QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

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QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby ohiocaver » Apr 29, 2013 7:54 pm

Arguably the most prestigious publication in the NSS family is the JOURNAL of CAVE and KARST STUDIES. It stands with a very few other publications atop the cave research world. It is a repository of scientific information, discovery and research of interest to cavers. Recently, however, it seems the NSS has allowed the editorial board to forget that the JOURNAL is a publication of a U.S. caving organization and is supported by dues overwhelmingly paid by members of U.S. grottoes – not cave clubs or colleges scattered about the globe.
This is not to say there should not be room in the JOURNAL for articles from around the world. However, I strongly believe that there should be a sizable home-field advantage given to articles done about caving and cave research in North America, at least; and to research done by NSS members and supported by NSS member grottoes for sure (this is just another case where the NSS takes from local grottoes but does next-to-nothing to boost or acknowledge its member grottoes and gives grottoes little support in any way, shape or form).
In short, I question the editorial judgment of the JOURNAL staff on what is more important to a U.S. cave group...something from an esoteric location far across the globe that catches the editorial board members’ eyes? Or, say, an article on a new species written by local grotto members and NSS people here and sponsored, in part, by money put up by THREE local grottos that all are members in good standing of NSS (including support from the Cleveland Grotto Science Fund). Where is the recognition to us?
This is not a concern unique to caving. It is not cave xenophobia.
Local newspaper editors face the same challenge daily in deciding which articles to run in their small, hometown papers. There is a misguided (but usually short-lived) tendency among less thoughtful editors to favor hot news from Washington, DC, a spectacular disaster, or national sporting from some faraway place over the news of a local animal-adoption drive, a robbery on Main Street, or the dubious accomplishments of the high school sports teams. However, a local paper must focus on local happenings…readers expect local. If there is a local tie to a disaster like the Boston Marathon bombing, then by all means run the article…and lead with the local interest, the hometown runner who survived the attack. Otherwise, stick to your local knitting…even if the flooding out of a small township bridge is not as exotic it is important to those who support the publication.
There will, of course, be issues when local news is thin. Or when an isolated international discovery is earth-shattering news. Then, by all means, the editor should go ahead and run the national or international story. However, the ratio of local to exotic always should be in the 10:1 area, not – as with the JOURNAL – often 8:2 in favor of foreign research. The Board neglects local readership and local interests at its own peril.
Let’s remember that the name of the publication is not the INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL of KARST. It is not sponsored by the International Speleological Society. How the editorial board members determine which articles to run is based on their well-reasoned impression of scientific worth and interest. However, I fear the current board is enamored of caves in locales with exotic names and little more. Perhaps they are inundated by work from abroad. Still, the work-a-day cave research from other nations and other cave organizations should be used on a space-available basis. NSS member-supported or generated work should have priority.
Sadly, one gets the idea that many of these international papers are submitted to our JOURNAL because publication is free (many academic journals, rather than paying the writer or publishing pro bono, require the author to pay a per-page fee to get research published). They don't even pay NSS dues - but they use our resources. Unless an international paper covers the discovery of something truly spectacular (discovery of a new species or cave phenomena), then the first nod for space in our JOURNAL must go to the work done in the USA and by members of the NSS who are affiliated with local grottoes. They support the JOURNAL with their dues. It is a shame NSS no longer distributes the JOURNAL to its members. One must now pay extra (or be a life member) to receive a printed copy. One surely can see why the membership lost interest in a publication that is more enamored of faraway places with strange sounding names than caves, colleges and critters that are in members’ back yards.
The JOURNAL must start charging non-US contributors a fee for publication…a fee commensurate with the fees charged by other scholarly publications. In any case, scoring for editorial space in the JOURNAL should reflect a strong preference for local work by NSS members. Otherwise, the JOURNAL will become more of an esoteric outlier in the NSS world than it is today [the majority of NSS members decline to receive the publication]. That will put it one step from the dustbin of history.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby VRcaver » Apr 29, 2013 9:32 pm

You make some interesting comments regarding the costs and current financial situation of the NSS. However, that point is largely lost in your anti-foreign bias. Why should a non-US contributor get charged a fee while not charging a US contributor? Is foreign science less valid? In my view, cave science does not seem to be a US vs. non-US issue. It seems to me (without being an expert publishing research in this area) that there aren't many journals internationally focused on this domain. I always thought that the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies was intended for international work, assuming a certain quality level. I would rather have quality science independent of where it is from. Quality raises the journal quality ranking, which then increases the status of the hosting organization.

