FOR over 3 yr, Anesthesiology has provided authors with an on-line method for checking the status of their submitted manuscripts. We know that nearly 90% of our authors utilize this system at some time during the peer review process. For roughly a year and a half, we have been encouraging authors to submit their manuscripts electronically via our Web site, diskette, or e-mail. By the end of 2002, almost 90% of our papers were arriving via one of these routes. In January 2003, we made electronic submission mandatory for all manuscripts. This transition appears to have been totally painless. Since January, only about one manuscript per month has arrived in a paper format—and obtaining an electronic version from the authors has been straightforward. There are enormous advantages to this transition. Most importantly, having all manuscripts in an electronic format has made it possible for us to substantially speed the review process, at least for initial submissions, and it has resulted in a 7-day reduction in our median times to first decision, as well as the nearly complete elimination of truly delayed first decisions (as compared with the last few months of 2001).
This month, we take this process one step further. Since the editorial office was established in Iowa, we have used a proprietary database for managing our manuscripts. We are now switching to a Web-based commercial system (Editorial Manager [EM], Aries Systems Corporation, North Andover, MA). Authors will still be able to submit their articles via our “old” Web system and via e-mail and disk. However, they will also have the option of submitting via EM, and all subsequent communications with authors and reviewers will be handled through this system. This has a number of implications for both our authors and our reviewers. Most importantly, it means that both will now need to have e-mail addresses and Web access. Reviewer packets will no longer be sent to anyone via “snail mail,” and printed reviews (either mailed or sent via fax) will no longer be accepted. I realize that some may view this as a burden. However, most major journals have taken this approach, and have done so successfully. One of our key goals is to serve our authors better—and we believe that this is an appropriate step toward meeting this goal.
One other change will be taking place over the course of the remainder of the year, although it won't be obvious to many people. Major changes have been and are being made in the production process at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW), changes that will enable substantial reductions in the time between when we forward a completed manuscript file to LWW and the article's appearance in print. Authors may already have noticed that page proofs (“galleys”) are now being handled electronically. For many years, we've worked on an 11- to 12-week production schedule. This will quickly be shortened to about 8 weeks, and we are actively pursuing methods that may allow articles to be electronically published (on our Web site) even more rapidly.
Free Electronic Access
Since 1999, the full text of Anesthesiology (back to 1995) has been available electronically to all subscribers, to libraries, and to nonsubscribers who pay a small fee to download individual articles. However, as we have tracked activity at our Web site, we've noted some disturbing patterns. Many (thousands) of readers have tried to download articles, only to be confronted by the pay-per-view screen. We believe that this conflicts with our greater goal of making the best quality peer reviewed material in our specialty available to the greatest number of individuals. Therefore, after over 2 yr of discussion between the editorial board and LWW, and after approval by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, we have decided to allow everyone free electronic access to articles more than 1-yr-old. Access to more recent articles will still be limited to subscribers and to those willing to pay for download. However, papers more than 1-yr-old (e.g. , published in July 2002 or before) will be available to all. We may sacrifice some pay-per-view revenue, but the Editors, the ASA, and LWW view this as an important service to the world's anesthesia community, as well as to nonmember readers involved in the science related to our specialty.
Conflict of Interest
As everyone who reads a newspaper knows, the problems of conflict of interest between manufacturers and authors, authors and reviewers, reviewers and editors, etc., continue to grow. As Larry Saidman (former Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesiology) and I noted in an editorial published soon after I took over the editorship, this is a serious problem in our specialty. 1To try and divorce ourselves from the sponsorship of manufacturers would be foolish; much of the progress we've made over the past decades is a direct result of the support provided by pharmaceutical and equipment companies. Nevertheless, Anesthesiology has taken a strong position regarding possible conflicts of interest. My feeling has long been that the best way to deal with this is to provide the readers with a clear and unambiguous disclosure of the relationships between the authors of a paper and their sponsors. All submitted and published articles must contain such a disclosure statement, some of which are quite lengthy. Some authors have objected, unsuccessfully. We firmly believe that the honest disclosure of any and all relationships between a sponsor and an author is in the best interest of everyone.
What has been missing from this process has been a method for disclosing the conflicts of our editors and associate editors. All members of our editorial boards file yearly conflict of interest statements with the editorial office. However, these statements were not made available to authors or readers. This has now changed. Starting in early 2003, a formal conflict disclosure statement for all Editors has been posted on the Masthead of the electronic Journal, where they can be read by anyone. Statements for our Associate Editors will soon follow. Will this eliminate all possible conflicts at Anesthesiology? No, certainly not. But we believe it confirms our commitment to helping the reader understand what conflicts potentially exist. The responsibility for interpreting these conflicts, and determining how they might influence the science we present, is in the hands of the reader.
Our goals include continuing to pursue ways to improve all aspects of the Journal. I invite you to communicate with the editorial board members, the editorial office staff, and me. We all welcome your feedback, suggestions, and critical comments. I can't make any promises about implementing all of the suggestions that are made—but I can promise to pay attention to all constructive comments.