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Issue 33 – September 2011

The growth of Asia is a topic close to many editors’ hearts. In this Asia Special edition of Editors’ Update, we shine a probing light on some of the pros and cons of that growth and examine the impact for both journals and editors.

Linda Willems, Academic Relations Coordinator 


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Editor in the Spotlight: Jackie Ying of Nano Today

Professor Jackie Y. Ying was appointed the first Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today in March 2008. Launched in 2006 as an international review magazine for researchers with interests in all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology, Nano Today moved to a traditional journal format in 2009 to provide a peer-reviewed forum for the publication of authoritative review […]

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Professor Jackie Y. Ying was appointed the first Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today in March 2008. Launched in 2006 as an international review magazine for researchers with interests in all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology, Nano Today moved to a traditional journal format in 2009 to provide a peer-reviewed forum for the publication of authoritative review articles, rapid communications, news and opinions to shape and define the frontiers of nanoscience and nanotechnology through their multidisciplinary applications.

Nano TodayNano Today is published six times a year and is covered by the Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports for 2010 with an Impact Factor of 11.750, placing it among the top 3 of 66 journals in the ISI Nanoscience and Nanotechnology category.

Professor Ying is the Founding Executive Director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore. She was a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her research in nanostructured materials and systems has impacted a diverse range of applications, including catalysis, pharmaceuticals synthesis, ceramics, energy, environment, drug delivery, tissue engineering, bioimaging, biosensing, medical diagnostics and biological devices.

Q. What does being a journal editor mean to you and what do you find most rewarding about this role?
A. Being the Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today is an exciting role as this journal has a significant impact on the growing field of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Nano Today is focused on review articles, rapid communications, news and opinions, all of which provide the readership with insights and overviews into the latest advances in nanomaterials and nanodevices.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as editor of Nano Today? How do you overcome these challenges and what extra support can Elsevier provide?
A. My biggest challenge as editor is to provide our readers with a broad coverage of the latest developments in the design, synthesis and applications of nanomaterials and nanodevices, while keeping the quality of our publications as high as possible. We hope to make a major impact in the field, and reach out broadly to researchers in all parts of the world. A journal editor has to be aware of the most exciting developments and future directions in the field. I often commission leaders in the field to write articles for the journal. Elsevier provides rapid turnaround in the publication process, and this is much appreciated by our authors and readers.

Another challenge faced by editors involves ethical issues. For example, besides fraud, authors may send a similar manuscript to multiple journals for publication. They may also inappropriately exclude or include individuals in the authors listing. Elsevier may take a proactive approach by contacting all the listed authors to ensure that the paper had been submitted with their permission. This would help to minimize potential disputes that the editor has to handle.

Q. In many areas of research, the growth of paper submissions is outpacing the growth of qualified reviewers and resulting in pressure on the peer review system. What do you think the solution to this problem is and how do you see the peer review process changing in the future?
A. Due to the large number of manuscripts submitted, increasingly, the editor has to screen and make an initial assessment on the suitability of the manuscripts for potential publication in the journal. Nano Today only sends manuscripts out for review if they meet our stringent editorial criteria, namely relevance to the scope of the journal, originality and significance in the broad development of the field.

Q. We have observed a recent trend that researchers are increasingly accessing journal content online at an article level, i.e. the researcher digests content more frequently on an article basis rather than a journal basis. How do you think this affects the visibility of your journal among authors?
A. It will be critical for us to make the journal content available online as much as possible, in particular by providing free access to articles, especially those that are deemed to have a broad impact. This service would be greatly appreciated by the readership, and working together with Elsevier to achieve this would highly enhance the visibility of our journal among our authors and readers.

Q. The move from print to electronic publishing has stimulated a broad discussion around alternative publishing models. These models are often termed as ‘open access’ and include:

  • Author Pays Journal
  • Sponsored Articles
  • Free access to archives
  • Open-archiving

What is your opinion about the 'open access movement’ and how does it affect your journal?
A. See previous answer.

Q. Researchers need to demonstrate their research impact, and they are increasingly under pressure to publish articles in journals with high Impact Factors. How important is a journal’s Impact Factor to you, and do you see any developments in your community regarding other research quality measurements?
A. A journal’s Impact Factor is very important to us as a high Impact Factor would mean a higher likelihood of drawing top articles. Various funding agencies also expect researchers to publish in journals with a high Impact Factor. The pressure is on the editor to pre-select articles that have novelty and a broad impact for further review, and to work with excellent editorial advisory board members and reviewers who are leaders in the field and are committed to the success of the journal.

Q. How do you see your journal developing over the next 10 years? Do you see major shifts in the use of journals in the future?
A. We see an increasingly large number of submissions from China, India and the Middle East. It is important for the editor to recognize good research that is being conducted in the developing countries. A leading journal has to serve the interest of authors and readers from all parts of the world by providing comprehensive and top-quality coverage.

Q. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow editors about being a journal editor?
A. We are delighted that our publisher, Deborah Logan, has given us the opportunity to set up our editorial office in Singapore. Nano Today may be the only leading journal in our field that has its editorial office in Asia. Our knowledge of the growing research enterprise in this region, coupled with our familiarity with the American and European markets, enable the journal to reach out broadly to its readership by engaging all the leading experts in the field, including those from Asia.

