The ISI® 2008 Impact Factor (IF) for Journal of Ecology was 4.262, once again confirming the high overall quality of our published output.
Metrics of journal quality, especially IF, are used for all sorts of purposes, both good and bad. On the negative side, one purpose for which they are sometimes used by scientists in one field is to criticize the quality of work in another. Within the biological sciences, IF is sometimes used to criticize ecology, because IFs for some journals in other fields are much higher than those for ecology (similarly, IFs for ecological journals tend to be higher than those in which, say, taxonomists and palaeontologists publish). The most common IF is calculated by adding up all citations in year t of the papers a journal published in years t−1 and t−2, and dividing by the number of papers the journal published in years t−1 and t−2. To a considerable extent, the best journals in some fields of biology have higher IFs than the best journals in ecology simply because a high proportion of citations in those fields accumulate within the first year or two of publication, after which citations die away. In contrast, good ecology papers gather citations more slowly but over a much longer period. For example, one of the most regularly cited papers ever published by Journal of Ecology, even today, was by Alec Watt (1947). The difference in temporal patterns of citation in different fields is shown by the greater proportions of ISI-listed journals in ecology, biodiversity and conservation having citation half-lives for the papers they publish of >10 years, compared with journals in other fields of biology (Table 1). Using only one metric to compare fields of science is akin to comparing chalk and cheese. Different fields get cited at different rates, and different fields accumulate citations idiosyncratically.
Table 1. Cited half-life statistics for different journal categories. Journal of Ecology is in the Ecology category and has a cited half-life>10 years
Number of journals in category
Number of journals with cited half-life>10 years
Percentage of listed journals with cited half-life>10 years
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Biodiversity and Conservation
Medicine, Research and Experimental
It is therefore encouraging to see ISI now publishing a wider variety of journal metrics, including an IF based on a 5-year citation window (Journal of Ecology had a value of 5.209 for this metric in 2008, placing it 14th in the list of 124 journals in the ISI Ecology category and 10th amongst the 156 Plant Sciences journals). However, another significant metric is the traditional, but lesser known, Immediacy Index. The value of this metric for Journal of Ecology increased from 0.591 in 2007 to 1.216 in 2008, placing us 12th in the Ecology category and 9th in Plant Sciences. Immediacy is important because it reflects the speed at which new papers begin to be cited. The general increase in this metric over time (Fig. 1), and its doubling from 2007 to 2008, shows that Journal of Ecology papers are becoming ever more rapidly assimilated, and incorporated into the literature cited by the research community. Moreover, while these papers are being cited more quickly following publication, there is no evidence that citations are falling away faster: the half-life has been >10 years since at least 2000.
In March 2009, a survey commissioned by the Special Libraries Association voted Journal of Ecology to be one of the top 100 most influential journals in Biology and Medicine. The Special Libraries Association is an international body representing the interests of thousands of librarians and information professionals in over 80 countries. Journal of Ecology triumphed over numerous journals in the subgroup ‘Plant Ecology and Related Vegetation and Soil Sciences’ and has made it into the top 100 alongside journals such as Ecology and American Naturalist.
Following an uninterrupted rise for several years, the number of manuscript submissions received by Journal of Ecology during 2008 remained almost the same as in 2007. This cessation in increase in submissions was clearly temporary, as, at the time of writing, we are projecting a greater than 10% increase in submissions in 2009 compared to 2008. The current acceptance rate for submitted papers is around 25%. Despite the high workload for Editors, Managing Editor, Journal Administrator and the Associate Editorial Board, we still manage to provide first decisions on reviewed manuscripts in a mean of 35 days. The names of those kind enough to review manuscripts for us between the beginning of August 2008 and the end of July 2009 were published in issue 6 of volume 97 (pp. 1459–1461). Once more, we thank all those who reviewed manuscripts for us, especially those who provided detailed reviews in as short a time as we requested. We also urge all members of our research community to participate in the reviewing process when asked to do so. It is an essential part of getting the best research published in the best condition possible, and an interesting, satisfying and informative activity in which to be involved. In addition to the reviewers, we extend our grateful thanks to our excellent and loyal Associate Editors, who are vital in providing insight and recommendations about submitted papers.
We believe that Volume 97 of the Journal of Ecology has been one of the best collections of articles in the history of the Journal. Included in the output were two important Special Features, both of which assembled seminal papers in fields of ecology in which there has been much progress in recent years, and in which Journal of Ecology has been at the forefront of publishing. The first Special Feature, entitled Plant–Soil Interactions and the Carbon Cycle, was published in issue 5 (pp. 838–912) and Guest-Edited by Richard Bardgett, Gerlinde de Deyn and Nick Ostle. The second, on Facilitation in Plant Communities, appeared in issue 6 (pp. 1117–1214), and was Guest-Edited by Rob Brooker and Ray Callaway. Despite appearing towards the end of 2009, these papers are already attracting citations. The most-cited paper to date from our 2009 output is also on facilitation. It is a contribution in our Future Directions series of papers (Maestre et al. 2009), which aim to give ecologists the opportunity to announce their ideas – both in terms of novel questions, hypotheses and approaches, and a brief manifesto for achieving new insights in ecology. We have now published several papers under the Future Directions banner, and once again invite all readers to consider submitting their ideas for such papers. The Editors are always happy to be consulted about the appropriateness of a submission to this (and other) series of papers. The articles in this series are fast-tracked to publication, and all of those published to date are being well-cited.
