Annual Meeting Reports

Hot Topics and Cool Collaborations: Special Issues and Collaborative Publishing

Journals are often specialized, but with shrinking print media and emerging global and interdisciplinary issues, some believe that journals must diversify and find ways to collaborate. In this session, three editors from journals that have used different methods of diversification and collaborative publishing discussed their experiences and some of the issues they faced.

Michael A Friedman, American Meteorological Society journals production manager, discussed the evolution of special issues as a form of collaboration. He compared that evolution with a migration from the Ice Age to global warming. The Ice Age, he said, was the age of paper publishing. In the Ice Age, when an association requested a special issue—for example, to commemorate its anniversary—doing so disrupted the entire workflow. Because print was the only medium available, publication of special issues usually delayed publication of other papers, and that upset many authors. Routinely, special issues replaced regular issues of the journal and disrupted production. Peer reviewers faced considerable pressure to meet deadlines for special issues. The era of online publishing has made workflow faster and more flexible. Having an online version of the journal has greatly reduced the disruption of normal workflow by special issues. Friedman said that publishers should leverage online publishing and publish these types of papers as special collections online. That, he noted, makes for a much more efficient workflow because individual special-collection papers can appear in regular journal issues as they are ready for publication, and authors will no longer be upset by long publication times. Online publishing, he said, facilitates on-demand printing and promotes collaboration with organizations.

The next speaker was Pierrette Tremblay, managing editor of Elements, an international magazine published by 15 societies. She discussed the processes involved in copublishing and described how Elements evolved. Tremblay identified some strategies used in establishing the collaboration. They included having thematic issues, choosing principal editors from different continents, allowing each society a space in the society news pages, ensuring that decisions are made by consensus, and sending copies to all members of participating societies. Involving the different societies has increased the magazine’s print run by 50% and has increased the coverage of the individual societies. She added that collaboration leads to “a lot more crosspollination of ideas”. Although such collaborations have tremendous benefits, she said, they also have challenges, such as the work entailed in keeping 15 societies informed and the rising costs of mailing copies to members.

Annette Flanagin, of JAMA, discussed the process of collaborative theme-issue publishing and its effect on science communication. She said that such collaboration can “raise awareness, build relationships with researchers in specific fields, and encourage research and funding”. She gave examples of JAMA’s theme issue on global health and of collaboration between JAMA and nine Archives specialty journals, in which the journals simultaneously publish articles on a jointly selected topic, such as cancer. The collaboration created awareness of the topics discussed, and the published articles were highly cited. Flanagin also was a coordinator of CSE’s Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development, which involved the publication of theme issues by more than 200 journals. The journals “represented all regions of the world and included 112 countries”, Flanagin said. According to Flanagin, the Global Theme Issue was a landmark successful collaboration in the history of collaborative publishing. She noted that collaborations result in widespread news-media coverage but also pose challenges, which include selecting a topic, choosing a common publication date or embargo date, deciding how to call for papers, and ensuring fair participation of journals.