Details and discussion about impending changes to ApJ and AJ

by Kelle on February 13, 2015

During AAS225 in Seattle, there was an announcement about changes coming to the AAS Journals: Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), and the Astronomical Journal (AJ). These changes include lots of awesome things such as “linking articles directly to data archives, providing for video abstracts, improving figure presentation, making figures interactive, introducing the ability to produce 3-D presentations.” The changes also include some more controversial things like changing the journal titles (including changing ApJ Letters to “Letters of the AAS”) and the process used to figure out what paper gets published where. Not a lot of details were given and the community understandably has lots of questions, concerns, and opinions about these changes.

Motivated by the plethora of questions, concerns, and confusion that the AAS Agents were reporting, the AAS has followed up with some more information in an announcement posted yesterday: Changes Ahead for AAS Journals. In this announcement, we got more details about the process, the Transition Team currently being assembled, and a request for community input. In particular,

Some of the decisions yet to be made:

    • Names for the new journals. Should we continue the valuable AJ and ApJ brands, consolidate under one new title, or add titles?
    • Content. How can content best be channeled, such that the impact factor of the journals and visibility for authors increases?

The AAS has provided a Comment Box on the journals site where you can communicate directly to the AAS Leadership and the AAS Journals Transition Team.

There is already a lively discussion, as always, on the Astronomers FaceBook Group. Some of the concerns raised there are about how will the non-astronomers (mostly physicists) who serve on many of our tenure and promotion committees evaluate our papers in journals which 1) no longer exist under the name we published them in and 2) have ambiguous “prestige” factor.

Beyond the journal titles, I’m very interested in the prospect of data linking. I’ve spoken out on this topic before (A call for open access to all data in AJ and ApJ articles) and I think it should be a requirement of publication. Is that possibility on the table?

Also, the possibility of 3D interactive figures is mind blowing and really pushing the envelope for scientific publication. I can’t wait to start messing around with 3D plotting and to stop struggling with projections and clever ways to indicate extra dimensions!

So what do you think? What are you excited about? What are you worried about? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Gizis February 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I think the proposed changes are mostly good and in fact needed.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about the physicists; it’s quite easy to document that AJ and ApJ (along with MNRAS and A&A) are the top journals in our field [for example, have the department ask the external letter writers to comment on the matter], and PASP compares favorably with many scientific journals.


2 Alice Allen February 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Not surprisingly, I think release of software written for research should be required by publications, absent truly compelling reasons such as export restrictions.

“… anything less than the release of source programs is intolerable for results that depend on computation.”


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