THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’S FAREWELL
This is the end of my time with JAN. It has been a real privilege for me to have been the Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Advanced Nursing since 2003.
JAN has grown from 41 papers in its first year of publication in 1976 to around 250 articles every year and, in my 9 years as Editor-in-Chief, some 2250 articles have been published, running to something approaching 25,000 pages of print copy in all. The steady rise in the quality of nursing research over the past decade has been noticeable and in JAN, as in other top nursing journals, the quality of research reporting has markedly improved.
Despite the fact that there are now many more journals that publish papers from nursing research and scholarship, and that many more of those journals are of high quality, JAN has held on to its standing as one of nursing’s top journals worldwide. It has maintained its position among the top ten in the ISI impact factor listing every year for a decade and more. JAN does not have the highest impact factor of all, but it holds the distinction of being by far the most-cited nursing journal in the world. I am pleased to be leaving JAN while it is in good shape. There was no pressure for me to step down, but I wanted to leave when things were going well. The world of journal publishing is fast-changing and JAN is entering another new era. It is timely for a new Editor-in-Chief to take over.
When I took over at the start of 2003, JAN was just in transition from handling manuscripts in paper form to online submission and management of all papers using Manuscript Central. That was a major shift in terms of the ‘inner workings’ of the journal, and the ways in which authors and editors were now working. And, for readers, it was a significant development that JAN was now available online as well as in print. What a novelty to be able to access JAN online! The print version of JAN, however, has not changed all that much over my 9 years in post. There has been some tinkering with the cover design and occasional reorganization of the layout, most notably in 2007 when a separate section for review papers was introduced. One of JAN’s great strengths is that is continues to publish papers of different types – review papers (all types), original research reports (all methods), research protocols, methodological papers, concept analyses and theoretical, philosophical and discussion papers. Other journals have a much narrower range of content. JAN’s eclectic character is highly valued and I hope that it will continue.
When I introduced my ideas for JAN as its new Editor-in-Chief (2003, 41(1), 1–3), I made clear that I had no intention to seek to change fundamentally the original mission of JAN. However, I did suggest that there were some changes in emphasis that I would like to see. My aspirations were encapsulated in the three watch words I suggested for JAN - quality, relevance and impact.
The quality of JAN papers very definitely has improved. An internal review of JAN undertaken in my first year in post had revealed that key information, such as sample size and other crucial methodological details, was quite often missing. That such deficiencies were commonplace in health research as a whole had become highlighted by systematic reviews. It is now well understood that high-quality research reporting is absolutely essential. Accordingly, we have conveyed this to JAN authors in the guidance we give about the structure and content of papers in our Author Guidelines and in the essential requirements we lay down for JAN papers. We are aware that some authors dislike JAN’s prescriptive approach, saying that it is antipathetic to the encouragement of individuality and creativity in research. But I make no apology for the more guided approach we have taken in recent years. JAN papers are now more consistently of better quality as a result, and all are published with a clear, well-structured abstract.
It was my hope that relevance to nursing– to the real world of nursing – would become a stronger feature of JAN. Of course, I now realize that whether or not a paper has relevance is a subjective judgement, and that perceptions of relevance will vary according to person and context. But I think there has been real benefit in requiring every paper to highlight for readers in a summary box ‘what is already known about this topic’, ‘what this paper adds’ and ‘implications for practice and/or policy’. Other journals have copied this feature and it is now regarded as good practice in journal publishing. Authors also have responded positively to the requirement that papers must be written in language that is relevant for JAN’s international readership, and showing awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. JAN was one of the first nursing journals, I think, to provide authors with specific guidance on this. It is not easy to write in a way that really is meaningful for a diverse international readership, but it is a skill that seems to be improving as editors and authors become more aware of the implications of online publishing.
The nursing research community is much more aware nowadays of what the Impact Factor is, and there is much more pressure, at least in the university sector, to publish in journals with a high impact factor. The impact factor of nursing journals has been rising slowly but steadily over the past few years, but even the best are still low. It is no secret that I do not get too excited about this metric and that I object strongly to any attempts at artificial inflation. But of course I am pleased that JAN has held its own among the top ten in the ISI impact factor listing, and especially that it has done so with a relatively low self-citation rate. Of course, it is important that JAN’s impact factor keeps rising. Even more important, I think, is that JAN authors work hard to maximize the impact of their own paper, both in the way they write it and in what they do with it once it is published. Publication is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. In the very first issue of JAN (1976, 1, i), the founding editor James P. Smith wrote in his opening editorial: ‘It is not our intention to permit the Journal of Advanced Nursing to become an end in itself. It must be a means towards the ends of improving the effectiveness of the practice of nursing and midwifery, of enhancing the standards of nursing education and management’.
