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Thorax: the teenage years
  1. Andrew Bush1,
  2. Ian Pavord2
  1. 1Department of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College and Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Respiratory Medicine, Thoracic Surgery and Allergy, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Glenfield Hospital, Groby Road, Leicester LE3 9QP, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Andrew Bush, Department of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK; a.bush{at}imperial.ac.uk

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We have been at the helm for 18 months—where have we got to, where should we aim for (other than staying out of the divorce courts)?

What a team!

Napoleon preferred lucky generals, and Thorax has lucky Editors in Chief because we have a great team of deputy editors, associate editors, production staff and editorial board. A former Editor in Chief (it is said!) used to write to authors to say either “I am sorry, but the Associate Editor has recommended rejection of your manuscript” or “I am pleased to tell you I that have accepted your paper”. By contrast, we feel our brilliant team take the credit for what has gone right—any mistakes are rightly laid at the door of the undersigned. They have all worked exceedingly hard, and our twice yearly meetings have been full of energy and enthusiasm and great fun. A big thank you to you all.

How we handle manuscripts

No process is perfect. Incoming manuscripts are checked by the staff and, if they conform to the journal style, are assigned to the Editors in Chief. Note please: we are toughening up, and if your manuscript is too long or has too many references, it will be returned unrefereed for you to edit; terseness not Tolstoy, please! Manuscripts that are reviewed positively are discussed by the Gang of Four at the weekly Hanging Committee. After Hanging Committee discussion, the decision may be to reject or, if there are any numerical data at all in the manuscript, a statistical review is obtained and a final decision taken when this review has been received. We have the statistical reviews in series not parallel because of cost and scarcity of precious statistical time. If your manuscript is rejected, of course you may appeal, and the appeal will be handled by whichever one of us did not handle the original manuscript unless there is a conflict of interest. But please, only appeal if you feel there are significant errors of fact made during the initial process, and point them out to us. Editorial priority (aka whims) is inevitably arbitrary and does change as new manuscripts are accepted. All authors (including ourselves) allocate the highest priority to their own work, and feel editors who disagree were not merely conceived out of wedlock but have an IQ beginning with a minus sign. This assessment may be true, but expressing it will not get a decision overturned.

Another great team!

We rely heavily on our reviewers, and we are grateful to so many for thoughtful and timely opinions on the excellent manuscripts we receive. Please keep them coming. A new initiative will get referees CME points—reviews will be scored 1–3 on timeliness and content, and accumulating 6 points gives the reviewer one CME credit. A small token of our appreciation, but better than a poke in the eye with a wet stick or the chance to take part in yet another round of NHS reforms.

Journal statistics

We are getting between 100 and 180 manuscripts a month; many tough priority decisions have to be made and the acceptance rate is just over 10%—sorry! The editorial process has been speeding up. Typically, we reach a decision on all manuscripts within 40 days and, in the last 6 months, the average time for a decision for reviewed manuscripts has been less than 30 days. All this is good, but we are doing less well around August. Unsurprisingly, we are all human and all need a break. We will work on ways to address this but, remember, if you hit the submit button just before heading out to the Costa del Relaxation, the AEs and reviewers may also be hitting the ‘gone fishing’ button at the same time.

Impact factor

What is not good is the fall in the impact factor to 6.525. We are still ahead of our two main rivals, Chest and the European Respiratory Journal, and we are working hard to reverse the trend. We feel more could be done (see below).

A reminder—randomised controlled trials

We have recently published some excellent clinical trials1–6 and we want more. Investigators—remember our previous offer.7 Send us your final protocol and we will peer review it. If we accept it and you send us the final manuscript (we don't expect exclusivity), we will fast track it—the only reviewing issue will be whether you have done what you said you would; and if you have, positive or negative results, we will publish your manuscript. However, do not expect acceptance if you recruited only 8 of 250 patients!

An adolescent tantrum

We have been helped enormously by the publishers, and special mentions for tolerance and efficiency go to Claire Weinberg (surely working with us cannot be worse than childbirth, Claire?), Allison Lang, Bryony Lovelock and Sarah Szatkowski who have steered the ship through the rocky places of ScholarOne. We are profoundly grateful to them all. We have more content than ever free online, including Airwaves, Editors' choice and a Hot Topic, and times to online publication have dropped dramatically; all this is great. On the other hand, online access to old manuscripts is locked from 2006, an unfortunate contrast to our two main rivals, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and Chest, who have open access to all manuscripts after a year. We are working hard to correct this inequity and would value our readers' support.

A positive ending: new initiatives

The new Chest Clinic session is up and running and will be formally evaluated shortly. We are keen to receive more case-based discussions. Please do not send obscure case reports; we want genuine grey cases with clinically important educational points. Finally, we have had two themed issues this year: Lung cancer (April) and Smoking (October). We were particularly pleased with the publicity arising from the issue on Smoking which reached the dizzying academic heights of ‘Loose Women’, among others. We plan another ATS themed issue for April for distribution in San Francisco. We would welcome suggestions for further themed issues, assuming this is a popular idea—please let us know!

References

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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