If your point was non-NSS vs. NSS member contributions to the JCKS that might be a different matter. Maybe the solution is to require membership in the NSS for submission? These researchers could then see the rest of the value we offer as an organization and it may enhance their research. We already have many non-US members. Maybe in your view we should not consider them?

I guess I am confused by your position on this issue. Science is science, and it is not a local vs. non-local issue. A US only JKCS would be an inferior publication, and I expect only the best from our organization.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby Lava » Apr 29, 2013 10:28 pm

I agree with Doug completely. Ohiocaver, are you aware of any instances where a US study of good scientific rigor was turned down in lieu of a foreign study? I doubt it. There are probably 100 times (or more) as many non-scientist cavers out there as there are cave scientists, and even the non-scientific publication (NSS News) is still desperate for articles. My guess is that anything and everything that meets a high scientific standard is published, regardless of country of origin. Also, many caves around the world are similar, so a discovery in some "esoteric" place may very likely have pertinence to caves here in the US, which will improve our local understanding of caves as well as our ability to preserve them.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby ohiocaver » Apr 29, 2013 10:39 pm

Your second paragraph accurately states my point: non-NSS vs. NSS member contributions to the JCKS. I apologize if I came across to you as xenophobic. I specifically stated that my issue is not "cave xenophobia." Nor is this about the intrinsic worth of the science done in one locale or another. It is about the assignment of too many expensive-to-produce pages in JOURNAL to authors who are not members of NSS (overwhelmingly, these authors are overseas based) as opposed to authors who are NSS members (overwhelmingly US based despite your note that we have "many non-US members"); and the cost (to all NSS members, wherever located) of publishing every one of those pages giving non-members a free ride. I believe NSS members, whether from the US or overseas, should have priority for publication space since those members pay for the publication of JCKS. Note my point about an article on a new species discovered in Ohio that was the result of work supported by three separate NSS grottoes and was done by NSS members...yet took three YEARS to see the light of day in JCKS while man+,y MANY articles by non-NSS member authors (overwhelmingly, if coincidentally, from outside the US) were published . I believe that, as is common in academia, any authors who are not multi-year members of NSS, whether US-based or foreign, should pay the freight to have their articles published by our Association. When the NSS publishes a 5-page article for a non-member, it gets nothing...not even dues...from authors who are not NSS members. Yet it gives them $250-500 in value. Meantime, good NSS-grotto supported research sits on the back burner hoping to get some ink in the very publication supported by those local grotto dues. That is just not right.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby ohiocaver » Apr 29, 2013 10:45 pm

Bruce's question popped up while I was posting. And, the answer to his challenge -- as noted in my earlier response -- is a qualified Yes. The research report on a new species was not turned down but took an extraordinarily long time to be published (over three years) while other, non-NSS research was published. The article in point finally appears in the current JOURNAL. There may have been some extraordinary circumstances involved...articles lost, mis-routed, etc. Whatever the excuse, the ratio of unpaid, free-riding research vs. that done by dues-paying members is way out of line.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby driggs » Apr 29, 2013 11:04 pm

ohiocaver wrote:Arguably the most prestigious publication in the NSS family is the JOURNAL of CAVE and KARST STUDIES. It stands with a very few other publications atop the cave research world. It is a repository of scientific information, discovery and research of interest to cavers. Recently, however, it seems the NSS has allowed the editorial board to forget that the JOURNAL is a publication of a U.S. caving organization and is supported by dues overwhelmingly paid by members of U.S. grottoes – not cave clubs or colleges scattered about the globe.

This is not to say there should not be room in the JOURNAL for articles from around the world. However, I strongly believe that there should be a sizable home-field advantage given to articles done about caving and cave research in North America, at least; and to research done by NSS members and supported by NSS member grottoes for sure (this is just another case where the NSS takes from local grottoes but does next-to-nothing to boost or acknowledge its member grottoes and gives grottoes little support in any way, shape or form).

In short, I question the editorial judgment of the JOURNAL staff on what is more important to a U.S. cave group...something from an esoteric location far across the globe that catches the editorial board members’ eyes? Or, say, an article on a new species written by local grotto members and NSS people here and sponsored, in part, by money put up by THREE local grottos that all are members in good standing of NSS (including support from the Cleveland Grotto Science Fund). Where is the recognition to us?

This is not a concern unique to caving. It is not cave xenophobia.

Local newspaper editors face the same challenge daily in deciding which articles to run in their small, hometown papers. There is a misguided (but usually short-lived) tendency among less thoughtful editors to favor hot news from Washington, DC, a spectacular disaster, or national sporting from some faraway place over the news of a local animal-adoption drive, a robbery on Main Street, or the dubious accomplishments of the high school sports teams. However, a local paper must focus on local happenings…readers expect local. If there is a local tie to a disaster like the Boston Marathon bombing, then by all means run the article…and lead with the local interest, the hometown runner who survived the attack. Otherwise, stick to your local knitting…even if the flooding out of a small township bridge is not as exotic it is important to those who support the publication.

There will, of course, be issues when local news is thin. Or when an isolated international discovery is earth-shattering news. Then, by all means, the editor should go ahead and run the national or international story. However, the ratio of local to exotic always should be in the 10:1 area, not – as with the JOURNAL – often 8:2 in favor of foreign research. The Board neglects local readership and local interests at its own peril.

Let’s remember that the name of the publication is not the INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL of KARST. It is not sponsored by the International Speleological Society. How the editorial board members determine which articles to run is based on their well-reasoned impression of scientific worth and interest. However, I fear the current board is enamored of caves in locales with exotic names and little more. Perhaps they are inundated by work from abroad. Still, the work-a-day cave research from other nations and other cave organizations should be used on a space-available basis. NSS member-supported or generated work should have priority.

Sadly, one gets the idea that many of these international papers are submitted to our JOURNAL because publication is free (many academic journals, rather than paying the writer or publishing pro bono, require the author to pay a per-page fee to get research published). They don't even pay NSS dues - but they use our resources. Unless an international paper covers the discovery of something truly spectacular (discovery of a new species or cave phenomena), then the first nod for space in our JOURNAL must go to the work done in the USA and by members of the NSS who are affiliated with local grottoes. They support the JOURNAL with their dues. It is a shame NSS no longer distributes the JOURNAL to its members. One must now pay extra (or be a life member) to receive a printed copy. One surely can see why the membership lost interest in a publication that is more enamored of faraway places with strange sounding names than caves, colleges and critters that are in members’ back yards.

The JOURNAL must start charging non-US contributors a fee for publication…a fee commensurate with the fees charged by other scholarly publications. In any case, scoring for editorial space in the JOURNAL should reflect a strong preference for local work by NSS members. Otherwise, the JOURNAL will become more of an esoteric outlier in the NSS world than it is today [the majority of NSS members decline to receive the publication]. That will put it one step from the dustbin of history.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 30, 2013 10:39 am

obviously, as has been mentioned, the primary question is whether the publication of international articles has actually led to the non publishing or long delay of U.S. articles. The 2nd question is whether this impact (if present) was due to limited space, due to being outcompeted in scientific quality, or that the international articles were just judged more interestering than others from the U.S.

Assuming there is a impact and that more U.S. articles would be published if there was a space preference for U.S. articles over international ones, I would tend to agree that as long as the articles met recognized scientific standards and were worth publishing in the first place, articles of U.S. origin should take a large precedence in terms of total volume in the Journal. I certainly however would not advocate favoring any particular U.S. article over any particular international one based solely on origin.

*edit* of course the financial priorities of the NSS have been quite askew for a while....but the fact is that most members truly wouldn't read the Journal. I do however think it should be funded to a level where it was provided free to those who did request it. The interest on my Life Membership has already been stolen for the boondoggle, but I would probably fork out the cash to buy a brick for the Journal.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby Lava » Apr 30, 2013 11:32 am

I'm still not convinced there's an issue here. Ohiocaver, you only mention one instance of delayed publication of a US study, and even then you admit there may have been other reasons for that delay other than preferential treatment of international studies. One delayed publication is not evidence of systemic US study exclusion. I would be interested in hearing a response from the editor of the Journal, as I suspect there is more to this story than what we are privy to here.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby ScottEngel » Apr 30, 2013 4:06 pm

In order to shed some light on the concerns raised by Ohiocaver let me state up front that I am the Production Editor for the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies (the Journal). That means, while I do not approve the individual articles accepted by the Journal (that is the responsibility of the other editorial staff), I am responsible for setting the content of each individual issue.

Let me start by saying that the 3 year turn-around-time for the US based manuscript that Ohiocaver is referring to was the result of an error and not due to standard Journal practices. Unfortunately, this particular manuscript got “lost” in the review cycle for about a year due to a processing error made by the author and the associate editor in charge of the manuscript. Consequently, the manuscript remained in review and did not show up in the tracking system as accepted for publication. Once this error was discovered, it was immediately corrected and the manuscript placed into the queue for publication in the next available issue. Although discovered prior to publication of the December 2012 issue, the severe budget cuts experienced by the Journal last year (a 40% reduction) did not allow sufficient space in the December issue and the manuscript had to be held over until the April 2013 issue. It is unfortunate that the author did not communicate the information about this processing error to his collaborators (perhaps due to embarrassment?). If it is any consolation, since the Journal transitioned to an online submission and review system 7 years ago, the manuscript in question is the only one to have experienced this problem. Furthermore, we have taken steps to adjust our system to prevent it from happening again.

With respect to the issue of preferential treatment of international based authors over US based authors, I will simply state that all manuscripts received by the Journal are reviewed and accepted for publication based solely on their scientific merit and there is absolutely no preference given based on the authors country of origin. With a few exceptions, the decision for which manuscripts go into an issue is based on the order in which they were accepted and on the number of pages that can be printed in an issue based on the available budget. In 2012, the Journal published 27 manuscripts with 10 originating from US authors and 17 originating from international authors. While this appears to represent a preference for international authors, the truth is the Journal received more publishable manuscripts from international sources. I can speculate on many reasons why, ranging from the spread of white-nose syndrome in the US making it difficult to conduct active cave research, to academic publication pressures in high ranking journals. But speculation aside, I am confident that the main reason why international authors choose to submit to the Journal is not because it is free, but because the Journal is the highest ranked peer reviewed cave and karst publication in the world. Who doesn’t want their work printed in the top journal for their field, regardless of where it is located? As a NSS member, I am proud of that our Journal represents the best.

On the Journal budget issues I could go on for pages and pages, but I will refrain from that here. The last thing the Journal staff wanted to do was reduce the print circulation of the Journal, but the NSS budgets the last few years have left us with few to no options. We were mandated by the NSS BOG to reduce circulation as a cost saving measure to the society. We, the Journal staff, have repeatedly requested that the fees and subscription rates associated with the Journal be increased to offset our losses and reduce the burden on the society. However, this is not something that the Journal staff can do on our own, but must be voted on and approved by the NSS BOG. To date, our requests to change the fee structure for the Journal have not been acted on by the BOG. So, if you do not like how the Journal is being funded or distributed, please tell the BOG that you would like to see it changed.

If you would like more information about the Journal manuscript review and acceptance process, I recommend you read the related article published in the January 2012 NSS News.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby rjack » Apr 30, 2013 7:03 pm

Generally speaking, one does not get preferential treatment in any scientific journal for financial contributions. That would defeat the point of articles competing for publication based on merit. Ohiocaver would you be happier if the Journal was financially independent and maintained solely by page charges? Page charges often reduce the volume of submittals though.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby ohiocaver » May 1, 2013 8:16 am

Rjack's idea would go a long way. However, I believe there should be some acknowledgement of established NSS membership (perhaps a 3-year minimum) in that fee structure. Non-NSS members might pay $100 per published page and NSS members would pay $50, perhaps with a $10 per page reduction in their $50 fee for every year they had been members (ie, a 5-year+ member could always publish free). This would help defray costs and avoid the "free rider" problem we now have. The reason for the 3-year minimum membership requirement would be to avoid someone paying a few dollars to join for a year or two, getting free or low cost publication, then quitting.
Scott, I was aware there was some sort of tracking problem. And I was aware of the funding cut for JCKS. If our specific case was a one-off situation, perhaps this whole thread simply should turn on everyone paying to help JCKS stay solvent (as per my proposal above). However, I have to ask: How can you be sure there aren't other articles out there in limbo just as ours was? Has the computer tracking system been revised or is there a human-based list somewhere that is tracking the all manuscripts from submission to their final fate?
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby gulley.jason » May 2, 2013 7:33 am

As a researcher that publishes in scientific journals, I would hate to see JCKS move to a fee based publication structure. There are very few journals that are specific to karst research and even fewer that are ranked, which is an important criteria for those of that do research as a profession.