Of course, what we now well understand is that the transfer of new knowledge and evidence into practice and policy involves processes that are exceedingly complex. In nursing and health care, the science of knowledge transfer and translation is still in its infancy. It would be nice to think that JAN can and does impact on nursing practice and policy but, in reality, its influence only really can be ‘upstream’ and usually only in the form of contributing a small piece to a larger body of evidence. We have used a variety of methods to promote selected papers that we think have potential to exert an influence, for example, though our media outreach scheme, highlight papers in Editor’s Choice, and by encouraging authors to take up the opportunity for Open Access publishing in JAN. I do think that journals in general and JAN in particular could communicate more effectively with those who have influence over the uptake of new knowledge and evidence for nursing and healthcare practice and policy. New online technology is opening up exciting new opportunities to do just that.
Some journals already are experimenting with what is called ‘layered content’ where the reader chooses the level of detail, deciding whether or not to progress beyond the abstract to the text, choosing to read the text in varying levels of detail, and deciding whether to click open tables and figures, or click onto live references, additional data sets and external resources. There perhaps also could be bespoke adaptation or summarization of papers for sub-groups of readers (e.g. practitioners and managers). Online journals have the capacity to go beyond communication and venture into conversation, encouraging interaction between reader and author, and among readers, through such activities as rapid response, postpublication critique and connections to social media. My successor already has launched JAN onto Twitter. The old JAN website was closed down at the start of the year when JAN moved onto the WileyOnlineLibrary web platform (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jan). JAN is poised for an exciting future in this new era of online journal publishing.
Exciting times ahead
I will watch JAN’s future progress with interest. And I also will look back with pleasure on the challenges and enjoyment I have had during my time as Editor-in-Chief of the journal. I know that there have been a few unhappy authors who have felt that we did not serve them well, and I only can apologize for any misjudgements or mishandling of manuscripts that have happened during my watch. Most authors, I am glad to say, tell us that they are satisfied with JAN. When I have been at conferences at home and abroad, running workshops on writing and publishing, the overwhelming impression I have gained is that JAN is a valued journal, and a journal that authors want to get published in.
Probably the most memorable event of my 9-year period in office was the celebration in 2006 of JAN’s 30th anniversary. We published a Special 30th Anniversary Issue (2006, 53(1)), which opened with editorials written by James P. Smith, Jane Robinson and myself. Then followed a selection of twelve papers that had appeared in JAN over its 30 years, each accompanied by a contemporary commentary written by a distinguished guest author. We also had a party with a suitably decorated cake. Fun aside, the occasion brought home to me just how farsighted it had been, way back in 1976, to launch Journal of Advanced Nursing and just how many people had contributed to its ongoing success.
The role played by an Editor-in-Chief is arguably important, but absolutely crucial is the work put in, week in and week out, by the other members of the editorial team. It is the Editors who work most closely on the manuscripts, and with the authors, to get into final form the 250 papers that we publish in JAN each year. My sincere thanks to the Editors I have worked with, past and present, for their support and collegiality during my period at the helm. In particular, and on behalf of the whole team, our thanks and good wishes go to Debbie Kralik and Jacqueline Fawcett whose appointments with JAN finish at the end of this year. Their respective skills and experience have been invaluable to JAN. And despite their distance, Debbie based in South Australia and Jacqui in North America, they have been close and trusty colleagues and we all will miss working with them. My thanks too to JAN reviewers, editorial board members, authors and readers. All of these groups play a part in the ongoing success of JAN. Last but not least, I want to thank JAN’s publishing team at Wiley-Blackwell. JAN is very fortunate indeed to have a publisher that has sustained, supported and nurtured this journal over the years. So, as I say fare well to Journal of Advanced Nursing, my thanks go to everyone who has worked for and with JAN during my period as Editor-in-Chief. And my very best wishes go to my successor, Roger Watson, and the team that will work with him in the coming years.