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1 February 2010 2009 in Review
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In February, following a tradition set by Brian Thompson and continued by Don O'Shea, I provide a report to SPIE members and readers of this journal on its status. I would like to thank Don for providing the draft of this report. The changes in this report from last year are primarily due to the refinement of our acceptance policies. In March, I will provide a description of a few changes that will occur over the next year.

The number of papers published last year has declined substantially over the previous year. There was a reduction of 19% in the number of papers published in Optical Engineering in 2009 after a decline of 14% in 2008, as seen in Table 1. This represents a 30% decrease in the number of papers published from a plateau of about 520 papers in the years from 2005 to 2007. While the number of papers published in that earlier period was at or near the high for this journal, the perception that Don and the other members of the Board of Editors had was that the quality of the papers was diminishing. This led to an effort on the part of the Board to tighten the acceptance standards since then. The results are evident from the data presented in the table.

Table 1

Major statistics for 2004–2009 and percentage changes from 2008.

2004200520062007200820092009 vs 2008
Number of journal pages316437503920396635062842−18.9%
Number of technical pages302336303802386434102771−18.7%
Number of papers published422515525515442360−18.6%

Despite the reduction in papers published, the number of submissions increased slightly over last year, as indicated in Table 2. (The comparison between number of papers published and papers submitted is not exact, because the majority of the papers published this past year were submitted in the previous year. However, it is useful as a way of discerning trends.)

Table 2

Regular papers, received and published, for 2005–2009 and percentage changes from 2008 (including OE Letters).

2004200520062007200820092009 vs 2008
Regular papers received912875826879937939+0.21%
Regular papers published318478525500442360−18.6%

In 2005 our acceptance rate was 63%, the highest in the past decade. Since then it has fallen to around 40% in the past two years (Table 3). Despite the decrease in the number of published papers, there was no corresponding decrease in the number of submissions. So, the reduction of published papers is due to the tightening of acceptance standards by our editors. We will continue to examine the quality of papers, paying particular attention to those that, while they are not wrong, provide no significant results.

Table 3

Outcomes of regular papers acted on from 2006 through 2009 (OE Letters not included).

Accepted410 (58.8%)394 (49.3%)288 (39.2%)343 (40.8%)
Declined/Closed/Transferred279 (40.0%)399 (49.9%)444 (60.4%)493 (58.7%)
Withdrawn8 (1.2%)6 (0.8%)3 (0.4%)4 (0.5%)
Total697 (100%)799 (100%)735 (100%)840 (100%)

The acceptance rate and publication number for OE Letters also dropped a bit this past year (Table 4). Those authors whose papers meet the stricter criteria for OE Letters benefit from a publication date that is a month earlier than regular papers (see Table 7 below). In addition, these papers are published as open-access documents, so that anyone visiting the SPIE Digital Library can download them at no charge.

Table 4

OE Letters statistics for 2006–2009.

Letters received1311201159791
Letters published5050372823

Table 7

Journal performance.

Average time to complete initial review (months)Regular papers2.
OE Letters1.
Average time from acceptance to publication (months)Regular papers5.
OE Letters2.
Total time in system (months), not including revisionRegular papers8.
OE Letters3.

The largest percentage of contributions, which come from Asia, remained at 59% in 2009. There were increases, albeit small, in three regions, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America (Table 5). 2009 saw drops in published papers from North America and Western Europe.

Table 5

Number of papers published by region of first author in 2005–2009.

Region20052006200720082009% of Total
Eastern Europe2812148113.1%
Middle East1015710123.3%
North America1521361311067621.1%
South/Central America324592.5%
Western Europe100686950339.2%

Don O'Shea told me that the one thing that made the role of Editor possible while doing research and teaching was the SPIE journals staff. They are a conscientious group of women (you will find their names listed on the masthead of the journal), who with intelligence and a sense of fair play for authors and readers move the manuscripts through the review process in a timely manner. They see that the authors remain informed and they chase down delinquent reviews. With a sense of fairness and concern for ethical publishing they serve as frontline detectors of plagiarism and double publication. This is accomplished through their experience handling many papers and from detecting telltale signals that plagiarizers can leave. Table 6 provides an overview of the activity within the journals office for Optical Engineering.

Table 6

Activity of the editorial office in 2009 (regular papers and OE Letters).

Number% change vs 2008
Reviewers solicited4798+24.7%
Reviews received1580+6.3%
Revised manuscripts received505+10.5%
Papers returned to authors for revision486+3.2%

With the assistance of new production procedures that the SPIE journals staff has incorporated into the Optical Engineering submission and publication processes, the average total time between the submission of an acceptable paper and its publication is now 3.7 months for regular papers and 2.5 months for letters, not including revision time (Table 7). This is a reduction of 4.3 months for papers and one month for letters over the past five years. Because time to publication is so prized by authors, these improvements represent a signal achievement in publishing at SPIE. The online publication of peer-reviewed papers provides our readers with information on optical engineering in less time than it was once possible to get a Proceedings paper in print. Wow!

With the change of editors, the composition of the Board of Editors has changed. During the past year, Tomasz Wolinski and Ralph Tatam, who have overseen papers on fiber optics sensors, have bowed out. Their area will be tended by David Webb of Aston University. Papers on pattern recognition and machine vision for which Don Braggins was responsible will be handled by by Sergio Velastin of Kingston University and Andrea Prati of University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. In image processing Reiner Eschbach of Xerox will replace Yu-Jin Zhang. Robert Magnusson ends his service in the area of physical optics and will be replaced by Raymond “Tip” Rumpf of Prime Research. Don and I thank all of those who have served the journal, providing their time and the judgment required to conduct reviews of papers and maintain our standards. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board of Editors and staff.

©(2010) Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE)
Ronald G. Driggers "2009 in Review," Optical Engineering 49(2), 020101 (1 February 2010).
Published: 1 February 2010

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