JACS editor writes about how the Internet changed scientific journals
As a journal editor, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the Internet has greatly changed scientific publishing. It has improved the speed and ease of publication, eliminating overstuffed mailboxes and arguments with the postal service about heavy packages containing multiple large manuscripts. The rate-determining step in publishing generally has been and remains peer review. But the Internet allows facile selection of and rapid communication with reviewers, as well as the ability to easily send multiple reminders to recalcitrant reviewers. Communication with authors has become so simple that authors sometimes expect instant responses to their inquiries. Most important, I no longer have to go to the library to look up references or closely related journal publications; I can easily access those articles from my comfortable office chair.
All of the convenience also has greatly increased submissions. For example, the number of manuscripts submitted to the Journal of the American Chemical Society every year has more than doubled over the past decade. This is also a reflection of the increasing significance and wealth of chemical research happening across the world, as well as a result of the pressure to publish. This pressure has also resulted in a significant increase in the number of new journals. Fortunately, the Internet allows both ready search of and easy access to this rapidly growing chemical literature.
What the Internet has not done is cultivate more civilized communication. On rare occasions, you still get unhappy phone calls from authors whose manuscripts have been declined.