Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics

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1 Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics Volume 6, th Meeting Acoustical Society of America Portland, Oregon May 2009 Session 4aID: Interdisciplinary 4aID1. Achieving publication excellence in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America Ning Xiang* *Corresponding author s address: Graduate Program in Architectural Acoustics, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th St., Troy, NY , Publications in refereed acoustics journals are of significant relevance for scientists and engineers in acoustics-related fields. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) encourages authors to submit papers to JASA for publication. JASA regularly publishes detailed updated guidelines and instructions in order to help potential authors achieve publishing excellence. As a frequent reviewer, an author of JASA papers, and an Associate Editor of JASA, this author will provide an outline and overview of the JASA peer-review process in order to clarify the standards used to assess both successful and unsuccessful publication efforts. This author also discusses how to prepare qualified manuscripts, how to avoid unnecessary delays for, and how to review manuscripts for JASA. Published by the Acoustical Society of America through the American Institute of Physics 2009 Acoustical Society of America [DOI: / ] Received 11 Jun 2009; published 15 Jun 2009 Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 1

2 I. Introduction Many acousticians believe publishing in reputable, archival, acoustic journals is crucial to disseminate their research. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) is one of these major acoustics journals. JASA has been serving the acoustics communities both in the US and worldwide since JASA now publishes monthly a variety of acoustics papers and information. Updated Information for Contributors to JASA 1 is also regularly published in the January, the July issue every year, and in every Meeting Program of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Despite this regular publication, some authors, when preparing manuscripts and some reviewers, when reviewing manuscripts for JASA, may not carefully read the available information. Adherence to the requirements and specifications documented in these publications 1-5 is very important for successful publication and rapid review. This presentation will highlight some relevant issues concerning manuscript preparation, and its peer-review process, focusing on three major paper categories in JASA: Regular Research Papers (including Applied Papers), Letters to the Editor (LtE), and the recent online journal, the Express Letters (EL). The majority of this talk is based on publications from the JASA Editorial Board, such as Information for Contributors to JASA 1, on Reviewer Guidelines both for JASA and JASE-EL 2-5, as well as some distributed materials within the current JASA editorial board. In the following slides, contents and narratives may be taken from these published or unpublished materials. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 2

3 As stated in Information for Contributors to JASA 1, the Letters-to- the-editor are shorter research contributions that can be any of the following: (i) an announcement of a research result, preliminary to the full account of the research; (ii) a scientific or technical discussion of a timely topic; (iii) brief alternate derivations or experimental evidence concerning acoustical phenomena; (iv) provocative articles that may stimulate further research. According to Guidelines for reviewers of JASA Express Letters 5, JASA Express Letters is devoted to rapid, open-access publication of concise letters describing new research and other timely technical communication in all fields of acoustics. Both Letters-to-the-Editor and JASA Express Letters must still be truly acoustics research and meet the high standards of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America for originality and significance. They have to go through a rigorous peer-review process similar to that for regular research papers. The difference of the EL from the LtE is that the manuscript handling procedures of JASA Express Letters follow from the principle that the advancement of acoustical science is best served, in many cases, when timely publication takes precedence over a deliberate review process, enabling extensive interactions between authors, reviewers, and an editor. In other words, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 3

4 if a manuscript for JASA EL, meeting most stylistic requirements, must be substantially revised, or undergo several iterations of revision, it will be rejected. Often the associate editor (AE) handling the manuscript may suggest the author(s) to submit to the Letters-to-the Editor if the manuscript is of interest to JASA in terms of both significance and originality, since that review process will allow iterative revisions. In such a case, possible disagreements between the authors and reviewers can also be resolved. III. Peer-review Process Many young acousticians have ambitions to publish their work in highly reputable journals, such as the JASA, without paying attention to the basic requirements. After submitting to JASA, they obtain very critical comments, if not rejected. Comments may even so critical that they are discouraged to revise. Often they simply get a rejection letter. To help understand the peer review process, we should understand peers as the next slide shows: Peers are those persons with comparable standing in the same field as the authors themselves 1. Most Associate Editors (AEs) are also publishing authors, so they are also peers. The same is also true for the Editor-in-Chief. Their manuscripts must go through the same process, handled by another AE, conceivably their manuscripts could also be rejected, if their peers provide sufficiently critical comments and the AE handling their manuscripts concurs with the opinions and recommendations of the reviewers. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 4

