The Tri-Societies have been publishing papers for decades. In order to keep up with the times and to serve their members to the fullest extent possible, the Societies have continually reviewed and upgraded their publication programs.
Through the years publications have been added as the need arose, and discontinued when the need no longer existed. New typesetting and printing processes have been adopted as the technology became available.
The recent major re-evaluation of all its publications by the Crop Science Society of America and ongoing refinement of the Journal of Agronomic Education (recently renamed the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education) and Journal of Production Agriculture are only the most recent of these.
The Tri-Societies were delighted when Drs. Mayland and Sojka suggested a symposium to review the Societies' editing and review process. The symposium they proposed and presented brought together some of the most authoritative people on the subjects involved. These people thoroughly addressed every aspect of this important topic. All the papers from that symposium are presented in this publication.
Fruits of the symposium already have begun to be reaped. The Tri-Societies have stepped up training of new scientific editors and reviewers, and have begun a newsletter to editorial boards as a part of a continuing education program. I have no doubt that additional changes will be forthcoming.
On behalf of all the members of the Tri-Societies, I thank and congratulate Dr. Mayland, Dr. Sojka, and all the participants in this Peer Review and Editing Symposium.
ROBERT F BARNES, executive vice president
American Society of Agronomy
Crop Science Society of America
Soil Science Society of America
Recognition of the need to publish in the scientific professions has become so ubiquitous that the once-clever phrase “publish or perish” has become a cliche. Societal debate over the merits of this fact of academic life has grown from a wink and a whisper a half-century ago to a contemporary concern and outcry. There is a growing recognition of complicated ethical and managerial interactions tied to the way science at large now presides over the publication process and uses it to document priority of discovery and evidence of productivity.
If the individual scientist's dilemma is to publish or perish, then perhaps the dilemma of science at large is to “choke or cherish.” Numbers (publications or citations) are convenient productivity evaluators. But numbers alone may not indicate quality or impact. It can be argued that focusing on numbers per se can result in a glut of the literature, and obscure valuable contributions in a publication system too voluminous for individual scientists to adequately assimilate.
Recognition of these pitfalls, however, does nothing to eliminate the predicament that responsible stewardship of public-funded research creates. Publication of results accounts for the use of public funds, in that it provides an outlet for data and fulfills the fund user's responsibility to report research findings. A major role of the Tri-Societies has always been, and continues to be, an outlet for reporting the results of our professional accomplishments. As a credible outlet it must limit publication to information that has been judged by peers to be of high quality, and to have value. The process is significantly subjective and arbitrary in many of its facets, despite our best attempts to make objective judgements.
Every scientist entering the profession soon faces the publication imperative. New scientists are usually young adults, however, and do not always fully comprehend the inner workings of the publication process and the general concept of peer evaluation. A scientist's understanding and preparation for the job of publishing may range from none to fully functional, depending on the degree of institutional exposure and intensity of mentorship provided by the graduate program.
As these issues undergo intensified scrutiny in society at large, it is appropriate that the Tri-Societies examine these issues as they relate to membership and the journals. The editorial policies and internal protocols of our journals have developed in a somewhat insular fashion over their history. The symposium reported in this special publication represents an effort to externalize the peer reviewing and editing process to the membership who live with it and depend upon it in their publication efforts. We have asked three questions with regard to the peer reviewing and editing processes of the Tri-Societies, and hopefully have provided some measure of answer to them as well: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What can we do to get there?
We are grateful to the authors, particularly those from outside the Tri-Societies, who participated in the symposium and prepared the papers presented in this special publication. We also thank the many members and nonmembers who shared suggestions, previewed questionnaires, and reviewed manuscripts.
H. F. MAYLAND, symposium cochair
R. E. SOJKA, symposium cochair
Robert F Barnes, Executive Vice President, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America
John C. Burnham, Professor of History and Psychiatry, Department of History, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Eugene Garfield, President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, PA
E. E. Gbur, Associate Professor and Statistician, Agricultural Statistics Laboratory, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
G. H. Heichel, Head, Department of Agronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Terry J. Logan, Professor of Soil Chemistry, Agronomy Department, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
William R. Luellen, Managing Editor, Agronomy Journal, Crop Science, and the Soil Science Society of America Journal
H. F. Mayland, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Kimberly, ID
Harley W. Moon, Center Director, USDA-ARS, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, IA
G. A. Peterson, Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
R. E. Sojka, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Kimberly, ID
H. G. Wilshire, Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA