Selecting a New Editor-in-Chief: Search Committee Insight - ACS Axial
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Selecting a New Editor-in-Chief: Search Committee Insight

Professor Nicole S. Sampson

Earlier in 2020, ACS announced the search for the next Editor-in-Chief of the Society’s flagship Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), and the first Editor-in-Chief of the recently announced open access sibling journal, JACS Au.

The selection of ACS journal Editors is typically a highly confidential process. It begins with the formation of a diverse, experienced, and knowledgeable search committee that is tasked with identifying leading candidates from around the globe. According to ACS By-Laws, a member of the Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications serves on each search committee. Similar to the traditional, single-blind peer-review process, the identities of members of the committee are not publicly disclosed, in support of thorough discussion and vetting of candidates before a finalist emerges.

In this instance, outreach for nominations extended beyond the search committee to ACS Technical Divisions representing the breadth of chemistry. As is routinely the case, other ACS Committees were also approached, including the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs, the ACS Women Chemists Committee, the ACS Committee on Chemists with Disabilities, and the ACS Younger Chemists Committee.

For the first time ever, in its desire to ensure a broad and diverse pool of candidates, the search committee for JACS and JACS Au welcomed candidate nominations and self-nominations from across the chemistry community.

Now, in another first, as the Chair of the search committee, I will be elucidating the search process and offering first-hand insight and a unique perspective on these significant and soon-to-be-announced appointments.

The Committee

The search committee was made up of 9 individuals: 5 men and 4 women, including myself.

Our collective research spans the fundamental to the applied, and our areas of scientific expertise encompass all of chemistry and bridge to interfacing areas of science. Geographically we represent 6 countries across 4 continents. Each member of the committee brought unique perspectives and insight, gleaned from many years of research, education, authorship, reviewing, and in some cases, serving as journal editors.

Shortly after the search committee was convened, each member took part in an informational training addressing implicit bias, and this awareness carried over into committee deliberations throughout the search.

Candidates

All candidates and their qualifications were thoroughly reviewed by the search committee, including nominations received from across the broad chemistry community – over 100 in all!

The nominated candidates were one-third women, 40% from outside the United States, representing 20 countries, and one-quarter non-white. The committee evaluated candidates’ research accomplishments and stature, their editorial service, their publication history, and their social media communications in order to hone the list.

Committee Meetings

The committee met over the course of six months to discuss and to arrive at a list of semi-finalists from whom we would seek further information. Three members of ACS Publications staff also attended the meetings to explain the next steps, guide discussions, and clarify information as necessary, however, these staff liaisons did not take part in candidate scoring.

Outside of the scheduled meetings, Committee members were tasked with reviewing additional documentation on candidates and scoring them according to a rubric specifically created for this purpose. We employed a review process whereby each nominated candidate was assigned to three committee members to ensure that everyone on the list received the same level of support, scrutiny, and review during deliberations. The criteria used in the scoring assessments included: demonstrated creativity in problem-solving; dedication to the field and to the community; effective communication skills and embrace of new technologies; demonstrated capacity to multi-task; support of diversity in the community; scientific record, and scope of their scientific network.

Candidate Shortlist: Soliciting Vision Statements

The candidate nomination list was ultimately shortened to 17 individuals who had the desired research and leadership, and from whom vision statements were solicited for either JACS or JACS Au. In these statements, candidates were asked to present their assessments of the journal along with a forward-looking vision of the journal’s future. Among other points, candidates were asked to: present their approach to building community; identify perceived strengths and weaknesses and ideas for improvements; provide their viewpoints on fairness, inclusivity, and innovation in peer review; explain their considerations in appointing a strong, diverse, and representative team of editors; share their view of chemistry today and how it may evolve in the future, and propose milestones that would form the basis of a strategic plan.

Ultimately, 15 candidates submitted vision statements, and each statement was thoroughly reviewed by the entire committee. Of these statements, two-thirds were from candidates within the United States and one-third from other countries. Two-third of the candidates were men and one-third were women.

Final Selections

During a final meeting, the committee evaluated and discussed each candidate’s vision statement and proposed milestones for the journal and gave particular consideration to candidates’ plans for inclusion and equity.  We quickly reached unanimous agreement on one final Editor candidate and an alternate for each journal. In accordance with ACS bylaws, the search committee’s recommendations were submitted to the ACS Board of Directors for final approval, thereby concluding the search process.

Conclusion

Ultimately the committee identified the most visionary and dynamic of the candidates from an extensive pool of highly experienced nominees willing to serve the chemistry community. The selected Editors each have clearly established track records and a willingness to work with next-generation authors and publishing modalities to engage the chemistry community world-wide in publishing with premier ACS journals. The committee is enthusiastic about the future of JACS and JACS Au and looks forward to seeing the exciting chemistry that will be showcased through this powerful partnership.


The Editors will be announced soon!

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Professor Nicole S. Sampson is the Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University, and served as the Chair of the search committee for the 2020 Editor-in-Chief appointments for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and JACS Au. She served as Chair of the ACS Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications from 2016 – 2018, and as a member from 2010 – 2019.

 

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