Editorial 2006


  • Loren Rieseberg,

  • Harry Smith

State of the Journal

We continue to be surprised and gratified by the large and seemingly unrelenting increases in the quantity and quality of manuscripts submitted each year to Molecular Ecology. At the time this editorial was written, we were on track to receive close to 1120 submissions, which represents a ∼ 10% increase over last year (Fig. 1). The number of pages published in the journal expanded from 3896 pages in 2004 to 4488 in 2005, an increase of 15%. To accommodate the additional pages, yet keep individual issues to a manageable size, we increased the number of issues published in 2005 from 12 to 14. Additional increases are likely in the future to effectively manage journal growth.

Figure 1.

The growth in submissions since 1995. In 2001 we created Molecular Ecology Notes as a sister journal for the publication of technical notes — data for both journals are shown here.

Growth in the impact of published papers has been equally impressive. The journal's 2004 Impact of 4.38 represents a 13% increase over the 2003 Impact Factor of 3.87, which in turn is a 28% increase over the 2002 Impact Factor of 3.01. Molecular Ecology currently ranks fifth out of 107 journals in ISI's Ecology category and second among primary research journals in Ecology. Readership of Molecular Ecology appears to be expanding at an even more dramatic rate, with the total number of article downloads increasing from 313647 in 2003 to 423508 in 2004, an increase of 35%. Thus, the journal has clearly become a critical resource for students and researchers in ecology and related fields.

Despite the continued increase in submissions, the efficiency and careful diligence of our subject editors, journal secretaries, production editors, and referees have kept processing times to a minimum. In 2005, the average time from submission to editorial decision was 51 days, and that for production of the final manuscript at the publishers was 66 days for the print and 41 days for On-Line Early versions. Indeed, the average time from submission to publication for Molecular Ecology of approximately six months is among the lowest for journals in ecology and evolutionary biology. We are particularly grateful to Journal Secretaries, Siân Lynch and Elinor Smith, and Production Editors, Patrick Baker and Ann Cowie, who are the unsung heroes behind the rapid publication times enjoyed by Molecular Ecology. Patrick Baker has recently been promoted within Blackwell and will no longer be associated with the journal on a daily basis. We thank him for his many contributions to the journal.

The Molecular Ecology Prize

Because molecular ecology is a young and inherently interdisciplinary research area, it is not currently represented by a single scientific society. As a consequence, there is no body that actively promotes the discipline or recognizes its pioneers. To help fill this void, we have created the Molecular Ecology Prize to recognize significant contributions to molecular ecology. The first such prize, which includes an engraved silver platter, was awarded in September, 2005 to Godfrey Hewitt of the University of East Anglia in recognition of his pioneering contributions to hybrid zone theory and the science of phylogeography. Godfrey has also made a major contribution to molecular ecology through his service as a senior editor of this journal since 1999, so it is altogether fitting that he should be the first recipient of this prize. A biography of Godfrey Hewitt and his contributions to molecular ecology will be in a future issue.

Special Issues and Reviews

We also attempt to advance the discipline of molecular ecology by commissioning special issues and reviews on topics that are overdue for a synthetic treatment or that represent important future research directions. Recent special issues include a Genes in Ecology issue that was published in May, 2003 and an Analytical Methods in Phylogeography and Population Structure issue that came out in April, 2004. Special issues on Functional Molecular Ecology, The Ecological Genetics of Speciation, and Microevolutionary Change in Human-Altered Environments have been commissioned for early 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively.

Thanks to Louis Bernatchez, our reviews editor, the number and diversity of reviews published in Molecular Ecology has increased substantially in recent years. For example, in 2005 we published 13 reviews on topics ranging from ‘Recombination and speciation’ to ‘Comparative organization of chloroplast, mitochondrial and nuclear diversity in plant populations’ to ‘Using genome scans of DNA polymorphism to infer adaptive population divergence.’ We are open to suggestions from our readers regarding subjects that are overdue for review or synthesis.

Fast Track Papers

Two years ago we launched a new ‘Fast-Track’ submission category in an attempt to attract papers of the quality and impact of those submitted to the weekly journals such as Nature and Science. Edited by senior editor Bob Wayne, the Fast Track category is intended to accelerate the publication and increase the visibility of manuscripts that report highly significant findings in molecular ecology. So far, this submission category has been performing as we had hoped and has resulted in the publication of several high profile papers including:

Legacy lost: genetic variability and population size of extirpated US grey wolves (Canis lupus). Molecular Ecology14: 1–9.

Integrating QTL mapping and genome scans towards the characterization of candidate loci under parallel selection in the lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis). Molecular Ecology14: 351–361.

Enterobacteria-mediated nitrogen fixation in natural populations of the fruit fly Ceratitis capitata. Molecular Ecology14: 2637–2643.

We urge our readers to take advantage of this submission category when choosing a venue for publication of their most significant results.

Editorial Policy

Molecular Ecology is doing well, but we continue to make modest changes in our editorial policy to increase its effectiveness. For example, it was recently brought to our attention that papers in the area of molecular diagnostics often are descriptive and relevant mainly to the taxon being studied. This violates our stated editorial policy, yet we feel that these kinds of papers make a valuable contribution to the discipline. In particular, it seems likely that when fully developed, DNA bar coding will provide useful information for a wide array of ecological studies. To resolve these conflicting issues, papers in the general area of molecular diagnostics will now be published in Molecular Ecology Notes, the sister journal of Molecular Ecology. This represents a natural expansion for Molecular Ecology Notes, since it already publishes papers on molecular marker development.

Other editorial policy changes that will become effective in 2006 include a modification of the author information box to state the contribution of each author to the manuscript, rather than describing the research interests of the authors. We also hope to make the genotypic data published in Molecular Ecology available as supplementary materials on the Molecular Ecology website, although we have not yet worked out the technical details required to implement this goal.

Editorial Boards

As in past years, our Editorial Board has been expanded to accommodate the increased number of submitted papers. Additions to the board include Dr. Roger Butlin, Dr. Angus Davison, Dr. Christian Lexer, and Dr. Steve Palumbi. All four have broad interests in population and conservation genetics, phylogeography, adaptation, and speciation, but differ with respect to the organismal groups that receive their attention. Palumbi focuses mostly on marine animals, Lexer on plants, Butlin on insects, and Davison divides his time between snails and butterflies. All are excellent scientists and we are fortunate that they have agreed to join our editorial team. Other changes to the editorial board include the retirement of Paul Sunnucks and the movement of Phil Hedrick to the editorial review board. Both have served the journal well, and we thank them for their efforts.

We also have updated our Editorial Review Board to include our most diligent and efficient referees. Additions to the board will be listed in the next issue of the journal. We take this opportunity to thank all those who are retiring from the board for their contributions to the journal.


Lastly, we thank our many reviewers for lending their time to the journal. Obviously, the success of this enterprise rests almost entirely in their hands. Those who have reviewed papers during 2005 are listed in Table 1 and we are grateful for their service to the journal and to the discipline of molecular ecology.