In connection with the 10th INTECOL Meeting held in Melbourne in 2009, we published a Virtual Issue of selected papers published in the last three years in Journal of Ecology, which were either written by ecologists with affiliations in the southern hemisphere, and/or based on research carried out in locations in the southern hemisphere. This collection of papers can be downloaded at http://www.journalofecology.org/view/0/virtualissuejul09.html.
John L. Harper Young Investigator’s Prize
It was with great sorrow that we learnt of the death of John Lander Harper early in 2009. John was a President of the British Ecological Society, a former Editor of Journal of Ecology, and a contributor of many classic papers to the Journal. The Journal published an affectionate and informative tribute to John, written by his long-term collaborator and friend, Roy Turkington (Volume 97, pp. 835–837). Judging from the many comments we received following the publication of this piece, it was much appreciated for the insight it provided into John both as a scientist and as a person who influenced and inspired later generations of scientists. As a tribute to his astonishing contributions to the field of plant population ecology, and for the benefit of today’s readership, we assembled a Virtual Issue of several of his classic publications which appeared in Journal of Ecology. This Virtual Issue can be freely downloaded at http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/journals_publications/journalofecology/virtualissue_harper.php.
The Harper Award for the best article by a scientist at the start of his or her career published in 2009 in Journal of Ecology has been awarded to Nina Wurzburger. Her really interesting and innovative paper, published with Ronald Hendrick, is entitled ‘Plant litter chemistry and mycorrhizal roots promote a nitrogen feedback in a temperate forest’. The last decade has witnessed a growing number of studies showing that feedbacks between plants and their soil communities have consequences for plant community dynamics. However, few of these studies have considered how plant species feedbacks with soil organisms influence nutrient availability to plants, and only a handful of studies have been done in the field. Wurzburger & Hendrick (2009) tackle this issue using field-based 15N labelling approaches in a southern Appalachian forest community. Using this approach, they provide evidence of an intricate plant–soil feedback whereby plant litter chemistry of Rhododendron influences the soil nitrogen cycle to maximize nitrogen uptake via its own mycorrhizal roots, while hindering nitrogen acquisition by mycorrhizal roots of co-occurring plants. Such feedback processes are likely to drive patterns in nitrogen cycling and productivity in many terrestrial ecosystems.
The Editorial Team
In January 2010, the three current Editors of Journal of Ecology were joined by Mark Rees. Mark has an international reputation as a population ecologist, with a stellar list of publications to his name, and is an excellent addition who will reinforce the Journal’s credentials as being amongst the foremost venues for the best research in plant ecology.
There have been considerable changes to the Associate Editorial Board. The world of plant ecology was much saddened to learn of the sudden death of Bob Jefferies. Bob had been a Board member since 1988. Apart from being a highly influential scientist, he was a lovely man and as committed and conscientious in his work for the Journal, right until his untimely death, as he was when first recruited. Bob could always be relied on for punctual, thoughtful, insightful and fair reviews. He was the epitome of professionalism. He is greatly missed. An obituary about Bob is published in the December 2009 issue of The Bulletin (pp. 49–52).
Board members who have stood down during 2009 are Jeremy Burden, Ran Nathan, Bryan Foster, John Agren, John Pannell and Bettina Engelbrecht. We extend our grateful thanks for the excellent work they undertook for Journal of Ecology. Although all are hard acts to replace, we have already recruited the following new and excellent Board members during 2009: Marcelo Aizen, Judie Bronstein, Ellen Damschen, Lorena Gómez-Aparicio, Marina Semchenko, Sedonia Sipes and Peter Thrall. We welcome them all, and are confident that they will all continue to build the Journal’s reputation in publishing the best plant ecological research.
We are also very sorry to report that Gerwyn Clegg, who has been working as Journal Administrator for Journal of Ecology and other Journals within the BES stable, left us at Christmas 2009 after a year and a half. Gerwyn was the first point of contact for all authors who submitted papers to the Journal, whether they were aware of this or not, and organized most of the peer-review process. He has been a resourceful, wise and ever-reliable colleague, and a very cheerful presence in our midst. He is changing direction now to move into teaching. We will greatly miss his company and good humour. More personally, Mike Hutchings likes to imagine that Gerwyn, in his adversity as a lifelong Liverpool supporter, will miss Mike’s weekly words of comfort as much as Mike, in his adversity as a West Ham United1 supporter, will miss Gerwyn’s weekly words of comfort!
Journal of Ecology on the web
The past year has brought considerable changes to the Journal’s presence on the internet. In April 2009, we launched our newly designed journal homepage, http://www.journalofecology.org. The website allows readers to access all Journal-relevant information from one starting point, from author guidelines to the latest articles published in Early View. The Editorial Team, on the other hand, can be more flexible in highlighting particularly interesting Journal content: not only the Editor’s Choice articles, but also new Special Features and Virtual Issues feature prominently on the page.
Journal of Ecology has also been venturing into the land of social networking. You can now become a fan of Journal of Ecology on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Needless to say, we would be delighted if you decided to do one or the other, or both!