Astute readers will realize that it has been quite some time since I dusted off my pen and wrote a short article for the Editor’s Page. However, I have been shaken out of my torpor by the start of a new year, and the auspicious occasion that will accompany the arrival of January 2012.
The first issue of the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography ( JASE ) was published in January 1988 (although some of ASE’s more mature members will recall that from 1988-1996, JASE was published on a bimonthly basis, so— technically — the inaugural issue was the January-February 1988 issue). Therefore, the arrival of January 2012 heralds the publication of the first issue of the 25 th volume of the Journal. A 25 th birthday is a memorable event, and all members of the American Society of Echocardiography have reason to be proud of how our official journal has grown during its first 24 years.
According to PubMed, the inaugural issue of JASE included a total of 9 articles, most of which focused on the role of echocardiography in evaluating various forms of cardiomyopathy, and used a total of 102 editorial pages. The 6 issues that constituted volume 1 of JASE included a total of 76 papers that filled fewer than 500 editorial pages. By 1996 (volume 9), the year’s content totaled 126 papers and filled more than 800 pages. This justified expansion of the Journal in 1997 to a total of 9 issues. In 1998, JASE became a monthly publication; volume 11 contained 12 issues, a total of 172 articles, and more than 1,170 editorial pages. In the ensuing 14 years, the Journal has continued to grow, albeit less rapidly. It is worth noting that toddlers and young children grow quickly, but once they reach puberty and become teenagers the rate of physical growth is slower. Height and body weight do not increase each year, on a percentage basis, as rapidly in teenagers as in younger children – instead, maturation must be measured in other ways. Similarly, while JASE has continued to grow and mature, the number of papers published each year, and the total editorial pages used to publish these papers, has not increased as rapidly as it did in the Journal’s first 10 years. In 2011, by my estimates, we will have published over 1,500 pages of editorial content, and a total of about 190 articles. Over time, JASE has published more guideline documents and review articles, and fewer case reports. As they grow older, most 25 year olds do not expect to gain in height, and in general they hope not to gain much more weight. However, they do continue to learn, and to become more accomplished, over time. I believe that the same can be said for JASE .
How one grades the accomplishments of a journal such as JASE is an ongoing source of discussion. Some consider that a journal’s acceptance rate is a marker of quality, and believe that a journal that publishes only 10% of the articles that authors submit for consideration is intrinsically “better” than a journal that publishes 50% of the articles it considers. While JASE’s acceptance rate has continued to fall over the past years, I do not believe that this metric is very meaningful. Hypothetically, let’s imagine that we received 100 new manuscripts in a given month, all of which were poorly written, scientifically shaky, and of low originality and limited clinical importance. If we published 10 of these articles, we could brag about an acceptance rate of 10%, but the truth is that we would have published 10 poor articles. On the other hand, if we received a total of 10 articles in a given month, all of high importance, scientifically solid, innovative, and of clear relevance to our readers, publishing all 10 of these papers would give us an acceptance rate of 100%, but we would have published 10 excellent articles. Of course I have exaggerated just a little bit, but you can see why acceptance rate is not an ideal measure of quality.
Another commonly used measure is the “journal impact factor”, which is in essence a measure of how often the average article published in a journal is cited by other authors (whether in that journal or any other indexed journal). In general, it is thought that the higher the impact factor, the better the journal. As always, the Devil is in the details, and there are ways to influence the journal impact factor. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that over recent years, the JASE impact factor has risen from 1.365 (in 1999) to 3.518 (in 2010). JASE’s ranking among other journals in the Cardiac & Cardiovascular Systems category has also improved; in 2010, JASE was in the top 26% of journals in this category. There seems to be some basis to think that as JASE has grown in size, its quality also has continued to grow.
Since JASE is the official journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, and owned by ASE, one can rightly argue that the quality of the Journal ought to be assessed by how well it meets the needs of ASE members. One way in which we have tried to meet an important need is by providing members the opportunity to earn, annually, up to 10 credits for continuing medical education (CME) by reviewing selected articles carefully and successfully answering questions on a CME test. I am pleased that with the support of ASE’s CME Committee, we have been able to develop a consistent process for identifying articles suitable for CME credit in a manner that complies with the rules of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). ASE members have been able to earn up to 10 CME credits a year in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and we expect to reach this same goal in 2012. Since demonstrating ongoing continuing medical education is required for laboratory accreditation and re-licensure, providing readers of JASE the opportunity to earn these CME credits from the comfort of their offices or homes (and without the expense of travel, lodging, and time missed from work) certainly seems to meet members’ needs.
I believe that JASE has always been about publishing well written, interesting articles describing novel applications of echocardiography that offer the promise of improved patient care. The editors agree that it is proper and fitting to publish pre-clinical research studies in animals or models when these help establish the feasibility and potential applicability of exciting new methods. However, our major focus continues to be on articles that describe innovative applications that can be used in patients, and provide incremental information that may help clinicians do a better job of caring for their patients. It is serendipitous, but fitting, that the first issue of the 25 th volume of JASE includes—as a Focus Topic —a number of articles that describe novel applications of three-dimensional echocardiography for enhanced analysis of ventricular and valvular function, as well as a jointly developed guideline document from the ASE and the European Association of Echocardiography that ought to enhance standardization and consistency in image acquisition and analysis. We believe that articles such as these certainly do address the needs of our readers, our profession, and most importantly, our patients.
In summary, over its first 24 years, JASE has enjoyed steady growth in a number of areas. Much of the credit for this goes to the Founding Editor of the Journal (and the first President of ASE), Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum. The current editorial group has tried to build on the very solid foundation that we inherited a few years ago. We hope that ASE members and readers of the Journal share our perspective that as it turns 25, JASE is an effective educational vehicle and an important benefit of ASE membership. While we look forward to introducing further enhancements in the years to come, it seems to us that there are many reasons to celebrate the occasion of the 25 th birthday of JASE .
As always, if you have comments or suggestions, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .