In 1962, based on photographic evidence of Soviet missile site construction in Cuba, the super powers pushed a Cold War to the brink of a nuclear one. In later years, overhead imagery became an instrument of national policy to “trust but verify.”
In 1962, while the transistor was creating a commercial market for electronics, the integrated circuit was enabling space missions. Consequently, the cost of a single integrated circuit dropped from $50 in 1962 to $2.33 in 1968. One of the unheralded workhorses of this achievement is the photolithographic capability to reproduce repetitive patterns with high resolution and accurate placement across large areas.
In 1962, the power of the laser was being unleashed. Its invention was critical to processing synthetic aperture radar data, wherein film recordings of radio frequency signals illuminated coherently by an optical source produced high-resolution radar images. Although much of this work remained classified for a period, unclassified by-products included off-axis holography and the Vanderlugt correlation filter.
It was as part of this new frontier that the Optical Society of America (OSA) made the decision in the early 1960s to launch its second archival journal, Applied Optics. With researchers sitting on untapped veins of technology, the decision to launch a journal centered on applications in optics, in contrast to optical science, appears prescient. However, the journal’s first editor, John Howard, uncertain about what the journal would become, assumed his assignment with trepidation.
We now know that he shouldn’t have. In this coming year, the journal’s Golden Anniversary year, OSA and Applied Optics’ readers, authors, reviewers, and editors will celebrate what the journal has become. On a special Website linked to the Applied Optics homepage, OSA will highlight the journal’s most cited and most downloaded papers, as well as its 50 most prolific authors. The Website, scheduled to launch in February, will host historical content from Applied Optics that underscores the development of a technology over time, for example, computer-generated holography to diffractive optics to digital holography. Further, all the journal’s previous editors have agreed to provide a personal perspective on the journal in guest editorials that will appear throughout the next year.
In celebrating the journal’s past, I also hope to set its path for the future. As I lamented in these pages a year ago, at mid-life Applied Optics is facing some challenges. While the subscriptions to Applied Optics remain strong, my sense, and that of my editors, is that some in the community perceived Applied Optics as a journal of lesser merit due in part to the success of OSA’s online journals. To counter this perception, my editorial staff and I implemented changes to the journal’s editorial policy. (We will review publication statistics collected at the end of 2011 to assess the changes and their impact.)
These policy changes stated what the journal is not. In the coming year, I hope it becomes clear what the journal is.
As its name implies, Applied Optics publishes work of an applied nature. This is the journal’s most distinguishing feature. Applied Optics publishes manuscripts that describe how to move the potential of science and technology to the practical. It emphasizes impact over innovation. For publication, a manuscript should provide increased understanding about a particular topic, as opposed necessarily to introducing new science or physics.
Manuscripts are expected to be complete and provide in-depth discussions of the material. The underlying scientific theory is typically known, and published works report on the development and performance of technologies for applying the theory. 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. This is in contrast to Optics Letters, where novelty of an idea and brevity in its presentation are critical factors for rapid publication.
In comparing our sister journal, Optics Express, to Applied Optics, authors typically cite Express’ open access policy and the journal’s time to publication, which is roughly two months. With recent editorial changes to Applied Optics, I expect to see its time to publication decrease from four months to nearly three. To attract the manuscripts we wish to receive, I feel this change makes us more competitive. Also, authors who submit to Applied Optics should know that they have the option to pay for open access if they wish.
From a citation perspective, the Impact Factors of Optics Express and Optics Letters are higher than Applied Optics; however, downloads of Applied Optics articles are quite healthy, even in comparison to Optics Express and Optics Letters. Further, Applied Optics also appeals to an audience who is focused on patents and, when that metric is added to the Impact Factor, it indicates that a community of readers exists that is interested in the journal’s content but does not write papers as frequently. To capture this interest, OSA will be launching a new feature for Applied Optics in 2012 whereby all papers will display the number of times the paper has been downloaded, in addition to the number of times it has been cited.
Applied Optics’ Golden Anniversary will be a year of definition and rebranding. Although my emphasis on quality will remain paramount, appearances and presentation will change to reflect the start of the journal’s second half-century. I would appreciate your feedback on these as they are implemented. The past 50 years for the journal have been incredibly successful. I share in your excitement as we all look forward to the future we can create for Applied Optics.
Joseph N. Mait
Editor in Chief, Applied Optics
1 December 2011
PS. To WTR and JvdG: Sorry. The journal still isn’t ready for a swimsuit issue.