Introduction of a publication fee will reduce the number of submissions to the journal and eliminate the journal as a publication avenue for unfunded graduate and undergraduate students, whose work is frequently published in JCKS. Much of the research I conducted as a graduate student and as a postdoc was conducted on a shoe string budget and I could not afford to pay page charges. Consequently, my research was published in other journals that were free and backed by major publishing companies. I was able to find alternative journals in my specific case because much of my work was related to glaciers and of widespread appeal to the geoscience research community - BUT that research is now located behind a HUGE paywall, limiting access to the general public.

Pure karst research has a limited audience, few funding opportunities or publication venues. I can think of no for-profit scientific journal that would publish a study on the impacts of cavers' urine on cave dirt. I can think of few journals that would publish research on the best ways to decontaminate equipment to prevent the spread of WNS. This is why societies have traditionally published their own research journals - because nobody else was interested in publishing the kind of research the society was advancing. As a society that is dedicated to promoting advancing understanding of caves (which is included in the name of the society) we should be proud to provide a journal that allows researchers from around the world to distribute their work to the broader scientific (and conservation) communities.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby rjack » May 2, 2013 11:01 am

gulley.jason wrote:As a researcher that publishes in scientific journals, I would hate to see JCKS move to a fee based publication structure. There are very few journals that are specific to karst research and even fewer that are ranked, which is an important criteria for those of that do research as a profession.

Introduction of a publication fee will reduce the number of submissions to the journal and eliminate the journal as a publication avenue for unfunded graduate and undergraduate students, whose work is frequently published in JCKS. Much of the research I conducted as a graduate student and as a postdoc was conducted on a shoe string budget and I could not afford to pay page charges. Consequently, my research was published in other journals that were free and backed by major publishing companies. I was able to find alternative journals in my specific case because much of my work was related to glaciers and of widespread appeal to the geoscience research community - BUT that research is now located behind a HUGE paywall, limiting access to the general public.

Pure karst research has a limited audience, few funding opportunities or publication venues. I can think of no for-profit scientific journal that would publish a study on the impacts of cavers' urine on cave dirt. I can think of few journals that would publish research on the best ways to decontaminate equipment to prevent the spread of WNS. This is why societies have traditionally published their own research journals - because nobody else was interested in publishing the kind of research the society was advancing. As a society that is dedicated to promoting advancing understanding of caves (which is included in the name of the society) we should be proud to provide a journal that allows researchers from around the world to distribute their work to the broader scientific (and conservation) communities.


Agree 100%. A sliding payscale based on your membership tenure (in any organization) is valuing membership, funding, and money far more than valuing the best science regardless of origin. Offering any "home field advantage" is probably the fastest way to degrade the rank of a journal in terms of submission quality.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby wyandottecaver » May 2, 2013 6:21 pm

Again,

I think any *individual* preference would not be warranted. However, I do think as a NSS funded publication that publishing priority and volume be weighted to U.S. articles of sufficient quality. The fact remains that US readers are more likely to support a publication catering to US topics. I doubt it would significantly degrade overall quality to set a volume target of 75/25 for US vs overseas content.

I also think page charges would be a bad idea and would ultimately devalue the Journal.

However, I wonder about offering a voluntary "expedited publishing" option for articles already accepted for publication. In this way an author could essentially foot the bill for the extra pages of his article in order for more timely publishing.
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Re: QUESTIONING THE JOURNAL’s EDITORIAL PRIORITIES

Postby Roppelcaver » May 3, 2013 1:31 pm

Ah... a class system for submissions. That would have the same effect of favoring the haves over have nots, despite the good intent. I like the JCKS and the non-discriminatory nature of its content (although I don't read but a handful of articles, and I will say it is the content not the source that drives it. I am equally likely to read an interesting ariticle whether US or not).
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