early View online as a remedy to time to publication; looking outside Australia; tracking reach and coverage of the journal and proactively encouraging submissions to fill identified gaps; and increasing awareness of the strengths of the AJA as a strong regional and increasingly international outlet. The action plan arising from the strategic planning process includes these ideas and the current team behind the AJA will work towards achieving them for at least the next three years.


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  2. References
  • 1
    Parkinson L, Richardson K, Sims J et al. Identifying seminal papers in the Australasian Journal on Ageing 1982–2011: A Delphi consensus approach. Australasian Journal on Ageing 2013; 32 (Suppl. 2): 611.
  • 2
    Parkinson L. AJA planning and perceptions. Australasian Journal on Ageing 2012; 31: 205.
  • 3
    Howe A. The role of the Australasian Journal on Ageing in the Asia-Oceania Region. Australasian Journal on Ageing 2013; 32 (Suppl. 2): 1217.