Focus Issues: a Second Anniversary Note
Two years ago, in August 1997, we published 5 articles grouped under the heading “Mid-IR Laser Materials.” These articles introduced Focus Issues into peer-reviewed science publishing. It seems to me that the Second Anniversary of that event merits notice and maybe a small celebration. Steven Bowman coordinated the first one, and since then we have published 25 other Focus Issues with 4–10 articles each, and other journals are beginning to try them. Focus Coordinators of future issues are certainly among the readers of this short note. I’ll say more about that at the end, so read on.
When Optics Express was in its design stage a year before beginning publication we identified Focus Issues as a potentially valuable new service to readers and authors. There seemed to be an “information gap” when journals were compared with conferences. We knew that most registrants appreciate the way that Symposia at meetings and conferences provide snapshots of rapidly moving research areas, creating focal points of interest within the semi-chaotic confusion of a big meeting. Even though the character of a 4-paper Symposium, or a full-day sequence of invited talks, can be heavily idiosyncratic and depend on the taste and judgement of the organizer, they are consistently well-attended.
Optics Express has tried to use Focus Issues to duplicate the utility of Symposia at conferences. A Focus Issue doesn’t pretend to cover a research area in the way that a Feature Issue of Applied Optics or JOSA would do, and it doesn’t depend on a Call for Papers to solicit interest, but it does incorporate the personal touch that comes with the decisions of a Coordinator and it does get published more promptly. We’ve relied on the judgement of Coordinators to select interesting and relevant authors, and have been fortunate to have so many talented individuals serve the optics community in this way. Coordinators from 7 different countries (Germany, Italy, Scotland, Russia, Poland, Israel, Chile) in addition to the USA have assisted us in the 26 Focus Issues we have published. That fraction, roughly 1 out of 3, gives a good measure of the international attention Optics Express receives, despite the fact that overseas authors and readers are frequently even more frustrated by the Internet than Americans are.
For readers who are just beginning to notice Optics Express, or those who are wary of the Internet, I could simply repeat my frequent remark that all citations to articles in Optics Express are collected in ISI’s Science Citation Index, but I can now add that, in addition to citations in high-impact letters journals, I’ve recently seen a reference to Optics Express in an article prepared for a modern science Encyclopedia. This seems to me a clear sign that the articles in the journal are seen as substantial and are being widely accepted as valuable additions to scientific and technical knowledge.
I can summarize past Focus Issues very quickly by identifying Nonlinear Optics and Materials, Biomedical Optics, Lasers, Atomic and Molecular Optics, Applied Optics and Quantum Optics as areas that have each supported more than one Focus Issue already. However, Optics Express is open to all areas of optics, and many areas are not yet well enough represented.
This brings me back to my opening remark. Suggestions for future Focus Issues will be accepted at any time by the Editorial Board. We are particularly open to expressions of interest from active scientists and engineers who will serve as Focus Coordinators for specialized issues of their own. Just let us know by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. H. Eberly, Editor