APS Rings in the New Decade with Psychological Science

The new decade begins for APS with the launching of its flagship journal, Psychological Science which is scheduled for release this month. According to Sandra Scarr, Chair of the APS Publications Committee the concept of a psychology journal modeled after Science was “an instant success.” “It is a journal that is aimed at appealing to everyone in scientific psychology, it will cover current topics of general interest as well as more specialized research reports.”

Janet Spence, Past President of APS noted that “the Society is doing swimmingly. In the context of its growth (there are now over 7500members, including student affiliates), Psychological Science is another milestone. It is a journal that has broad audience appeal and will be accessible to all facets of the discipline. APS was designed to bring together those from diverse backgrounds in psychology in pursuit of common goals. The articles, selected to be of broad import will accomplish that. I am pleased that we were able to attract as eminent a psychologist as Bill Estes as editor, and as prestigious a publisher as Cambridge Press.

“There were half a dozen offers to publish Psychological Science,” reported Scaff, “Although all the offers were generous, Cambridge came forth with an unusual offer to benefit the Society as well as the journal.”

Cambridge Press’ Marketing Director, Barbara Colson observed, “From the very first time we heard about the Society and its plans for a new journal, we knew that it was a project for Cambridge. We had already worked with many of the people involved in setting up the APS, and so we were confident that the quality of the new publication would be high and that the enthusiasm of the Society members would make the journal a success. This has been one of the most exciting projects in which Cambridge Journals has been involved in the past decade.”

Bill Estes believes that “for a psychologist, getting an article accepted in Psychological Science should be the same kind of feather that getting an article accepted in Science has been for an experimental psychologist.” As editor he sees diversity as the most critical element to the journal’s success. “I am getting diverse manuscripts now (by Christmas I had received about 100, some invited), but I would like many more.”

“It’s been gratifying to see the genuine enthusiasm with which the call for submissions, first issued in April, has been received. It hasn’t been just a flash in the pan. Everybody wants to help, extending through reviewing-I almost never get a turn down, and when I do it’s usually because someone is on his or her way out of the country.”

“Now that the first three issues are complete I am beginning to get a feel for what I can expect in the future. This first issue centers on the beginning of APS, it contains several papers from the convention in Alexandria. March will more closely approximate a ‘normal’ issue. It will take a few issues before everyone has a good sense of style, length and content. The Society’s response is critical.

In large measure we will know whether we have sent the right message when we see how many and what kind of submissions we receive. Right now our turn around is under two months. Authors whose articles do not receive a full review because they are not deemed appropriate for the Journal hear in a few weeks. One reason that turn around time is so short is that we do not see the Journal as a training ground so the reviews are not “helping” reviews. To date, this has worked well as most of the submissions have been from experienced authors.”

“May is a special issue commemorating the centennial of William James’ Principles of Psychology, in which all but one of the feature articles was invited. The William James issue had to be done in 1990or it was not relevant. Once having decided to do it, I wanted it to be at the beginning of the year, before the June convention in Dallas. I presented this ‘impossibility’ to potential contributors and of 10-12 I contacted, all but 2 accepted the invitation to contribute. Amazingly, all but one manuscript actually arrived before the deadline. I admit that I have been surprised by the breadth of enthusiasm for the Journal. Realistically, it has been beyond what I could have asked for.”

“The first big surprise was that I agreed to edit the Journal. The idea grew on me.”

“As I look down the road I think we will continue to have a lot of special features of various kinds. Right now, I find it hard to think of adding professional staff to write substantive articles, although ultimately I do plan to experiment with the idea. I’d rather get psychologists to do the writing. In psychology we don’t have the same need to have a constant flow of things that can be read by anyone regardless of background that Science does. So far I have been able to find psychologists to write creative features. One example is the article that Phillip Holtzman and Steve Mathias are doing on the genetics of schizophrenia for the July issue. It takes a lot of work to solicit and shape these articles, but they have greater scientific value than parallel efforts by non-psychologists, I think.”

“The Observer can be used as the Society’s vehicle for op ed pieces. It is shaping up to be quite a publication and I think we can look forward to a promising division of labor between the two publications.”

“I have been thinking about the coverage of public policy issues relevant to psychology in Psychological Science. One possibility might be a section of the journal devoted to policy issues.”

“Cambridge University Press has fulfilled all my expectations for promotion,” Estes said. “I oversee all the copy editing, all the communication between the author and the reader. They take care of all the communication between the manuscripts and the printer, the headings etc. It’s working well. Now we await the members’ verdict,” Estes concluded.

Cambridge Press’ Journals Manager, James Alexander reflected “Every launch of a new journal is a unique event, but Psychological Science truly has been special. It has been both a challenge and a lot of fun keeping pace with the energy and excitement of APS-and it is rare that a brand new journal has 7500 subscribers! Working with real pros like Bill Estes, Sandra Scarr, and Alan Kraut has been a great help, of course. The tremendous wealth of contributions in the first few issues shows that Psychological Science will be a formidable flagship for APS!”

The Publications Committee is now active in looking toward other initiatives such as a book club and a journal club. They are also exploring the possibilities of beginning another journal or two or adopting journals not currently sponsored by scientific societies.

Observer Vol.3, No.1 January, 1990

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