APS News

May 2018 (Volume 27, Number 5)

High Selectivity, Inclusive Scope, and Open Access for All

By the PRX editors

Seven years ago, Physical Review X (PRX) was launched by APS as its first open-access journal to offer high quality coverage of all areas of pure, applied, and interdisciplinary physics. In journal years, PRX is a toddler compared to the 125-year history of the Physical Review family [1], but it is running steadily and confidently. Indeed, it has gained a strong reputation for reliable quality, topical inclusiveness, high impact, and global readership. What has PRX done that has worked? And where is it going from here?

From the very beginning, the PRX editorial team, supported by its founding Editorial Board, has carried on the tradition of the Physical Review family: publishing important experimental, theoretical, and computational physics papers of different varieties. Among these are important discoveries or breakthroughs; significant advances in the state of the art; in-depth explorations of possibly risky concepts; and not least, original, substantive research at the boundaries between physics subfields and between physics and other scientific disciplines [2]. PRX has embraced them all in the open-access format.

How does PRX put this tradition into daily practice? When the selectivity is as high as PRX’s, the final editorial decision to accept or decline a paper does not just depend on the paper’s technical validity, but necessarily involves evaluating its potential for making significant and broad impact down the road. Yet, we all know that there are no clear-cut metrics or algorithms for this task. What to do then?

PRX banner

Foremost, we draw again on the Physical Review family tradition: PRX is for scientists, by scientists who are our authors at times and also our referees at other times. We rely on the advice of our expert referees and of PRX’s distinguished and diverse Editorial Board. When we decline a paper without external review, the decision is often made in consultation with either an appointed member of the Editorial Board or an expert chosen from the appropriate community. When papers are sent out for external review, we ask referees to back up their judgment with both technically rigorous and factual arguments and well-argued viewpoints or perspectives. We also listen to authors’ substantive, meaningful rebuttals and may modify our views of their papers based on those. When the referees’ opinions are conflicting, we try to communicate with them to resolve the conflict as much as possible before asking authors to address the disparate opinions or suggestions. And we build on our collective experience to moderate a collegial and productive dialogue between authors and reviewers.

We also recognize we must continuously deepen and expand our editorial competence, including our knowledge of physics and of the current research landscape. We survey the literature; we regularly discuss manuscripts together and use the distilled experience going forward. We go to conferences large and small to learn more and to talk to researchers about both science and the editorial process. We hope these efforts improve our choices of referees, our understanding of their reports and author replies, and our editorial judgment.

This integrated approach has drawn encouraging feedback. Authors have taken the trouble to let us know that our process has significantly improved their papers; referees have expressed their appreciation for our personal communications with them, not only about review processes, but also about the science involved. Perhaps even more gratifying, some authors whose papers were declined for publication in PRX have acknowledged the attention and care we have given to their papers.

Although PRX is now a confident top player in physics publishing, it still has room to grow, in quality, in topical coverage, and in reputation. We know we must continue to follow the fundamental principles that have guided our editorial work so far. We will also continue, and improve on, our established editorial practices. The foremost challenge will be to do so, as submissions continue to increase and the topical coverage continues to broaden, without compromising the quality of our editorial work and in turn, the quality of the journal.

To this end, we are working on improving editorial efficiency in our areas of strength and bolstering our coverage of new topics; we are continuously striving to improve our ability to distill and recognize signals for potential impact. Given the broad readership of our journal, we will also ask and assist authors to make their papers, especially highly technical ones, more informative, more engaging, and more readable for non-specialists by leveraging the no-length-limit feature of PRX articles and the journal’s open access. With the same strong commitment to the journal as the founding Editorial Board, our recently renewed Board is fully engaged in guiding and supporting these editorial efforts.

Since May 2011, many of you from different communities in physics and even in other disciplines have sent PRX your outstanding papers, have served as our reliable and trusted advisers, and have encouraged us when we have done well and have also offered us constructive, sometimes thought-provoking, criticisms when we have made missteps. Without your constant support there would not have been PRX as it is today: Thank you!

We see PRX’s mission as your mission: emphasizing scholarly quality, substance, and long-term impact to bring the scientific signal above the noise. We count on your continued engagement in the joint endeavor to cement — in the best publishing traditions of the Physical Review family — PRX’s reputation as a journal you are proud to publish in and you are eager to read.

1. Phys. Rev. X 8, 010001 (2018).
2. Phys. Rev. X 7, 010001 (2017).

Physical Review Journals 125 years logo

The PRX Editors: M. Cristina Marchetti is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor and Distinguished Professor of Physics at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, and Jean-Michel Raimond is Professor of Physics at Sorbonne Université, Paris; they are the Lead Editors of PRX. Ling Miao has been Managing Editor of the journal since its founding. Dario Corradini, Victor Vakaryuk, Alessandro Villar, and Yiming Xu are Associate Editors.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

May 2018 (Volume 27, Number 5)

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Articles in this Issue
High Selectivity, Inclusive Scope, and Open Access for All
Plenty of Plenaries: From Feynman to LIGO
Hubble Trouble: A Crisis in Cosmology?
Programming a Quantum Computer
Making Room in Physics for Everyone
The Road to a Goldwater Scholarship
APS Joins the March for Science
Profiles in Versatility
This Month in Physics History
Education and Diversity Update
Update from the Office of Government Affairs
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