5 In the peer-review process as shown in the above slide, all of the selected reviewers identity should keep anonymous. The interaction between the authors and reviewers is managed by the AE via the editorial staff. In this way, the reviewers can express their opinions freely, even offering very critical comments, no matter who the authors are. On the other hand, many senior scientists look forward to critical comments when submitting their manuscript(s) with hope that their manuscript(s) can be significantly improved. In the scientific community, even senior scientists, concentrate themselves deeply in their research work, and their view and discussion might be limited. Knowledgeable reviewers in the same field are outsiders; their critical, but constructive comments will help the authors improve their manuscripts. Understanding the peer-review system in this aspect can help to appreciate the fact that the current peer-review process warrants relative academic freedom and fairness. A rigorous peer-review process often results in significantly improved manuscripts qualified for publication in order to achieve publishing excellence. Authors often ask, How long would it take for a manuscript to be published?. The JASA (and many other journals) along with the authors, all believe: The shorter, the better. In reality, a very small fraction of submitted manuscripts can go through a one-time review followed by an immediate acceptance. Often they have to go through one or two revisions depending on the reaction of the reviewers, and the decision of the AE. In some cases, the AE asks the authors to Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 5

6 revise the manuscript several times. The attitude of the authors plays an important role as discussed later. This author has often noticed that inexperience scientists and junior faculty believe that many conferences claim that their conference proceedings are also peer-reviewed. They believe that since the conference has very high reputation, it is worth citing those papers. In fact, this author has also participated in the organization of a number of (international) conferences who claim that their selection of presentations and paper submissions has to go through peer-review process. But the conference organization has a very limited time-line, often on an order of 1-2 months after collecting submissions. As stated in Information for Contributors to Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics 6 : For a Proceedings paper, with rapid publication being of principal importance, a full peer review by knowledgeable experts in the field is not normally feasible. In reality, one of the conference organizers often handles tens or even hundreds those short papers within a very limited time period. It is not practical for the conference organization to solicit knowledgeable peers to conduct in-depth review. Moreover, there is no substantial iterative revision mechanism in the decision process. The decision for a manuscript is made by the AE, not voted on by the reviewers. The reviewers involved in a review process can make their recommendations. Apart from acceptance (no revisions needed) the decision can be two major categories Pending and Reject. A very small fraction of submitted manuscripts are accepted with revision OPTIONAL. In this case, the revision is up to the authors, even some critical comments are provided by the reviewers. The authors should, however, make the argument clear either in the cover letter or the rebuttal letter why certain critical comments are not considered in the revision. The usage of the Cover Letter and the Rebuttal Letter should be differentiated. The cover letter is only accessible to the AE. The reviewer(s) cannot view it, whereas the rebuttal letter will be read both by the AE and reviewers. One pending status Revision allowed deserves the authors great attention. It is in principle, a decision that the manuscript, in its current form, is not acceptable, requires the substantial revision. Both conditional accepted and not acceptable manuscripts can also be rejected, after re-submission, as Category Reject revision unsatisfactory, so there is no automatic guarantee that a conditionally accepted manuscript will be accepted during next re-reviews. For this reason, the authors are highly recommended to closely follow the Information for Contributors to JASA 1 and carefully consider the critical comments from the AE and the reviewers and revise the Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 6

7 manuscript accordingly as much as possible. If the manuscript is rejected (revision allowed), the work can still be submitted to the journal, however, the current case is closed. A new submission must be considered. In this situation, a different title and a drastically improved manuscript is expected. IV. Selection for publication and immediate rejection Selection for publication is based on the following factors 1 : adherence to the stylistic requirements of the Journal, clarity and eloquence of exposition, originality of the contribution, demonstrated understanding of previously published literature pertaining to the subject matter, appropriate discussion of the relationships of the reported research to other current research or applications, appropriateness of the subject matter to the Journal, correctness of the content of the article, completeness of the reporting of results, the reproducibility of the results, and the significance of the contribution. Often a manuscript is rejected because some of the criteria listed above cannot be met in the manuscript. Possible grounds for immediate rejection are (1) The paper is outside the scope of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America; (2) The results are not a significant contribution to the journal literature; Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 7

8 (3) The paper is too poorly written to be understood; (4) Substantially similar work has been published before and the authors do not explain how their work differs from that work; or (5) The paper's referencing of other work suggests that the authors did not do a sufficiently thorough study of prior literature before writing the paper. Submission of a manuscript at the same time to multiple archival journals, even if the tile of the manuscripts and the sequence of the author list have been changed, is considered a serious violation of ethics in the scientific community. Nowadays, such misconduct can be easily found. A paper submitted to a journal for consideration which is highly similar to authors own published papers in conference proceedings, is also not acceptable either. However the situation is in principle, different. In the acoustics community, authors are encouraged, after presenting their work in one or the other acoustics conference(s), to develop their work further for journal publications. Of course, if one is lazy and takes the same paper published in the conference proceedings to the JASA, it can result in rejection outright. The AE may recommend that the authors reconsider working on a fully developed manuscript, significantly different from their own, previous published one, since conference proceedings, in a strictly scientific sense are not peer-reviewed archival journals. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 8

9 In such cases, authors should make an effort to differentiate the journal manuscript from the previous one in the conference proceedings in following ways: The title is different, the journal manuscript contains no extensive passages of content and figures that are the same as in the previous conference proceeding publication, the journal manuscript contains substantial updates in terms of content and results from the previous conference proceeding publication, it gives ample references to the prior publications in the literature, and also explain differences from the previous publication in the conference proceedings. Conference proceeding publications have limited distribution and have less availability, both regionally and timely, while archival peer-reviewed journals stay forever and are also widely available. In this connection, many knowledgeable reviewers, and AEs inspect the reference list of submitted manuscripts carefully. They often suggest that non peer-reviewed citations, such as thesis work, should be removed from the list, and be kept to a minimum. V. Review and reviewers When submitting a manuscript to the journal during the on-line submission, the author(s) are encouraged to suggest potential reviewers. Authors should consider this option seriously and carefully. After working in a specific research field for several years, one, as an author, should be able to identify a number of researchers (peers) in the same field. If the authors decide to suggest potential reviewers, it is recommendable to input more than 3 potential reviewers (up to five). If only one potential reviewer is suggested, often it is not taken by the AE, or the AE has to seek more reviewers. It is at the AE s discretion, however, to select reviewers, and so the AE may decide not to use the suggested reviewers. The peer-review system is an academically fair system as mentioned before, so the authors also have the option to exclude potential reviewers, e.g. due to conflict of interest. However, in such cases, the authors should be prepared to give sounded reason for exclusion. During the on-line submission, there is also an option to suggest a potential associate editor (AE). This can also help the editorial board to speed up the review process. However, the primary PACS number(s) have to match the suggested AE, and it is the editorial board s decision to assign that AE. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 9

10 Reviewers who accept invitation for a paper review for JASA or for JASA-EL also receive guidelines for reviewer 3,5. The major guidelines are highlighted as key words in the above slide. This author often re-reads the guidelines when reviewing a manuscript. Other reviewers, particularly those who have limited experience, are highly recommended to consult with the guidelines carefully while drafting review comments when reviewing manuscripts. Reviewers can select an overall rating when submitting the comments. Different ratings as listed above are primarily recommended for the AE to consider. It is at the discretion of the AE whether or not to pass the reviewers overall rating to the authors, whether or not to pass the entire or only partial comments by reviewers to the authors. Here are two typical cases where AEs pass partial comments to the authors: Case A: two reviewers are invited to review the manuscript. Reviever#1: this manuscript is well written, makes good use of the journal space, however, for better serving the readers, Sec.III needs to be restated with much more details. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 10

