Macromolecules recently held a webinar with Editor-in-Chief Marc A. Hillmyer and Associate Editors Arthi Jayaraman and Chinedum Osuji. The session addressed a number of questions that authors often have about submitting their work to the journal.
Read on to learn the answers to these common questions.
How are the reviewers chosen? Are the author suggestions taken into consideration?
We review the author recommendations for reviewers. It is good practice to provide the suggestions and justifications for your suggestions. There are many factors that go into our decision of which reviewers to choose. We use our best judgement and also availability of the reviewers to determine who is selected.
When associate editors decide to not send out a manuscript for review, how is that decision communicated to the authors?
The decision to not send a paper for review is made very carefully. After reviewing the paper, we ask ourselves does this fit within in the scope of the journal, what is the significance, and what is the potential impact of the work; thus a manuscript that does not go out for external peer review, has also been reviewed by at least one editor at Macromolecules. We do our best to communicate our specific reasoning individually to the author for such a decision.
Does the three-week to review timeframe apply to all types of manuscripts?
We only have two manuscript types: Articles and Perspectives. We chose a three-week allowed time for review to balance respect for the reviewers’ time and the author(s) desire for a speedy yet careful decision. We allow for longer review time in the case of Perspectives.
How do you decide if one of the two reviewers does not suggest to publish the work, while as other does?
All Associate Editors at Macromolecules are practicing scientists in the fields in which they are associated with who bring their own expertise and understanding to the journal’s team. This enables them to make a judgement of substantive reviewer comments, even in case of conflicting reviewer comments. In some particularly difficult situations, it can be prudent to use an adjudicating reviewer to get another perspective.
ACS recently announced a suite of new open access journals, including ACS Polymers Au. How does Macromolecules envision interacting with this new open-access journal?
ACS Publications has an array of open access options; ACS Central Science, ACS Omega, JACS Au, and the new suite of nine open access journals, ACS Au. ACS Polymers Au is part of this new group. We view this positively for giving authors more options for publishing their work, especially when funding agencies may mandate open access for publishing their research outcomes. We believe that this is a positive development and are committed to an ecosystem in which these journals exist and benefit from one another.
*Disclosure: Since the recording of this webinar, Arthi Jayaraman has joined ACS Polymer AU as the Deputy Editor.
Many studies are quite interdisciplinary and limiting the scope of a paper can be challenging. Do you see it as an advantage to share a broader story, combining, for example, computer simulations, mathematical modelling, synthesis work and detailed characterization? Or is it better to keep a narrow focus and not try to convey the broader perspective?
It depends on how the story is communicated and if there is new science being presented. We want the content of the paper to be convincing and novel, and that brings out the fundamental science of polymers and pushes the field forward. There should be one or two significant points that will get elevated by the narrative for the reader to appreciate. The presence of additional data should not distract or detract from your main points. Also, consider using the supporting information in your manuscript wisely.
When papers combine “Materials Science” field (Polymerization and Characterization) with “Biology” (assays involving cell cultures in vitro, e.g. testing Biocompatibility of materials), does it fit Macromolecules scope?
It can, but the more it leans on the biological emphasis, the better it may do in another ACS journal with that focus. At Macromolecules, our focus is on evaluating if the central point of the manuscript will advance fundamental polymer science.
What should you do when you run into technical or financial difficulties to get additional characterization data asked for by reviewers (for e.g., needing new GPC detectors or columns, mechanical testing instruments, etc.)?
This is an important point, especially during COVID-19. We at Macromolecules are taking a reasonable approach and want to be as helpful towards our authors as we can be. Editors are paying special attention to determining what information is necessary and what criticisms are reasonable towards a manuscript getting published in the journal.
Can the Editor decide to accept the manuscript without sending it for external review? How does the editor make such a decision? How often does that happen?
Yes, they can. It does not happen too often, but the most frequent cases are manuscripts that come to us as a result of transfer from another ACS journal. These are often papers that may be out of scope at another journal but constitute a good fit for Macromolecules. Also transfers can come in with reviews received at the other journal and associated author responses, helping to reach a decision without having to send the manuscript out for another round of peer review.
Sometimes there is a subtle line between what should be published in Macromolecules and what is more appropriate for another journal, say Inorganic Chemistry, for example. Some polymers are obtained through the employment of suitable organometallic catalysts and characterization of these systems is something important to conduct besides explore the properties of the material. What would make an article more appropriate for Macromolecules? What is the best way to focus the manuscript?
This is a fine line to be balanced. The question to ask here is, “Is the point to advance fundamental polymer science?” The paper should provide a use to the polymer community.
Some ACS journals recently inaugurated Early Career Boards. Does Macromolecules plan a similar initiative?
We have an Editorial Advisory Board that includes several young researchers who have been invited to join the board and contribute their expertise. Macromolecules has not formally initiated an Early Career Board, but it is under consideration. It is an ongoing discussion about how best to engage our future researchers with the journal.
How difficult can it be for an AE or reviewer to remain unbiased if the reviewer happens to review a manuscript that is very close to their own field or from authors that have some kind of conflict with?
In case of any conflicts of interest, Editors recuse themselves from handling the manuscript. We are comprised of subject matter experts, and we each have our own knowledge. However even in cases where a submission maybe closely related to the Editor’s own work, we do the best we can to evaluate the papers on their own merits. We use a diversity of reviewers to provide us their individual assessments. This is the central tenet of what associate editors do. We agree that it is important that the science be evaluated on its merits and use our reviewers to lend their expertise and understanding.
When does the journal check for plaigerism? Are these checks always communicated to the author?
Plagiarism is taken very seriously at Macromolecules. We use a program called CrossCheck by iThenticate to screen for overlapping content. Every revised manuscript from authors is evaluated by this program.