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January 2014

JAMA Ophthalmology Publication Policies and Procedures: Fresh Start for a New Year

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Retina, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 3Jaeb Center for Health Research, Tampa, Florida
  • 4Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132(1):11-12. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.7874

A new year provides an opportunity for fresh starts, and with this issue of JAMA Ophthalmology, the current editorial board begins its first full year of activity and takes this opportunity to review some critical publication policies and procedures to enhance the journal’s vision, to publish the best peer-reviewed articles (in print and electronically) in ophthalmology. The journal’s updated mission, seen on every issue’s masthead, is to be the indispensable source of ophthalmic knowledge by promptly publishing innovative, clinically relevant research through consistent and authoritative peer review and, thereby, to be the first choice of authors for their important manuscripts.

Prompt Review, Decision, and Publication

How will the journal strive for prompt review of submissions and publication? The review process has been revised such that each properly submitted manuscript is forwarded to 1 or more of the senior editors to assess the manuscript’s quality and its priority for publication. A manuscript in which the subject matter does not meet the current editorial priorities of JAMA Ophthalmology or is judged unlikely to succeed through stringent external review is rejected at that point, typically within a week. This process allows an author to submit the manuscript to another journal without the delay entailed by a more formal review process, thus serving one of the author’s ultimate goals, rapid review. Currently, approximately one-third of the submissions go on to additional peer review, which is to be completed within 2 weeks. In this way, a peer reviewer can concentrate her or his time on evaluating a manuscript and provide a review that either indicates that a paper cannot be revised sufficiently to warrant publication, and therefore should be rejected, or accepted as is, or modified based on objective, independent recommendations that likely will lead to an improved manuscript and eventual publication. If a reviewer is unable to complete the review promptly, then 1 or more of the editorial board members or their designate is asked to complete the review within a week. In this way, all reviews should be completed no later than 1 month following submission. After a decision is made to go forward with a revision, authors then are asked to provide their revisions within a month. If these revisions adequately address the editor’s and the reviewers’ comments, a manuscript typically can be accepted for publication within a week of resubmission, unless additional review is warranted. JAMA Ophthalmology, as part of The JAMA Network, is committed to publishing accepted major articles online within 60 days of acceptance. For major clinical trials that likely have substantial public health importance or that may change practice, even faster publication schedules can be accomplished with advanced notice, indicating the ability to time the online publication with meeting presentations.

Worldwide Reach

Prompt publication is most valuable when the publication can be accessed easily and universally. JAMA Ophthalmology receives more than 1 million online visits annually with 2.2 million page views and 1.1 million article downloads. The reach of JAMA Ophthalmology and the other JAMA Network journals through the JAMA Network Reader (www.jnreader.com) is extensive, with free access to all major papers published in The JAMA Network, including JAMA Ophthalmology, for the foreseeable future. This approach is very different than open-access models of publication that charge an author fee; JAMA Ophthalmology has no author fees.

Objective and Transparent Editorial Evaluation

To provide consistent and authoritative review, JAMA Ophthalmology depends on an outstanding editorial board whose members maintain objectivity through a transparent and thorough recusal process. Editorial board members (including the editor in chief, whose recusals transfer to the deputy editors) recuse themselves from editorial activities for a particular submission when the member believes that she or he cannot be objective owing to personal or financial reasons. Examples include when the manuscript involves an author with a direct reporting relationship to the editorial board member or an author who is employed at the editorial board member’s institution or clinical practice; involves a project in which the editorial board member is a collaborator or investigator; or involves a company in which the editorial board member has a financial interest. On occasion, an editorial board member need not be recused from submissions involving individuals within her or his institution depending on the size of the institution and how closely she or he works with the author; however, the final decision on the appropriateness of recusals in this situation is the responsibility of the editor (or a deputy editor when the possible recusal involves the editor).

Clinically Relevant Reporting

Because visual acuity is one of the most important clinical measurements when reporting ophthalmology results, authors should report visual acuity using the same nomenclature that was used in their study. Typically, visual acuities are collected as logMAR values, letter scores, decimal fractions, or Snellen fractions (using either meters or feet). However, evidence suggests1 that many readers, at least in the United States, best understand visual acuity measurements when given as Snellen equivalents. Therefore, as of 2014, authors will be expected to provide the approximate Snellen equivalent in feet (20/20, 20/40, etc) in parentheses next to each visual acuity that is not in this Snellen format throughout the manuscript, including figures and tables. The methods used to provide the approximate Snellen equivalent visual acuities should be provided in the Methods section of the manuscript and should be based on published data (eg, as provided by Ferris and colleagues2,3 and the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network4).

Serving Authors, Reviewers, and Readers in Ophthalmology

JAMA Ophthalmology invites authors, reviewers, and readers to help achieve its goals, which include publishing the leading innovative, clinically relevant scientific advances in ophthalmology in a prompt and accessible manner. These goals should help to shape research, education, clinical care, administration, and policies in ophthalmology. The current editorial board starts its first full year in 2014 to help the journal achieve its goals. We hope that authors will choose JAMA Ophthalmology first for submission of their most important manuscripts based on the journal’s impact factor (3.83 and ranked second among all ophthalmology journals), other scientific and reputational factors, speed of review and time from submission to publication, worldwide readership, easy access to published articles, and with the understanding that ophthalmologists, other vision care providers, scientists, and readers seek JAMA Ophthalmology as the premiere source of ophthalmic knowledge.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Neil M. Bressler, MD, Division of Retina, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hospital, 600 N Wolfe St, Baltimore, MD 21287-9227 (nmboffice@jhmi.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bressler is principal investigator of industry-related grants at The Johns Hopkins University sponsored by Bayer, Genentech, Novartis, and Regeneron; his spouse is a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline.

Additional Contributions: Frederick L. Ferris, MD, made substantial contributions to the conception and revision of this editorial.

Lopes  MS, Zayit-Soudry  S, Moshiri  A, Bressler  SB, Bressler  NM.  Understanding and reporting visual acuity measurements in publications of clinical research.  Arch Ophthalmol. 2011;129(9):1228-1229.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Ferris  FL  III, Kassoff  A, Bresnick  GH, Bailey  I.  New visual acuity charts for clinical research.  Am J Ophthalmol. 1982;94(1):91-96.PubMedGoogle Scholar
Reporting Visual Acuities. http://cdn.elsevier.com/promis_misc/601028vat.pdf. Accessed December 3, 2013.
Information for investigators. Visual acuity score conversion chart. Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network website. http://drcrnet.jaeb.org/ViewPage.aspx?PageName=Investig_Info. Accessed December 3, 2013.