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November 2021 (Volume 30, Number 10)
Open access journal articles now account for at least 30 percent of all research papers. This growth has been driven in part by multi-disciplinary “mega-journals,” which collectively publish more than 50,000 articles per year. Their high volume and low selectivity approach serves some needs of some researchers at some moments, but such titles are not suitable in many cases.
“More and more researchers appreciate the value of open access publications, but people are really drowning in information and wanted something that would select what was most relevant and important,” says Jorge Pullin, a theoretical physicist at Louisiana State University, who set out to create a multidisciplinary physics journal to meet those needs and became the first lead editor of PRX.
In 2011, APS launched Physical Review X (PRX) with a goal to publish high-quality research in all areas of pure, applied, and interdisciplinary physics. Over the past 10 years, PRX has gained a reverberant reputation as a highly selective, open access journal that exemplifies APS’s tradition of publishing high-impact science and serving the needs of the broad and diverse community that cuts across physics as well as related disciplines.
“PRX currently publishes about 250 papers per year, covering all areas of physics. This is a very small number to select, but sets the highest standard of what’s important and what’s impactful while ensuring topically and geographically diverse coverage,” says Ling Miao, Managing Editor of PRX. “One [role of PRX] is to disseminate the best, cutting-edge knowledge to a broad audience.”
The APS Editor in Chief at the time, Gene Sprouse, tasked Pullin and Miao with developing editorial standards for the new journal.
“We reached out to the community, and we asked for advice from the founding Editorial Board. What we heard was loud and clear,” says Pullin, who served as lead editor of PRX until 2016.
As authors, researchers had expressed a need for small journals that offered high editorial standards and high visibility for their own work, and as readers, they strongly indicated that what they needed from an open-access journal was selectivity based on reliable and consistent scholarly standards.
“APS’s dedication to meeting the needs of the research communities it serves is reflected in the fact that, year after year, PRX ranks first in Impact Factor among fully open access journals in the Physics, Multidisciplinary category,” says APS Director of Publishing Jeff Lewandowski. “Our recent launch of a new set of highly-selective open access journals—including PRX Quantum, PRX Energy, and more to follow—also speaks to just how much researchers appreciate and value the PRX model, as well as to APS’s continued commitment to serving the changing needs of researchers. These new titles are inspired by and named after PRX, and will complement the original.”
Supported by countless authors, referees, and readers, as well as an engaged editorial board of distinguished scientists, all from across the globe, PRX has continued to grow in submissions, quality, impact, and visibility.
“Some of the top players of physics are sending their papers to PRX, and the editorial team has expanded,” says Pullin. “PRX has established itself as the premier open access venue for innovative physics research with long-term impact.”
In March 2016, Pullin passed PRX’s lead editor baton on to Cristina Marchetti (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Jean-Michel Raimond (Sorbonne Université). "Our role has been pretty easy because the goals were set, we had in mind what we wanted to be,” says Raimond.“We hope PRX will continue to become more impactful.”
PRX complements Physical Review Letters (PRL), APS’s long-standing flagship title, by offering authors more flexibility to choose which venue is most appropriate for their publishing needs.
“While PRL typically publishes reports of influential developments in physics in the form of short letters—around four pages—PRX allows for longer articles, without a length limit,” says APS Editor in Chief Michael Thoennessen. “Its online-only model allows PRX to offer flexibility on length and format to its authors that they can, and do, use to best communicate their work to both broad audiences and specialists in their field. It also presents a top-quality fully open access option for authors who prefer or are required to publish under that model”
A hallmark of PRX is a focus on truly innovative research, the editors say, regardless of whether that research is particularly eye-catching or flashy.
“PRX has proved that there are many varieties of papers that can make a big impact in physics, or in science more broadly” says Miao. “Impact can mean making people think about what they might do differently, or inspiring them to see a different piece of the physics world, or providing them incredibly important and innovative tools to solve new problems, or giving them food for thought."
While PRX has grown steadily in visibility and citations performance—now with an impact factor of 15.762—and continues to be a top-tier journal in the Physical Review family, the hope for the next ten years is to see it continue to play its unique and important role that is highly valued by the community.
“PRX is the best open access journal covering all of physics, and it can become even better,” says Raimond.
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Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine