As we enter 2014, it is timely once again to acknowledge the excellent editorial support provided to Grass and Forage Science by its team of Associate Editors and the many external reviewers whom they enlist to ensure the expert peer review of submitted papers. The valuable input of both these groups is completely voluntary and absolutely vital to ensure the smooth progress of papers towards publication.

The make-up of the journal's team of Associate Editors, and the Advisory Editors who support them, is set to undergo some major changes over the next year. We welcome Associate Professor Sergio Garcia (Australia) and Professor Yingjun Zhang (China) to the team of Associate Editors. We bid farewell with thanks Dr Ed Charmley (Australia) but we will not be losing his expertise completely. Dr Charmley and former Associate Editor Professor David Kemp have both agreed to become Advisory Editors. We look forward to their continuing input. Further changes to the editorial teams will appear on the inside cover of the journal as we progress through 2014.

The main task of Associate Editors is to conduct the peer-review process by obtaining the expert opinion of external reviewers. We have both acted as external reviewers many times for other journals, and we are well aware of the requirements in terms of time and effort. It therefore concerns us that the editorial team is experiencing increasing difficulty in getting people to agree to review papers for the journal. At times, Associate Editors have had to invite ten or more scientists before obtaining the minimum of two external reviewers for each paper. Apart from the frustration involved, this takes much more of the Associate Editors' time and delays the publication process. We remind readers that the reviewing of papers for a journal is not an ‘external irritation’, but an integral and vital part of being a practising scientist. The next time you receive such an invitation, reflect on how you would feel as an author if the publication of your paper was delayed by potential referees continuing to decline this task. We hope you will then accept the task, which really need not take much of your time.

The focus of the peer-review process should be fully on the assessment of the scientific merit of submitted papers, but we are still receiving papers that require substantial editorial revisions due to authors' disregard for the journal's requirements. As we said in a previous Editorial, ‘Let there be no doubt about our position as Chief Editors – it is the authors' responsibility for ensuring that their paper is written in clear English and with due regard for the journal's editorial guidelines. Any transfer of this responsibility to editors or reviewers is a distraction from their main task of assessing the science in a submitted paper.’ As Chief Editors, we will return poorly presented papers to authors without peer review.

The four key requirements for a paper in Grass and Forage Science are that: (i) it should be relevant to the remit of the journal; (ii) the scientific content should be original and worthy of international publication; (iii) the English should be of a high standard, clear and precise; (iv) the journal's guidelines, including the structure and instructions for correct formatting of tables, figures and references, must be followed strictly. The guidelines are available on the journal's website (, together with an indication of the papers which fall within the scope of the journal. We recognize there is scope for updating these guidelines. A major task we have set ourselves for 2014 is to rewrite both the Author Guidelines and the website text describing the scope of the journal.

Finally, it is very pleasing as Chief Editors to report that the most recent Impact Factor for Grass and Forage Science has increased from 1·099 in 2011 to 1·567 in 2012. This reflects the increasing citation of recently published Grass and Forage Science papers in other published papers. We can also report major and positive changes in the way our journal papers are being read. For example, the annual rate of full-text downloads from the journal's website has increased from a few thousand in the early 2000s, to more than 30 000 in 2010 and more than 65 000 in 2012. The current indication is that the number of full-text downloads for 2013 will exceed 70 000. The journal also receives 4000–7000 unique visits per month to its website. These impressive numbers highlight the importance of the electronic component in the total publication effort of the journal.