November/December 2013

Hello from the New Editor of SRL

doi: 10.1785/0220130155

Following the social-media rule that “it is not an official relationship unless it is on Facebook,” I posted a message there on 16 July 2013, the day after I officially became the next editorin- chief (EIC) of Seismological Research Letters (SRL). In response, I got feedback and encouragement saying that my new post will come with lots of positive aspects (one from former EIC Sue Hough)—and some warnings that it will be time consuming or sometimes I may receive calls from angry authors whose manuscripts were turned down. About two months have passed, and I have experienced a mixture of most of these things—except the angry phone calls. Perhaps it is safe to say, “So far so good.”

One of the questions I ask most frequently these days is: "Is this manuscript suitable for SRL, or is it better suited for a more research-oriented journal?"

I would like to thank the Seismological Society of America (SSA) for giving me this chance to serve the community. In my view, SRL is a unique journal that helps seismologists around the world to better communicate among us and with the general audience. SRL has enhanced its reputation by increasing its impact factor and broadening its readership, through the leadership and hard work of previous EICs, associate editors (AEs), and managing editors. I feel honored and somewhat humbled (and slightly terrified) to take the helm from the former EIC Jonathan Lees.

One of the questions I ask most frequently these days is, “Is this manuscript suitable for SRL, or is it better suited for a more research-oriented journal?” After talking with several former EICs and others, I think I have a better idea which articles belong to SRL. First, an SRL article should be informational and of interest to a broad cross section of the SSA community. Second, an SRL article serves as informal communication among seismologists and to people outside our field. Finally, an SRL article provides a service to other researchers or studies. These include, but are not limited to, description of a newly available dataset from a recent experiment or analysis, development of seismic instrumentation, and release of new computer codes and programs. Any articles focusing on original seismological research should go to either Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA), or the Eastern Section of SRL, which publishes articles pertaining to eastern North America earthquakes and intraplate seismotectonics. If you are still not sure whether an article belongs to SRL or BSSA, feel free to ask. I will work with BSSA EIC Diane Doser and SRL Eastern Section Editor Martin Chapman to make sure each article ends up in the right journal/place.

I would like to point out that SRL is always interested in publishing articles or focus sections with preliminary results of recent earthquakes or other events and topics of major public interest. We will publish these articles or focus sections as quickly as possible. These SRL articles differ from those that show up in a special issue of BSSA or other journals in that they contain preliminary results that are useful for other researchers in the short term, and they are likely to be updated later with more detailed analysis and/or additional data. In other words, SRL publishes papers that are timely and perhaps useful for more immediate use, while BSSA (and other research journals) publishes more final results that are valid for a much longer time.

Through my tenure as the EIC of SRL, I would like to achieve the following goals. First, speed up the review/ publication process for all submitted manuscripts.

In addition to contributed articles on broad seismological topics, SRL is also the place for news about seismology and seismologists in the United States and around the world; opinion pieces on interesting topics; the SSA annual meeting announcements, abstracts, and reports; and the meeting calendar. Hence, SRL is not like Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which publishes only concise research letters that are likely to have immediate impact to other studies. Instead, SRL serves as a forum for informal communication among seismologists and others, much like Eos Transactions for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Physics Today for the American Institute of Physics (AIP), The Leading Edge for the Society of Exploration Geophysics (SEG), and GSA Today for the Geological Society of America (GSA).

Through my tenure as the EIC of SRL, I would like to achieve the following goals. First, speed up the review and publication process for all submitted manuscripts. Right now the average turnaround time (from submission to final print) for SRL is five months. I would like to work closely with SRL’s Managing Editor Mary George, AEs, and column editors to reduce the review process time. In August 2013, we changed the default review time from 45 to 30 days, and we plan to reduce it to 21 days starting on 1 January 2014. Similarly, we would like authors to submit their revisions within the allotted time (late revisions without justifications would be treated as a new submissions). In addition, we have increased the number of default external reviewers from one to two. This should result in more balanced reviews and reduce the workload of the editors when making decisions. We have also expanded the number of associate editors from four to six. Such expansion will help to reduce the workload of both the EIC and AEs and hence speed up the review process. Like BSSA, SRL will soon implement “publish ahead of print,” so papers accepted for publication will be placed online ahead of the print date, again helping to reduce turnaround time.

Second, I would like to broaden the readership of SRL by promoting SRL articles and engaging new readers. Together with SSA’s media liaison, Nan Broadbent, we recently started to issue press releases about SRL articles to raise public awareness of our work. In addition, we will use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to promote interesting SRL articles. Finally, we will encourage contributions to special SRL columns that would be of interest to our general audience and new readers. For example, the EduQuakes column is “a flexible and diverse forum for issues and information relating to SSA’s ongoing educational mission.” We have published only 34 EduQuakes columns since July/August 1998, which accounts for fewer than 40% of the issues (and most of them appeared before 2001). We would like to solicit more EduQuakes contributions and provide educational material or discuss earthquake- related topics for students from grades K-12 through university.

I need your help. I encourage you to consider submitting articles to SRL. A journal without enough high-quality submissions is not healthy.

Finally, I would like to increase the number of SRL issues with focus sections, which contain six or so articles on a recent seismic event or special topic, leaving plenty of room for SRL’s regular content. We have had five focus sections published over the past six years. We plan to increase this number to an average of two focus sections per year. SRL’s next focus section is on the 2013 Mw 6.8 Lushan, China, earthquake, with guest editor Huajian Yao, and will be published in the January/February 2014 issue. Another focus section on infrasound is underway with guest editors David Fee and Jeffrey Johnson. We will also explore the idea of forming virtual special issues, together with BSSA, for certain historical or current events of great interest. We encourage all of you to consider proposing new ideas for these initiatives. Please send your ideas directly to me!

To achieve all these goals, I need your help. I encourage you to consider submitting articles to SRL. A journal without enough high quality submissions is not healthy. Similarly, we benefit greatly from the external peer-review process. Because we are increasing the default number of reviews from one to two, we expect more reviewer burden to all of us in the seismological community. I would appreciate it if you could review some SRL articles and recommend others if you cannot.

It turns out that I am the second Georgia Tech professor to take on this role. The second day after my official start, I talked to our retired professor Timothy Long about my new role. He came to my office with a few issues of Earthquake Notes from the 1970s and told me that he had been the editor for more than seven years. For those who do not know, Earthquake Notes was the official publication of the Eastern Section of SSA and, in 1987, was renamed SRL. If you would like to check it out, Earthquake Notes and early issues of SRL have recently been added to http://srl.geoscienceworld.org. I am thrilled to know this connection between Georgia Tech and Earthquake Notes (and SRL). I probably will not be EIC as long as Dr. Long, but I will try my best to enjoy guiding every issue of SRL during my tenure as the EIC.   

Zhigang Peng srled@seismosoc.org

To send a letter to the editor regarding this opinion or to write your own opinion, you may contact the SRL editor by sending e-mail to
<srled [at] seismosoc [dot] org>.



Posted: 21 October 2013