In his first editorial in the first issue of Applied Optics (January 1962), editor John Howard revealed some of the issues the Society addressed when it proposed publishing its second journal. Chief among them was a concern about competition with its premier journal, the Journal of the Optical Society of America. When I was a graduate student 20 years later, and knew exactly what topics each journal covered and what was appropriate to submit to each journal, this was a difficult issue to understand. Given my present position as Editor-in-Chief, I now understand and admire the efforts of previous editors who tirelessly worked to create a unique place for Applied Optics and who nurtured the journal to build its high reputation.
My greatest concern when I became editor-in-chief last year was how to maintain the great reputation Applied Optics has, especially in this era of online publishing. Born as a print journal, Applied Optics now faces competition from a plethora of publishing opportunities, including its “Express” brethren.
First, as its name implies, Applied Optics publishes work of an applied nature. The underlying scientific theory is typically known and published works report on the development and performance of technologies for applying the theory. Manuscripts are expected to contain in-depth discussions of the material. For example, a manuscript describing an experiment should discuss the underlying theory, a description of the experiment, simulations based on theory, experimental results, and an analysis of the results. These should be presented in sufficient depth that others can validate the work and assess its significance.
Applied Optics consists of three divisions: Optical Technology, Information Processing, and Lasers, Photonics, and Environmental Optics. (The Biomedical Optics Division will be discontinued once all manuscripts submitted to the division prior to the launch of Biomedical Optics Express last August have been processed.) Applied Optics articles are peer-reviewed and page charges are voluntary unless a formatted manuscript runs over 10 pages in length.
In contrast, Optics Letters promotes rapid dissemination of new results in all areas of optics with short, original, peer-reviewed communications. A key factor in the decision to publish in Optics Letters is the immediacy of the research and its impact on the work of others.
Although Optics Express offers a rapid publication model, immediacy of the research is not a factor in the decision to accept manuscripts for publication. Once a manuscript is approved for publication it appears in a timely fashion.
Although manuscripts submitted to Applied Optics are more applied in nature than those submitted to Optics Express, both journals use the same criteria to assess publication worthiness. Applied Optics and Optics Express differ primarily in their publishing model.
Unfortunately, many within the community have conflated rapid publication with immediacy, and Applied Optics has seen an increase in the number of submitted manuscripts that have been rejected previously by other journals, most prominent among them, Optics Express. After consideration by the editorial staff of the journal and OSA’s Board of Editors, Applied Optics will no longer review manuscripts that have been rejected by other OSA journals.
It is my hope that future generations of researchers will also find it odd that anyone ever had to question Applied Optics’ identity.
Joseph N. Mait
Editor in Chief, Applied Optics
1 December 2010