It is approximately 6 months ago that I took responsibility for The Plant Journal as Editor-in-Chief and I would like to provide an update on recent developments. As some of you may already know, Thomson Reuters recently released in its Journal Citation Reports the 2009 Impact Factor (calculated for citations in 2009 of items published in 2008 and 2007) for The Plant Journal, which increased substantially, to 6.946. Moreover, the Immediacy Index (calculated from citations in 2009 of items published in 2009) increased to 1.581, the highest score for any plant science journal publishing original research. These numbers represent a substantial improvement, confirming that we are on the right track at The Plant Journal. The credit goes to my predecessor Harry Klee, the readers, authors, reviewers, Editors and office staff members, who made this possible. I would like to thank them all for their efforts and enthusiasm in support of The Plant Journal.

Of course, there is no time to be complacent and we are beginning to implement new procedures that will keep The Plant Journal competitive and a highly desirable venue for the publication of some of the best science in basic plant biology. We are improving turnaround times at all stages of the process. Listening to our authors’ wishes, we are now releasing online unedited manuscripts as soon as they are accepted. The pages of these manuscripts carry a watermark to indicate that they are not the finished product. As a result, the full information contained in the manuscripts will now be available months earlier, to be read and cited at the earliest possible time. Because the initially posted manuscript is unedited, authors have to pay utmost attention at final submission that their manuscripts are as complete and error-free as possible. The Editorial Board members felt that the benefits of expediency far outweigh the possibilities of imperfections that might still be present in unedited manuscripts.

To enhance and complement the already outstanding expertise of the Editorial Board, three additional Editors have joined in recent weeks. I would like to welcome Federica Brandizzi, covering all aspects of cell biology, Kazuki Saito, metabolomics, systems biology and synthetic biology, and Yves Van de Peer, comparative genomics and genome evolution. Asaph Aharoni will join later in the year to cover diverse aspects of fruit biology ranging from regulation of metabolism to development.

In an effort to maintain our standards for good practices in publishing, we will shortly be implementing a new procedure that allows us to check manuscripts prior to acceptance for redundancies with published work. For this purpose we are employing ‘CrossCheck’ software that compares manuscripts with published papers. The Handling Editors will contact authors at the final decision stage if there are reasons for concerns. We will evaluate manuscripts on a case-by-case basis. As a rule of thumb, if full sentences or paragraphs are copied from previous publications, ethics rules in publishing may be compromised. The Handling Editor will bring this issue up discreetly with the Corresponding Author and will take appropriate measures in consultation with the Editor-in-Chief, depending on the facts. We understand that there are only so many ways in which routine procedures can be described. But we will not allow copying of sentences or sections from previous publications as this crosses the line to plagiarism or self-plagiarism. Unlike some of our peer journals, we will not provide an opportunity to our authors at the submission stage to ‘test’ the performance of their manuscript during a check for redundancies. We fully expect that our authors provide original work and we will advise them if, inadvertently, redundancies have crept into their manuscripts.

One of The Plant Journal’s most popular features, the publication of Technical Advances, is evolving. To achieve greater uniformity, I am initially evaluating every submitted Technical Advance manuscript for fit and suitability before passing it on to the Handling Editor. At this initial stage, I am routinely declining those that provide less of an advance for basic mechanistic research than a contribution to biotechnological advancement. If the method seems too specialized and not broadly applicable, or if it represents an incremental improvement over an existing method, I tend to decline the manuscript at this initial stage. Ideally, an example of the application of the method should be provided that represents true new biological insight. Manuscripts that describe a study too incomplete for a Research Article are also not likely to become acceptable as Technical Advances.

Special Issues of The Plant Journal have been very popular with our readership and authors in the past and we are moving to publish one Special Issue annually. As always, we try to feel the pulse of the plant science community in pursuit of appropriate topics. Given the advancements in genome sequencing and the increasing availability of plant and algal genome information, it seems the right time to focus a Special Issue on plant genomes. Therefore, for 2011 we are preparing a Special Issue on ‘The Plant Genome: An Evolutionary View on Structure and Function’, co-edited by Tom Gerats and Eran Pichersky.

Whenever possible, The Plant Journal supports good practices and efforts beneficial to the plant science community. In co-operation with The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR; we are asking now that Corresponding Authors of papers focused on Arabidopsis provide additional gene functional annotation information using a form that can be entered into TAIR. Furthermore, to better allow us to track papers focusing on a particular species, we are asking authors to enter ‘Arabidopsis’ or other appropriate plant species names in the title and as one of the key words. While supplying additional information represents some extra burden to our authors, the benefits of a public repository for scientific information such as TAIR that stays up-to-date should justify this effort.

As we move into the future, undoubtedly additional new developments at The Plant Journal will take place. As always, if you, as a member of The Plant Journal community, have suggestions or comments on how to improve the journal, please let me know. I am always eager to listen and to move on good advice.