From the Editors

Nick Sanyal

Editor Reflects on JCES Development

In less than a decade JCES has moved into a position of excellence and now serves as one of the flagship publications in the field of community engagement scholarship. We have extended our reach beyond North America to include international contributors and readers, and our articles represent diverse disciplines—from social work to nursing, from urban design to civil engineering, and from natural resources to medicine.

I have been asked to step up and continue the exemplary lead of Dr. Cassie Simon, under whom I have been privileged to serve as JCES associate editor. This not only allows me to further serve a field that I am passionate about, but will also indeed be a special privilege to serve with and learn from the best—the JCES editorial team is second to none! JCES was founded as a “new kind of research journal.” We will continue to evolve, mature, and transform as we explore the challenges and opportunities of the day.

While we must continue to innovate as we reward good scholarship, champion bold applications of knowledge, and lend our support as credible experts as we focus on understanding the myriad of challenges that face society at home and around the globe, we must also remain rooted to our primary cause: “disseminating the scholarly works on community engagement that would promote the integration of teaching, research, and outreach.”

As editor, any change I foster will be incremental, spawned as a consequence of the interaction between our contributors, editors, advisory board, and staff. Community engagement is all about becoming better citizens. I see JCES as a way to transform that experiential learning and to create great scholarship and contribute to the scientific, artistic, and humanistic basis of our engagement endeavors.

An early goal I have is to see more first-time authors, students, and community partners published in JCES. These are the people who will carry JCES and its message into the future, and these are the people who are often disenfranchised by traditional refereed scholarly publications. As an associate editor, board member, and reviewer I read many compelling manuscripts that simply needed enhancements to structure and organization to better convey their story to make a significant contribution to the scholarship of engagement. We must be the journal that provides such space and encouragement. By enhancing the connections between existing knowledge and practice, we can expand the transference of their knowledge and become a more inclusive platform for a larger community of scholars.

As a member of a community of scholars working in a world of practitioners, I look forward to a rewarding, challenging, and productive tenure as editor, and I am thrilled to be working with exceptionally talented and always helpful staff at the University of Alabama and elsewhere in the JCES world.

Some other changes are also taking place at JCES: Dr. Marybeth Lima, professor of Biology and Agricultural Engineering at Louisiana State University, where she serves as director of the Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership, has agreed to become our new associate editor. She was the winner of the 2007 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for service learning at LSU, has an extensive background in community engagement, and has been a most effective and active board member. Welcome!

At the University of Alabama, Dr. Ed Mullins has stepped down as our production editor, and Ms. Karyn Bowen has agreed to step in and fill his big shoes. Dr. Mullins will remain on staff as an editorial assistant so we will continue to benefit from his sage and practical advice. I’d also like to thank Dr. Samory Pruitt for his faith and persuasion; Assistant to the Editor Vicky Carter, a UA doctoral student in Social Work, for her unparalleled ability to “herd cats”; and to our new and continuing Editorial Board members and the many other reviewers, who share so freely of their time.

Finally, thanks once again, Cassie, for the leadership, guidance, and friendship that you have offered me. I hope I can continue to earn your trust and deliver your vision.

Portrait from the LSU AgCenter Communications Office.

Associate Editor on Impactful & Quality Journals

I still remember the time I held in my hands the first journal article that had I co-authored. It was 1988 and I was a senior in college—the paper was based on work I had completed during a 6-month, full-time research internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory the previous year. I remember feeling very proud because the paper represented the culmination of a ton of effort, starting with executing a set of somewhat tedious experiments (they didn’t start out being tedious, but between making mistakes and verification experiments, they got tedious), followed by thoughtful analysis, and then writing up the results in the form of a manuscript. My research paper went through at least ten drafts—the back and forth writing and critiquing process between me and my research mentor was my first exposure to writing toward a standard of excellence instead of “the good old college try,” which had been sufficient to that point in my career. The paper had to be strong enough for submission to the Biochemical Journal, which my mentor informed me was “a good journal,” whatever that meant–I had no scale against which to judge, so I took his word for it.

As I reflect on that moment 26 years and many publications later, I now have a strong grasp of what makes a journal article good. A good journal article tells a detailed story that no one has told before—it must be unique to be published. A good article builds on existing literature in some way. It provides context so that a reader can situate the work within a broad framework. And it provides perspective, and a jumping off point for future thought.

I also have a strong grasp of what makes a journal good. There are many tools today to judge the quality of journals that were not available in 1988. Generally, the lower the acceptance rate of a journal, the better quality it is. Another metric often used in STEM[1] fields is the impact factor of a journal, the average number of citations per year for the articles published in that particular journal[2]—so a journal with an impact factor of less than one is considered lower quality than a journal like Science, which has an impact factor of 33.6. As an engineer, I place great stock in numbers—however, I also heed Einstein’s quote, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” As applied to the quality of journals, I believe that acceptance rates and impact factors can give you some information, but not even close to all of it. A good journal has a clear mission, a committed editorial staff, and a reasonable time from submission to publication. It fills a niche by adding critical literature to the field. When I read articles in a good journal, I feel informed, inspired, and reflective.

JCES is a good journal. Its mission is to provide readers with perspectives that integrate community engagement, teaching and learning, and research. Its editorial staff, current and former, is committed to producing a high-quality journal with a quick turnaround time for authors. JCES fills a niche by “lifting all voices” into the literature, with special attention paid to community partner and student voices that tend to be underrepresented in the broad field of engagement. As a long-time reader and reviewer of manuscripts for JCES, I have been privileged to learn many new things and to think about new perspectives. I was honored to be asked to become an associate editor and I look forward to working with the editorial staff, reviewers, and readers of JCES as it continues to grow, inform, and inspire.

[1] Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
[2] These are calculated on a 2-year average, so they change periodically for the same journal.