11 Reviever#2: some parts of the current manuscript are too wordy, can be drastically condensed, particularly Sec.III dealing with the theory / math of the method, since it has been documented in [4],[6]. The AE agreed with Reviewer #2 and had to remove that part of the comment by Reviewer #1. Case B: two reviewers are invited to review the manuscript. Reviever#1: The reference list is of low quality, a large number of papers in reference list are taken from non-peer-reviewed publications -- proceeding conference papers, and even Master Degree thesis work. Reviever#2: The authors seem to ignore a number of recent publications relevant to the field, such as B. CCCC, et al. (2001): Relevant methods for geophysics inversions, Proc. SPIE Vol. 2016, pp. xxxx-xxxx. C. DDDD, et al. (2005): Imaging methods, Proc. Int. Congress on Image Processing, May 2005, pp. yyyy-yyyy. D. EEEE, et al. (2008): Technical implementation of ccccc methods, Proc. Int. Conf on Sound and Vibrations, Aug 2008, pp. zzzz-zzzz. The AE agreed with Reviewer #1 and had to remove that part of the comment by Reviewer #2. VI. Authors / responding to comments Active authors of archival journal papers are often invited by the respective journals for manuscript review. High quality reviews are easily identified by AEs, and those reviewers are often invited again for future reviews. Scientists who frequently review journal manuscripts usually have a better chance to publish their own work successfully, since a good review experience helps avoid obvious mistakes, helps write well-rounded manuscripts, helps revise the criticized manuscript reasonably. If you are invited by a journal to review a manuscript in your field, take on the task seriously, try your best to conduct a timely, high quality review. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 11

12 Authors who get critical comments, especially extremely critical commnets, should keep their temper: calm-down! No reason to be upset! If one is very emotional at that moment, one should write his emotional rebuttal below each comment, keep the rebuttal a while, but NEVER SEND IT OUT. After a while, when the emotion is over, re-consider the critical comments carefully. It might be the best lesson one can learn from his peers. A smooth re-review critically depends on the author s attitude of rebuttal. One should try his best to accept every critical, but constructive comment and clearly state for each comment what has been modified / corrected. A clearly formatted rebuttal will make the work of the AE and the reviewers easier. If there is any disagreement, try one s best to avoid conflicts in the rebuttal and reason the disagreement with a diplomatic voice. It is recommendable to make use of the difference between the cover letter and the rebuttal letter. JASA, JASA-EL regularly publish and/ distribute detailed, updated guidelines and instructions for both authors and reviewers 1, 3-6. A regularly updated Information for Contributors to JASA 1 is published in every January issue and July issue of JASA each year, as well as in the Appendix of every ASA Meeting program. It has long been an observation of this author that many JASA authors, even suffering from painful rejections or revisions, did not read the readily available, valuable information. Also many inexperienced, sometimes naïve reviewers never read the guidelines for reviewers 3, 5. It is also the observation of this author that such detailed Information for Contributors to JASA 1 cannot easily be found elsewhere in other journals, though this might Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 12

13 be limited to those this author concerns. From a publishing author in reputable acoustics journals, to an Associate Editor of the most prestigious acoustical journal, this author has benefited tremendously from this information and guidance in which excellence in writing, excellence in reviewing, excellence in publishing are handled and discussed in great detail. VII. Concluding remarks This author would like to use Pierce s Concluding Remarks in his 1999 paper 2 to conclude this presentation: We want our journal to be excellent and to be perceived as such by others outside our discipline as excellent. We want those who are stimulated to write for JASA to continue to be so stimulated and we do not want them to be discouraged by the Journal s aspirations for a higher degree of excellence. Rather, we encourage them to join in what is in reality a large common endeavor with each of us prodding, pulling, and cheering the others along. We want others of kindred spirit to join us, we want them to also write excellent papers, and we want them to submit such papers to our journal. Reference 1. Information for contributors to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 125 (2009), pp [ 2. A. Pierce, Current criteria for selection of articles for publication, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 106 (1999), pp Guidelines for reviewers of regular research articles submitted to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. [ 4. Instructions for the preparation of a manuscript for JASA Express Letters. [see also 5. Guidelines for reviewers of JASA Express Letters. [ 6. Information for Contributors to Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics. [ Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Vol. 6, (2009) Page 13

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