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Antonio Facchetti: I do not make decisions on where to publish only based on the journal Impact Factor

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I am pleased to present the interview with Antonio Facchetti, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, who was named Highly Cited Scientist by Thomson Reuters in July 2014 and is the editor in chief of ‘Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics’. The journal was established by De Gruyter Open as a part of the Emerging Science Journals project.

Could you describe the beginning of ‘Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics’ (OPP)?

Paulina Leśna-Szreter, managing editor of physics at De Gruyter Open (which was previously Versita) contacted me to ask if I would be interested in launching a new journal in the field of physics. I had never been a journal editor before. I had published many papers, been the editor of a book, an associated editor and member of numerous advisory boards, but starting a new journal as an editor in chief was something completely new to me and it was pretty exciting. But more specifically, I thought that it might be something really important for the field of organic materials. There were several journals dealing with organic electronics at the time, and it was quite a popular field, however there was no journal dedicated entirely to organic photonics* and I thought that it was important for the field to have such a journal.

We decided to call the journal “Organic photonics and photovoltaics” for two reasons. Firstly, the field of organic electronic was dominated by works on organic materials for photovoltaic applications, and we wanted to emphasis photovoltaics** in the name, because this is a very important area of research today. However, we wanted to broaden the scope behind these applications, so we added “photonics” to the name of the journal. Photonics is a huge field that embraces the fundamental process in understanding how light interacts with organic materials (so from very fundamental studies) to organic fiber-optics, organic electro-optics, organic photovoltaics and organic light-emitting devices.

What is your opinion about the open access (OA) model?

There are a small number of open access journals in the field that I am working in, and this is the reason why I, and the majority of my colleagues, have a limited experience with this publishing model. Although I do think that open access is a good way of moving forward. There are some institutions that are not able to pay for subscriptions, for example those situated in developing countries. Open access will lower the entry costs for new, developing institutions that might want to start doing research in the field of organic electronics, by giving them unlimited access to good literature. This may have a positive influence on scientific development.

There are still some controversies in terms of the quality of open access journals. The majority of them are new, and it takes time for every new journal, despite its publishing model, to build a reputation. We have to show that it is possible to maintain an excellent quality open access journal. But I think it is just a matter of time. Low quality OA journals will not survive the next couple of years and those that will remain on the market will reflect the quality distribution of the old, conventional ones.

We can also observe the transitions of some reputable, broad scope traditional journals to the open access model, and I think it is something that changes the dominant opinion on open access. Most likely, this will also drive more specialized journals to follow in the same path.

What is your strategy for ‘Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics’ for surviving on the market?

Good researchers want to publish in a journal because other good researchers have done so previously, so this is a kind of positive feedback loop. My idea from the beginning was simply to invite some of the good scientist groups I knew to submit articles to our journal. At the very beginning of a journal’s existence you have to write emails every day to potential authors asking them for publications, since no one knows the journal. When you receive your first few articles from well-known researchers, it is much easier to get another one. And this will cause the gradual growth of the journal’s reputation and Impact Factor (IF), because these two things go together. I think that OPP will gain broad recognition and IF within the next couple of years.

We are also preparing special issues involving regional and national communities of researchers in this field of organic photonics. We want to increase the international awareness of what people in different countries are doing within this discipline. And these topical issues will be also an opportunity to promote the name of the journal. We have started with Russia, now we are proceeding with China and India, and for the next year we are planning to have special issues about organic photonics in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Do you think that Impact Factor and other standardized, quantitative measures are important to the journal’s development? And should they matter to authors?

There is no doubt that the quality of many journals is linked to their Impact Factor. Although it is not like there is a strict linear correlation. In my opinion, there are 3 types of journals. There are journals of excellent quality, alongside good serials that provide useful information, as well as journals of poor quality, where you can easily find mistakes and misleading information. Between the first two groups there can be quite big differences in the Impact Factor, which are not directly linked to differences in quality. Some moderate IF journals are excellent. All high Impact Factor journals are good, but the fact that some journals have lower IF does not mean that they are of poor quality.

I typically do not make decisions on where to publish based on the journal Impact Factor and I am surprised when some colleagues tell me that we should publish in the journal X and not in the journal Y because of the differences in the IF. I make a decision based on the scope of the article and on which journal has the appropriate audience for it.

Going back to your question, IF is relatively important, although for me there are more important factors for choosing a journal to publish in, like the scope of the journal, and I assume that some authors think in a similar way.

In contrast to a lot of open access journals, Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics operates in a very narrow field – do you think is it an advantage or disadvantage for the journal?

For those who are interested specifically in organic materials field it is much easier and time efficient to follow our journal, than to scan journals dedicated to general photovoltaics or photonics.

Why, in your opinion, do authors choose ‘Organic Photonics and Photovoltaics’ as their place of publication?

The well-chosen scope, which is not addressed directly by other journals, is the biggest advantage of OPP. Authors naturally tend to look for a journal like ours when they are searching for a place to publish an article on organic photonics. The scope of our journal guarantees that they will reach the appropriate audience.

In following years, the journal will start to charge authors, or the institutions behind the authors. Do you think that researchers working in the field are ready to pay for open access publications?

There is nothing wrong with charging authors or the institutions behind the authors with reasonable fees. Although it is only possible for journals that have an established reputation and some Impact Factor linked to it. When a journal publishes good quality articles, regular issues and has an Impact Factor, the publisher can at that point introduce Article Processing Charges, and at least in the case of my field, it should not be the problem for institutions to cover it.

Thank you very much!

* Photonics – The science of photonics includes the generation, emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and detection/sensing of light (source: Wikipedia).
** Photovoltaics – is a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect (source: Wikipedia).

Photo: Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode screen by Mathew Rollings, Wikimedia, CC-BY-3.0.

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