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Comment: Publications, our window on the chemical sciences

by Christopher K. Ober, chair, Society Committee on Publications
March 25, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 10


Christopher K. Ober
Credit: Courtesy of Gwendolyn Ober
Christopher K. Ober

Since its inception in 1876, the American Chemical Society has played a crucial role in the communication of scientific information. In 1879, it began publishing its flagship scientific publication, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and today ACS publishes more than 75 peer-reviewed journals related to chemistry. It also communicates to both members and nonmembers globally through various channels including the ACS Publications website, social media, the ACS website, and C&EN.

The Society Committee on Publications (SCOP) has several tasks, but foremost is its role to review and assess the editorial quality and content of the ACS publication program. The membership of SCOP reflects the broad makeup of ACS in all its diversity. Each year, one member is appointed by the ACS president, another by the chair of the ACS Board of Directors, and any additional members are appointed jointly using advice from the Committee on Committees. The chair of SCOP also serves as the chair of the C&EN Editorial Board. SCOP membership serves to connect society members, users of ACS publications, and ACS governing bodies. A term for SCOP membership is 3 years and each member is permitted up to two consecutive 3-year terms.

SCOP is responsible for reviewing each journal and its editor in chief before their fifth year in the role. This review determines whether the editor in chief will be reappointed to a second 5-year term. As part of the review process, ACS publications prepare a report that assesses the broad impact of each journal. This report analyzes a journal’s competition, new initiatives to serve the science community undertaken by the editor in chief, acceptance rate of the journal, and other indicators of journal success. The creation of new journals and the identification of the editor in chief of each journal is carried out by other parts of ACS. SCOP provides a representative to the editor search committee.

SCOP is always interested in hearing the views of ACS members and learning how ACS Publications is perceived by the broader community.

SCOP meets twice a year in person. It typically reviews five to eight journals at each meeting and discusses other relevant topics. Probing discussions about all facets of the performance of a journal help SCOP determine whether an editor in chief should be reappointed for a second term.

For SCOP to consider a third and final 5-year term, an editor in chief must demonstrate a commitment to lead with vigor and continued creativity, as well as having demonstrated exceptional leadership during their earlier tenure. These evaluations can lead to energetic debate among the committee members, reflecting the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives brought by its membership. Committee members are also ACS members, so these discussions reflect the communities within ACS that they belong to. However, since aspects of the meeting require confidentiality stemming from these personnel discussions, the minutes of the meetings don’t fully reflect the vigorous debate. The results of the review meetings are conveyed by James Milne, president of ACS Publications, to the ACS Board of Directors.

Formally, SCOP has an additional task to protect ACS copyright. The role of copyright in scholarly communications is changing as a result of open access becoming more widely utilized. ACS, like most publishers, has established a strategy to support open access journals. ACS has also created several new completely open access journals. This is not an area that SCOP has been recently active on.

While the SCOP chair serves as the chair of the C&EN Editorial Board, and the C&EN editor in chief provides a report for each SCOP meeting, the committee has no formal role in advising C&EN. SCOP received news of the recent change in editorial leadership at C&EN at the same time as ACS membership. SCOP looks forward to news on what the changes will mean to C&EN and its ongoing success.

During its meetings, SCOP also considers, together with ACS Publications, topics such as open access journals, predatory journals, and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues related to the journals. In these discussions, SCOP members provide input to ACS Publications while wearing the hats of ACS members.

SCOP is always interested in hearing the views of ACS members and learning how ACS Publications is perceived by the broader community. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask SCOP members directly or address questions to the president of ACS Publications at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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