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Makes journal more accessible to authors and readers
Dramatic changes have taken place at the British Journal of Ophthalmology over the past 6 months. Most readers have probably not noticed. However, all of our loyal reviewers and authors could not fail to do so. As of May 2002 the journal is now “all online”—for manuscript submission and review. We no longer process hard copy manuscripts in the review process. For most of our authors and reviewers this new “online” system has functioned smoothly and we have received many favourable comments about it. Regrettably, not all of our authors and reviewers have found the new system to their liking.
Why have we opted to go to an online submission and review process for manuscripts? First and foremost, when the system is fully established (with a few additional modifications) it will speed up significantly the peer review process. In fact, during the first few months of using the system the average time for completing a review of an “original article” was reduced to 21 days; the average time required for review, revision, and acceptance of an original article was only 27 days. For “letters to the editor” the process was even more efficient. Secondly, it allows us to routinely use reviewers throughout the world. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century sending hard copies of manuscripts by post is time consuming, costly and, for some countries, not always reliable. As a result, in the past the vast majority of our reviewers have resided in the United Kingdom or the United States. We hope this will not remain true in the future. Finally, it allows authors from countries that did not previously submit papers to the journal to do so. Already, we have received manuscripts for the “World view” column from authors in countries from which we had previously not received any manuscripts. The new online system should further our efforts to make the journal a truly international journal of ophthalmology—not only with regard to its editorial board but also to its authors, reviewers, and, most importantly, readers.
Our new online system, “Bench> Press,” was designed by HighWire Press, the same group that designed our website. Extensive research was conducted by HighWire before developing Bench>Press, but everyone involved realises it is a system in evolution. HighWire has been extremely responsive to our recommendations for changes. The vast majority of these have come about as the result of suggestions from our authors and reviewers. Minor additions and changes are likely to continue over the next several months. We welcome constructive criticism and suggestions that will help improve the system.
A new, more detailed set of instructions for using the system has been made available recently—please log on to our website—www.bjophthalmol.com, then click on “Submitting a manuscript” and go to “For details on how to submit your manuscript online, via Bench>Press.” We hope these instructions will simplify the process for both authors and reviewers. Additionally, we are developing a problem solving page for users of BJO—http://bjo.bmjjournals.com/misc/problemsolver.shtml. Although we now believe these more detailed instructions should solve most problems authors and reviewers have experienced in the past, we urge users of Bench>Press not to hesitate in contacting our Bristol office ( ) or our San Francisco office ( ) if problems arise that cannot be solved with the aid of these new instructions.
It will undoubtedly take a bit more time for all authors and reviewers to feel perfectly comfortable with our Bench> Press system. Ultimately, we believe all authors and reviewers will find it quicker and more efficient than the old system of hard copy manuscripts. In the meantime we apologise for any frustra-tion the system has caused any of its users. Rest assured even the editors have endured a few days (not many) of second thoughts. Yet, we will do everything possible to steer the transition smoothly forward until the online system is problem free. Moreover, we will attempt to minimise the drama involved in its use. We firmly believe the end product will be worth the effort.