Listening to journal editors: Dr.Max Haring from SpringerPlus

Dr. Max Haring is currently the executive editor for SpringerPlus, Springer’s first international peer-reviewed Open Access journal for research from all disciplines. Max has nearly 6 years of publishing experience as editor for books and international subscription journals in different areas of biomedicine, mainly microbiology, ageing and genetics. Before he joined Springer Science and Business Media, Max did his MSc at Wageningen University and his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Amsterdam, both in the Netherlands. Max lives in Amsterdam.

Max Haring

Gaudeamus: What characteristics should have a paper to be published in your journals?

Max Haring: SpringerPlus is open for research from all areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine, the Humanities and Social Sciences. For SpringerPlus a manuscript is never out of scope: if the science is sound, we will consider it for publication. Because of this all-inclusive scope, a manuscript will not be rejected because its topic does not match our profile: For SpringerPlus it is really only the scientific quality that counts. All submissions are handled by our interdisciplinary international board of academic editors and board members, and I am in the lucky position to be able to boast of our great team of expert researchers. These academics will handle peer-review for all manuscripts by finding field specialists to assess the quality, and using their expertise to reach a decision to accept or reject. SpringerPlus also has a message to our reviewers that is different from most journals: we ask our reviewers to look at the research facts presented in the manuscript: Are all technical and methodological aspects of the research correct and accurate, is the research original and do the conclusions match the findings? We ask our researchers not to judge on more subjective matters like how large the audience for a particular study is, what the impact of the study will be or if the study fits the journal. This approach allows us to make studies that are difficult to publish in traditional journals, such as interdisciplinary, descriptive or data-heavy papers, methodological improvements and short reports.

Gaudeamus: How is the average reader of your journals? What are they looking for?

Max Haring: We publish our download statistics online at http://www.springerplus.com/mostviewed so everyone can follow what’s happening, and I must admit I am surprised to see which articles are downloaded often. Currently the most accessed paper is one on brain damage after sports-related concussion, which may have some relevance for the general public, but in our list are also several articles on biological waste management, a few clinical care management studies and an improved method to measure the purity of gold samples – all very technical articles that I would not have considered to be of general interest, but still they are frequently downloaded. I believe these articles are the best example of how SpringerPlus works for authors to get their work published, read and used.

Gaudeamus: What is the role of indexation for journals in general? Do you feel any kind of pressure as Executive Editor about indexation?

Max Haring: Indexing is a crucial aspect of academic publishing, and being in the right indexes is essential for the success of any journal. Many authors make their decision to submit their next manuscript based on where a journal is indexed, because of professional preference or because their university or funder demands this. Having said that, we do see that the importance of indexes for literature searches lessens every year, they’re losing ground to search engines like Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. In addition, the increased availability of Article Level Metrics (altmetrics) makes the quality stamp given by indexes less important. Readers and authors now have more tools to determine the quality of an individual article: after all, an article can be very good even when it is published in an average journal, and altmetrics can show scientific value independent of indexing or impact factor.

Gaudeamus: Open access is driving change in the publishing industry, how do you think is going to affect research and the measurement of its impact?

Max Haring: Historically the academic publishers provide researchers with a published version of record, a fixed point in the scientific literature for people to read and cite, and this has not changed much since the focus moved from print to online publications. Publishing in an online environment does bring new and exciting possibilities, and I believe open and unrestricted access to research is essential here. One of the least discussed aspects of Open Access (green and gold) is that reuse of the text and data is allowed: Open Access allows us to analyse and combine data now locked away in thousands of individual PDF files with limited accessibility. The specifics of this depends somewhat on the license (like CC-BY with or without NC), but scientists and companies are now free to access and process a huge and growing body of data and text, without barriers. I am confident that the availability of Open Access literature will encourage new developments, for instance by enabling text mining and semantics, for testing new algorithms and creating new clever ways to represent and access data. The availability of Open Access literature also has great benefits for researchers from low-income countries or at smaller institutes without subscription access and it is as strong driver for citizen science projects.

Gaudeamus: What are the main problems an Executive Editor of several international journals face?

Max Haring: Heading a truly interdisciplinary journal like SpringerPlus has some unique challenges of its own. For instance we have to meet the expectations and demands of authors from mathematics as well as philosophy and medicine, who all have different ideas on how an article should look. At the same time we have to make sure their work is published with high quality and as quickly as possible: our authors expect fast turn-around times.  I am however in the lucky position of being part of Springer, a large and experienced company with a long history in academic publishing, and it is very easy to get advice from my colleagues in publishing, marketing and production. At the same time I consider it a great privilege to be able to meet, correspond and discuss with researchers around the world and from all disciplines. Science is my passion and for me it is all about learning new things: I still get excited when clever researchers discovered something new and interesting; that can really make my day.

Gaudeamus: Finally, what advice would you give to scholars submitting papers to your journals?

Max Haring: Look carefully at the aims and scope, instructions for authors and editorial board before submitting, even before looking at metrics like the impact factor. Find the best match between a manuscript and a journal, because this means the manuscript will be handled by experts who give valuable feedback, and when published the article will reach the most relevant audience. Always look for journals that provide DOIs (digital object identifiers) and post alternative metrics, so you know what is happening, and always go for Open Access (green or gold). And don’t forget to do marketing for your papers after publication: send PDFs to colleagues, advertise your article at conferences and blog or tweet about your publication. All these efforts will bring readers first and citations later.

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