The performance of a journal emerges from the nexus of author, reader and publisher. The author looks for the most relevant and highly ranking journal, the reader searches for topics across different journals, while the publisher aims to provide a service to the community and to maximize the publication and dissemination of high-quality research in a cost-effective manner. Rapid expansion of electronic publishing, from article submission to article downloads, has changed the nature of publishing hugely over the last 5 to 10 yr, realizing the potential for greater global authorship and readership. In 2007, for example, there were just short of one million downloads of New Phytologist articles: an order of magnitude increase since 2002. The number of countries submitting articles to New Phytologist has also increased, showing a growth of 20% between 2004 and 2007 (Fig. 1; Woodward & Ingram, 2004).
Authors seek rapid publication, a metric that is determined by the activities of the New Phytologist Central Office in Lancaster (UK), our Editors, Advisors and Referees, and the publishing speed of Wiley–Blackwell, our publisher. Our time from article receipt to first editorial decision has decreased from 44 days in 2002 to 28 days in 2008, reflecting the enhanced efficiency of our editorial activities. Authors may now see their article published online in just less than 2 months after acceptance. As the processing times become faster so too does the rate of manuscript submissions, which have grown markedly since 2001 (Fig. 2). Although the journal has increased in size by over 40% (just short of 250 pages per year) over the same period, and is committed to a further increase in 2009, this growth has been, by necessity, less than the growth in submissions. This means that the rejection rate has gone up. On the plus side, this has probably contributed to our increased ISI Impact Factor (Fig. 3; Thomson Corporation, 2008), bringing benefits to authors and to the journal.
The editorial workload continues to grow with the increased rate of article submissions. The New Phytologist Trust, a not-for-profit organization that owns the journal, has taken on more staff in the Central Office and has increased the size of the editorial board in order to maintain the standard of service offered to our authors. The number of editors has increased by just over 40% since 2002, in keeping with the increase in journal size. We are pleased to announce that we have recently appointed André Kessler (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA) and Anne Osbourn (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK) as Editors. Both André and Anne study the interactions between plants and other organisms, but whereas André's research interests focus on the ecological consequences of plants’ induced responses to herbivores, Anne's work has an emphasis on natural products and plant defence at molecular and biochemical levels.
We are continually seeking ways to manage the increased flow of submissions to the journal while maintaining the quality of service to authors. To achieve this we have made changes to our Author guidelines for 2009. New Phytologist submissions should still contain timely research that provides new insights into the broad principles of plant science. The original research should address clear hypotheses or questions and offer new insights on topics of interest to a broad cross-section of our readers. Authors are now asked to answer the following questions in their cover letter:
- 1What hypotheses or questions does this work address?
- 2How does this work advance our current understanding of plant science?
- 3Why is this work important and timely?
Where an Editor concludes that a submission falls outside the scope of the journal, or where the answers to the questions above are not convincing, we reserve the right to return the manuscript without review but make every effort to do this within 7 days so that authors can move forward without delay. Authors are, of course, welcome to submit a presubmission enquiry to the Managing Editor (see Author guidelines for procedure). After submission, all papers are checked to ensure that the information is in order and that the paper is complete and formatted according to New Phytologist style. From 2009 these checks will also include a word count, and any original research paper that exceeds 6500 words will be returned, except in exceptional circumstances, without review. The word limit refers only to the main body of the text (i.e. Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, Acknowledgements). We hope that our efforts to maximize the number of published papers will be matched by the Authors’ commitment to write as concisely as possible.
The performance of New Phytologist has continued to improve over recent years, as is evident from the numbers presented here regarding submissions, processing times, increasing Impact Factor and the rapid publication of high-quality research. Yet, these exciting times bring the inevitable need for a few changes and modifications to our system to allow us to progress accordingly. We hope very much that you, as readers, authors and reviewers, will continue to support the journal in 2009 and we look forward to your future participation.