Diener Brings New ‘Perspectives’ to APS

Ed Dienter
APS Past President Ed Diener, founding editor of new APS journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, thinks the publication will instantly move to the top of researchers’ submission lists.

Although he grew up on a tomato ranch in California, Ed Diener never liked farming. He fell in love with psychology while a student at California State University, Fresno in the late 1960s and turned that passion into a successful career. So, it’s a bit surprising that some 40 years later, Diener is tackling his latest challenge as if he has once again donned overalls and picked up the pitchfork. But in this case, the seed he is planting, nurturing, and cultivating won’t end up in the fruit and vegetable aisles of the local market – it is bound for the desks, libraries and night tables of psychologists around the world.

Diener’s task is to give life to a new publication from the American Psychological Society that will be known as Perspectives on Psychological Science. APS Fellow Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, officially takes the helm as editor in January 2005 and plans to publish the inaugural issue about one year later.

Perspectives, as Diener likes to call his emerging publication, will be unlike other journals, because it will not be limited to only one or two aspects of psychology. “We plan to appeal to the entire scientific psychology community – everyone who wants to keep up with the cutting edge work that is being done across all fields of psychology,” he said.

Despite such a lofty goal, Diener said that the possibility of a “bountiful harvest in the first season” for the new journal is tremendous, because Perspectives holds two key advantages over other start-up publications.

New Journal to Accept in 2005

With an editor selected and a high volume of submissions expected at the beginning of 2005, Perspectives on Psychological Science – the newest journal of the American Psychological Society (formerly called by the working title of The Psychological Scientist) – is well on its way to a successful debut in early 2006.

APS Fellow Ed Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was recently named founding editor of Perspectives. Diener edited the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology from 1998-2003, and is also the current editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies. His research focuses on the measurement of subjective well-being.

Perspectives will become the fourth in a distinguished line of APS publications. Psychological Science, the Society’s flagship journal, is consistently ranked in the top 10 for impact in the field. Current Directions in Psychological Science is also highly ranked and specially edited to be accessible to a wide range of educators and researchers from various disciplines. Psychological Science in the Public Interest addresses issues of national importance, making it a valuable, nationwide resource for policy makers and psychologists.

But a unique vision stands to differentiate Perspectives from the onset, with many of its ideas inspired by APS Immediate Past President Henry L. Roediger, III, Washington University in St. Louis. The journal plans to publish larger, more integrative review articles than currently appear in other psychological publications. Its goal is to achieve a voice as eclectic and engaging as the articles themselves, and it will feature:

Broad integrative reviews. For example, a topic such as schizophrenia could be approached from a neurobiological, social learning, and therapeutic standpoint. Such articles could offer interlocking views of a single complex issue.
Overview of a research program. These articles could permit a distinguished researcher to provide an overview of her or his research on a particular topic, bringing in data from other laboratories as necessary. The article would fall somewhere between a literature review and a summary report of one’s research program, much as occurs in chapters in edited books.
Standard literature review. These would be more standard literature reviews, in which the literature on a particular topic (e.g., the spacing effect in learning and memory) is summarized, with the author paying attention to integrative theoretical explanations of the effect and coming to reasoned conclusions that would be making more general points for the field.
Meta-analytic reviews. Perspectives would be a repository for meta-analytic reviews, when this methodology lends itself to the topic at hand.
Theoretical statements. Perspectives will be an appropriate outlet for major theoretical statements, which usually include reviews of relevant literature. The reporting of original data might be appropriate but is not required.
Eclectic articles. The journal would also provide an outlet for nonstandard articles that might fall into the following categories: philosophy of science issues; opinion pieces about major issues in the field; autobiographical reflections of senior members of the field on some topic of interest (for example, how trends in the field have changed over the years); or even humorous essays and sketches (although this is a dangerous category!).
Book reviews. As in the New York Review of Books, these would offer a scholar the chance to write an essay using books as the starting place.

In fact, Perspectives’ innovative approach to content will be matched only by its exceptional submission process, which will contain both invited and submitted articles. The idea of commissioning pieces is to publish articles that can compete with chapters in edited volumes and perhaps even enhance the audience and impact of such work. All of these factors contribute the possibility of Perspectives becoming a one-stop venue for a variety of articles.

For submission information, please contact Ed Diener at perspect@cyrus.psych.uiuc.edu.

“First, all members of APS will receive Perspectives, and second, it will be highly sought after by medical and scientific libraries because of the broad spectrum of topics,” Diener said. “We will be in the unique position of having a large readership from the beginning. The challenge will be to publish the most intriguing papers and feature the most promising work so that all of our readers actually are reading and using the journal.”

