APS News

Physical Review X Out of the Gate

The premier issue of Physical Review X, the new APS open access journal, hit the virtual newsstands on September 30th. PRX’s first twelve papers, in what will be a quarterly journal, span a broad spectrum of fields and are all of high scientific quality. Unlike other APS journals, which are mainly supported by subscription revenue, PRX is supported by an article-processing charge of $1500 for papers of less than 20 standard Physical Review pages, with small incremental charges for longer papers.

According to the editors of PRX, not only are articles being submitted from fields in which APS usually publishes; but the new journal is also deliberately and actively giving attention to subject matter that goes beyond the traditional coverage. For example, the first paper in the first issue, by proposing and exploring a physical model that incorporates natural human-mobility patterns, challenges established models for the spread of epidemics, and has, since its publication, received attention in several national media. Another paper comes from the area of electronic-devices research, reporting the fabrication of new nanowire-based electronic diodes and demonstrating their ultrafast operating speeds and controllability. A third paper, also covered with a Synopsis in Physics, brings acoustic levitation and x-ray diffraction techniques innovatively to bear in processing pharmaceutical drugs into desired, highly soluble amorphous forms–an increasingly important goal for the pharmaceutical industry.

“We are also striving to set a high standard for PRX’s editorial and review processes in several ways,” says Jorge Pullin, Editor of PRX. One is to be selective and prompt throughout, starting with the stage of initial editorial review. Manuscripts that report solid results, but are judged to be incremental in originality and/or marginal in significance, are “returned” to the authors, and those that pass the initial editorial review are sent out to expert referees for anonymous review. “The editors work collectively, and are able to make an initial assessment and act on it within a few days after the receipt of a submission,” according to Ling Miao, PRX Associate Editor. As of September 15, close to 60% of the submissions have been returned without external review. “This effort on our part not only allows authors to pursue other publication options quickly, but also permits the editors to pay more attention to each manuscript that receives external review. Throughout a review process, we interact actively with referees and authors and discuss with each other often so that our decisions can be as well informed and balanced as possible–another key to a high editorial and publication standard,” continues Miao, “and we will do all we can to continue such efforts.”

One of PRX’s unique features is the popular summary that accompanies each paper, along with the traditional abstract. A collaborative effort between the authors and editors, the summaries help make complex research accessible to non-specialist scientists as well as the general public, including the media. Also, the table of contents includes a brief descriptive sentence that should draw readers to view the whole article. “We believe both authors and readers benefit from these,” Pullin remarked.

The editors have seen very positive responses from authors to the new journal. Even before the authors of a paper knew its fate, after the first round of reviewing, they told the editors, “...we would like to continue submitting our best works to PRX. Your professional assistance and the referees’ detailed and fair reviews certainly give us more confidence in PRX.” The advantages of open access and unrestricted length in combination with the high standards attract authors, too: “....we truly appreciate the unique avenue to publish high quality research without length restriction that PRX aspires to provide....as much as we’d like to contribute to this endeavor through our present work, we wish you the best of success regardless of your final decision!” “We certainly appreciate that you are trying to maintain very high standards for the new journal; this is precisely why we chose the forum,” wrote the authors of a paper the significance of which the editors had initially questioned, and who had then gone to considerable lengths to address the editors’ specific concerns. “The authors made a very persuasive case in response to our questions, and as it has turned out, they were right! Both they and PRX benefitted from such a productive interaction based on substance,” reflected Miao with satisfaction.

PRX’s second issue will close at the end of the year and will include about 25 papers. A number of papers in this issue have already been published, and one of them, reporting a combined experimental and theoretical study of the exotic quantum spin liquids, has been highlighted with a Viewpoint in Physics. “We are seeing from the more recent submissions an increase in quality. We expect the breadth and the caliber of PRX to grow as more and more researchers come to recognize PRX as a high-quality journal, both in its publications and in its editorial service to authors, and where published papers will acquire a good degree of visibility across physics,” Pullin remarked.


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Editor: Alan Chodos