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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: British Food Journal, Volume 117, Issue 1
Welcome to the first issue of the British Food Journal (BFJ) to be published in 2015.
As the Editor, I would like to take this opportunity to look back across the great achievements the BFJ has made in recent years and the contribution it continues to make to the debate and evidence base concerning food and food management issues. Although this editorial has a number of objectives, the original driver was to explain to readers the larger size of the first and second issues of volume 117 (both will contain 30 papers each, compared to the more normal 12). However, it also gives me the opportunity to say thank you – to a range of people from editorial board members, authors, reviewers and the publishers.
The BFJ is very successful and continues to increase in popularity as a vehicle for publishing food-related research. The Journal has a long history and was first published in 1899 (the same year as the start of the Boer war) and a paper by Mozley (1994) has chronicled the earlier years. Since 1994 many aspects of the food chain (from primary production, processing, distribution, retailing, to marketing and advertising) along with consumer perceptions and eating habits have changed dramatically. There have also been changes in food regulations, hazards associated with foods (not least of which was BSE) and how traceability and quality are managed.
When I took over the editorship in 2003, we published 56 papers out of approximately 95 that were submitted. Since that time the growth in submitted papers has climbed steadily and Table I illustrates these figures since 2010.
Table I. Number of papers submitted to, accepted and rejected by the BFJ from 2010 to 2014
The number of papers submitted in 2010 was 215 climbing to a projected end of year figure for 2014 of about 400. This has been added to by an increased number of people who wish to use the BFJ for the publication and dissemination of special or themed issues which can be especially useful to industry and academics. This large increase in submissions can give rise to a variety of problems not least of which is an increase in the delay between accepting and publishing a paper, which of course is unsatisfactory – especially to authors who want to see their work in print in as short a space as time as possible. This highlights the problem that the BFJ has been wrestling with particularly for the past four years – how does a journal deal with a large increase in submissions?
One option is to publish the same number of papers but accept less, i.e. reject more papers. No editor likes to see papers rejected if they are of a good academic standard, nevertheless the BFJ has had to increase its rejection rate quite steeply – rising from 45 per cent in 2010 to typically 72 per cent in the last two years (Table I). This of course increases the quality of papers published in the journal, but disappoints potential authors.
Another option is to publish more papers. The number of published papers in the BFJ per year has increased steadily (see Figure 1) and for example in 2014 the number of papers per issue was increased as well as an additional issue per year – resulting in an increase of about 33 per cent in published papers from 2013 to 2014. We are also planning another increase of nearly 40 per cent in published papers from 2014 to 2015 – we hope our readers enjoy this increase in output and find these additional papers both useful and informative.
Figure 1. Number of papers published by the BFJ from 2008 to 2014
Paper turnaround times (received to first review, received to first revision, received to accepted and acceptance to publication) can vary considerably between journals, depending on a range of factors (Björk and Solomon, 2013). The BFJ’s overall received to publication time varies depending on the reviewers’ comments and the speed with which the authors make amendments but is within the mid-range for high quality well established journals and is typically about 14 months (Björk and Solomon, 2013). To provide transparency to our readers and ensure you can see when the paper was written, the BFJ publishes Received-Revised-Accepted (RRA) dates for all our papers.
However, we do currently have a slightly longer than average acceptance to publication time which I as the editor, as well as authors and the publisher find undesirable. In order to dramatically reduce our time from acceptance to publication and ensure we are publishing research as quickly as possible, the publishers have decided to reduce the current backlog in a short space of time. This is why the first two issues of volume 117 will contain 60 papers. After these two issues, normal service will resume, but hopefully our authors and readers will both feel the benefits.
This is where the editor’s thanks start. I have to thank Emerald the publishers for their assistance and desire to reduce this deficit and in their strategy to publish so many papers in these two issues. Many thanks must also go to the authors for their tolerance with the delay in publication which cannot have been easy for them. As an editor I must also give a huge thanks to the reviewers who have had to cope with reviewing this ever increasing volume of papers. All journals are to an extent at the mercy of their reviewers both in the quality of their reviews and in the length of time taken to return them. A speedy constructive review is of great benefit to the editor and to the author – especially in helping the latter to make revisions or in them understanding why the work was not accepted for publication. The BFJ is blessed with a hardworking and highly regarded editorial advisory board in conjunction with an army of additional reviewers. Some reviewers have helped me from the start of my editorship but we have also had to considerably increase the number and scope of our reviewers, drawing from a wide range of countries. I owe a large debt of gratitude to all the Journal’s reviewers, I do not often get the opportunity to say it – but you are much appreciated!
Before finishing this editorial it is interesting to speculate on why there has been this increase in papers submitted to the BFJ, especially at a time of increased competition. The number of journals has increased, conservatively estimated at 3.3 per cent compound annually (Mabe and Amin, 2001; Ware and Mabe, 2012) as well as an increase in the number of publication channels including conference proceedings, open access archives as well as “grey literature”. Respect for a journal and a desire to publish in it is garnered in a variety of ways – not least of which is its standing in the academic community. This gives me an opportunity to say something about the use of journal impact factors (JIF) for assessing journal quality.
The impact factor is a measure which reflects the number of citations to papers published in the journal. Devised by Eugene Garfield, their use has increased dramatically since the mid 1970s but their use and abuse is now perceived to be widespread (Amin and Mabe, 2007; Van Noorden, 2013; Curry, 2012; Anonymous, 2005) (see Table II) and resulted in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). There were 82 original signatories in 2012/2013 (including editors, research institutes, etc.) to DORA but there are now more than 400 supporters and over 10,000 signatories (Bladek, 2014).
Table II. Quotes about the misuse of journal impact factors
The limitations of impact factors identified by DORA are summarised in the list below. Discussions about DORA and the limitations of impact factors, including their statistical inaccuracies have even entered the mass media (Bladek, 2014). For many of the reasons identified by these authors, especially the discipline-specific nature of impact factors, the BFJ’s impact factor is a gross underestimate of the academic standing and high quality of the papers it publishes. Strengths of the BFJ become weaknesses in how its impact factor is calculated, due partly to the inter- and multi-disciplinary nature of the Journal and partly our refusal to use the techniques employed by some other journals (Bladek, 2014) such as coercive self-citation, to artificially boost our rating.
Deficiencies in the use of impact factors identified in DORA:
highly skewed citation distributions;
impact factors are field-specific;
manipulation of impact factors by editorial policies; and
data used to calculate impact factors may not be transparent or openly available.
Academics are often pressured (including in grant applications, promotion and tenure applications, etc.) to publish in journals with a high impact factor, and although the BFJ’s impact factor has increased (from 0.614 in 2012 to 0.649 in 2013), this is not the driving force behind the increase in submissions. Clearly potential authors have identified the many other benefits of publishing in the BFJ for the dissemination of their work, including, for example the increase in the number of downloads and users, both of which have more than nearly trebled in the past nine years (see Table III). As well as Thomson Reuter’s SSCI and SCI, the Journal is also indexed in a wide variety of other services, including Scopus, Cabell’s, Food Science & Technology Abstracts, World Agriculture and Nutrition Abstracts & Reviews, meaning papers are widely discoverable (you can see the full list of abstracting and indexing services in which the BFJ is included on the Journal homepage: www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/bfj.htm).
Table III. Growth of users of and downloads from the BFJ
We are also increasingly running special issues of the Journal to explore particular topics in depth. We had some excellent special issues in 2013 and 2014, including the one looking at food banks and emergency food provision in the context of increasing food poverty throughout the developed world (issue 116.9). We have some more exciting special issues planned for 2015 and beyond, so look out for issues focusing on consumer attitudes and beliefs, branding and the agricultural supply chain.
To briefly summarise, the “bumper” first two issues of volume 117 are due to the success of the BFJ in attracting high quality papers, in conjunction with the Journal’s desire to reduce its acceptance to publication time. Alongside celebrating how far the BFJ has come (in terms of reputation, quality and size), I would also like to particularly recognise the work of the Journal’s editorial board members and reviewers and to thank them for their efforts, without which the BFJ would not be possible.
Christopher J. Griffith
American Society for Cell Biology (2013), “San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment”, available at: http://am.ascb.org/dora/ (accessed 29 September 2014).
Amin, M. and Mabe, M. (2007), “Impact factors: use and abuse”, Perspectives in Publishing, No. 1 (originally published in 2000, reissued with minor revisions October 2007), pp. 1-6
Anonymous (2005), Editorial, “Not-so-deep impact”, Nature, Vol. 435 No. 7045, pp. 1003-1004
Björk, B. and Solomon, D. (2013), “The publishing delay in scholarly peer-reviewed journals”, available at: http://openaccesspublishing.org/oa11/article.pdf (accessed 28 September 2014).
Bladek, M. (2014), “DORA, San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (May 2013)”, College and Research Libraries News, Vol. 75 No. 4, pp. 191-196
Curry, S. (2012), “Sick of impact factors”, available at: http://occamstypewriter.org/scurry/2012/08/13/sick-of-impact-factors/ (accessed 28 September 2014)
Mabe, M. and Amin, M. (2001), “Growth dynamics of scholarly and scientific journals”, Scientometrics, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 147-162
Mozley, D. (1994), “British Food Journal – a history”, British Food Journal, Vol. 96 Nos 5/6, pp. 1-92
Van Noorden, R. (2013), “Scientists join journal editors to fight impact-factor abuse”, available at: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/scientist-join-editors-to-fight-impact-factor-abuse.html (accessed 28 September 2014).
Ware, M. and Mabe, M. (2012), The STM Report, 3rd ed., International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, The Hague.