APS Executive Director Alan G. Kraut agreed that the journal’s versatility may be its greatest attraction. “Perspectives will bring together the best topics to create the consummate publication,” Kraut said. “Its broad and unique platform will help alleviate journal overload, and it will become a priority destination for researchers from all disciplines of psychology.”

According to Diener, the majority of Perspectives will be devoted to substantial articles, including state-of-the-art theoretical papers, explorations of current key research programs, and presentations of novel or innovative ideas. Issues also will include a number of shorter articles such as opinion pieces, autobiographies by noted psychologists, and reviews of the latest “hot books.” One unusual format that Diener plans for the new journal is what he calls “eclectic articles.”

“We want Perspectives to provide an outlet for non-standard articles that traditional journals would ignore, such as philosophy of science issues, retrospective looks at changing trends in a particular field, even humorous essays and sketches if they’re of broad interest and high quality,” Diener said.

His goal for Perspectives is to have content “that is written in an interesting style, can be easily understood by all psychologists, and most importantly, be appealing to researchers from outside of the area on which the paper or article focuses.” High quality will be mandatory, he added, stating that he and the editorial board will “have to reject articles that are good, because we can only afford to take ones that are outstanding.”

Although the criteria for publication in Perspectives will be tough, Diener plans to ensure that the editorial process is fair, timely, and encouraging for prospective authors. To accomplish this goal, Diener will lean heavily on his past experience as editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as current editor of a small niche publication, the Journal of Happiness Studies, and as editor of several books.

“I have learned a few things from these positions,” Diener said. “One is to keep the editorial process moving forward, and not take a year or two to make decisions about papers. Another is to not carry out endless rounds of revisions. Perhaps the most important – considering the large number of submissions that I expect Perspectives to receive – is to remember to be kind to people when you must reject their paper and provide them with solid advice for future improvement.”

To help him maintain a consistent and sound editorial policy for Perspectives, Diener is searching for a select group to serve on the journal’s editorial board. “They must be professionals who are at the cutting edge of their individual field of psychology, have a broad view and knowledge of the discipline as a whole, and have their fingers on the pulse of the psychology world,” he explained.

Diener hopes to have his editorial board in place shortly into 2005, so that the Perspectives team can begin the selection process for the papers and articles that will make up its inaugural issue. They’re likely to find a stack of manuscripts waiting for them.

“People have already started passing ideas by me, and I’m giving them feedback on possible articles,” Diener said. “It’s exciting because this type of journal will venture into wide-open territory, exploring new directions in psychology. I think that will put it at the top of the submission list for researchers seeking the perfect place to reach a large and broad readership.”

Diener’s enthusiasm for his new editorship – not to mention his positive attitude facing the formidable challenge of getting Perspectives successfully under way – are two of the main reasons why he is the right man for the job, said APS Charter Member Randy J. Larsen, chair of the department of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

“I’ve known Diener for 22 years and was his first graduate student,” Larsen said. “I know that he’ll bring the same patience, caring, and optimistic support that he showed me as a student to all facets of the new journal. His strengths as a scholar, scientist, and editor will quickly make this one of the premier publications in psychology.”

Quick to agree is chair of the APS Publications Committee Morton Ann Gernsbacher, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I am delighted with the appointment of Diener as founding editor of APS’ newest journal,” Gernsbacher said. “He has a wealth of editorial experience, a keen sense of the discipline of psychological science, and a fountain of creative ideas for launching and maintaining a high-quality publication. I have every reason to believe that this new journal will soon join the high-impact level of its sister APS journals.”

Initially, Perspectives on Psychological Science will be a quarterly journal, but Diener predicts that won’t be the case for long.

“This type of cross-spectrum journal is so badly needed in psychology that it will easily be a success,” Diener said. “I expect the response to the journal to be so favorable that we’ll likely have to increase the number of issues per year in the near future.”

Diener can jump-start the readership base just by signing up members of his family. His wife is a forensic psychologist; his twin daughters are a developmental psychologist and a university lecturer in personality and adjustment psychology; and his son is a research psychologist who studies exotic cultures, such as the Masai in Africa and the Inuit in northern Greenland. However, don’t expect the table talk at family gatherings to turn to the progress of Dad’s new journal.

“Our youngest two daughters have chosen non-psychology career paths and our children’s spouses are not in the psychology community, so we’re careful not to spend too much time talking shop when everyone’s around,” Diener said. “We’re always afraid that if the five of us who are psychologists get going, we’re going to drive the rest of the family away.”

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