In addition, we organize the Nano Today Conference, a biennial international meeting on nanostructured materials and devices that showcases the latest research and advances in this multidisciplinary field. This forum features outstanding plenary and invited talks, as well as contributed oral presentations and posters. The inaugural conference held in 2009 in Singapore attracted more than 450 international delegates, while the second conference, which will be held in December 2011 in Hawaii, has received more than 800 abstract submissions from researchers around the world. More details on this conference may be found at

Previous Editors in the Spotlight


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Fact-finding Mission to China Provides Key Insights

“In China, the research community is gaining year on year in resources and ability. That is very exciting to be around.” — Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science Tracey Brown believes peer review is vital to good science and the society that uses it. And it’s a conviction the Managing Director of Sense About […]

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"In China, the research community is gaining year on year in resources and ability. That is very exciting to be around.” — Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science

Tracey Brown believes peer review is vital to good science and the society that uses it.

And it’s a conviction the Managing Director of Sense About Science shares with members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as she discovered during a trip to the research-rich country in March this year.

Sense About ScienceBrown embarked on the fact-finding mission with two key aims in mind; she was keen to test out views advanced about the integration of Chinese authors and reviewers into international STM publishing, and to explore future collaborations to help researchers, policy makers and journalists identify the best science.

During the two-week visit, which was supported by Elsevier, she met not only the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), but, journalists, post docs and publishers.

Brown says: “It was clear that CAS is keen to discuss the best ways to evaluate research and to explore their concerns about what peer-reviewed publishing can - and can't - deliver. In an effort to avoid cronyism and subjective assessment in China, there has been a shift towards using flatter measurements; for example, the Impact Factor. There is a feeling, however, that these do not reveal enough about individual papers or the research output of an institution. Most people, including CAS, are coming to the conclusion that what we really need is a mix of the two.”

Gaining new understanding

Asked to highlight some of her key learnings during the trip, Brown says:

“People raised many interesting points and some quite contradictory ones. The early career researchers I spoke with viewed international journals as motivated by quality and fairness, and in some cases compared them favourably with Chinese journals, which can be seen as wedded to the relationships and prestige of individuals and institutions.

“On the other hand, some of the more editorially-experienced people had stories of less than positive attitudes among international editors to Chinese papers. They were concerned about a head-in-the-sand approach to such a major research base and that valuable new insights could be missed.”

Other key take-aways for Brown include:
  • General agreement that reviewing is an important part of the role of a researcher. However, involvement in it varies enormously.
  • As in many other countries, a researcher's day is structured in a way that makes it difficult to find time to review and their career progresses in response to grants and publications, not time spent reviewing. Views differed widely about the problems this posed and whether it inhibited the reviewing effort.
  • A strong interest in training, both for authors and reviewers.
  • Interest in other metrics for evaluating research output, the respective contributions of regions/countries and the performance of individual institutions.
Visiting the CAS

Tracey Brown; David Ruth, Elsevier Senior Vice President Global Communications; and Hugo Zhang, Elsevier Managing Director S&T China (left) meet with Mr Jinghai Li, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (right)

Peer-review progress

There were also a few eye-opening moments for Brown.

She explains: “I had not expected people’s personal experiences to differ so widely. For example, I was speaking to two post doc students at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Both had published very successfully early in their careers in some of the top journals - the elite of the elite. One was receiving almost weekly requests to review while the other had received only one request in a year. That may reflect the different nature of their papers but I heard their stories repeated elsewhere. It is perhaps to be expected that peer-review requests from international journals are still a bit of a hit and miss process in China.”

She adds: “Each time I was about to draw a conclusion about anything I would meet someone who took me in a different direction – a symptom, I imagine, of things being a work in progress there.

“Another surprising thing for me was the high level of confidence in the research community in contrast to the UK, and perhaps the US, where universities face straitened circumstances. In China, the research community is gaining year on year in resources and ability. That is very exciting to be around.”

The pressure to publish

Commenting on the quality – and quantity – of papers submitted by Chinese researchers, Brown says: “There is some concern, internationally, about filtering the sheer weight of papers produced by China. A big sea of papers makes it difficult to pick out the best.

“The thing is, there is a large pressure to publish in China and doing so in international journals brings career breaks and prestige. While lead institutions no longer pay incentives for this, some second-tier universities still appear to, which may contribute to journals being overwhelmed by unsuitable papers.

“We discovered that inappropriate submissions also stem from a lack of local knowledge about international journals, with younger researchers copying where their supervisors have published. Library services can play a very important role in widening the pool of journals considered.”

She adds: “Since returning I have been in touch with members of the Publishing Research Consortium to discuss the prospect of looking at how these new regions, such as China and India, are being integrated. Do editors now need something different from publishers with regard to support and advice? These are questions I know publishers are asking too. There is clearly some opportunity for international publishers to improve the availability of information about how to publish and where to publish, probably via librarians in those institutions where library services are developing and pro-active.”

Looking to the future

And what does Brown think the next five years will hold for the Chinese research community?

“Because of the volume of research and population size, even minority behaviors in China are likely to have a significant effect.  If just a proportion of the new generation of researchers are trained and engaged with reviewing, it could have a big impact on sharing the reviewing burden. I know that there are already programs underway, such as Elsevier’s Reviewer Workshops and Reviewer Mentorship Program. The value of their contribution to the research output cannot be overstated – just like so many other things in China at the moment!”

What is Sense About Science?

Sense About Science is a UK charitable trust that equips people to make sense of science and evidence on issues that matter to society. With a network of more than 4,000 scientists, the organization works with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to lead public discussions about science and evidence. Through award-winning public campaigns, it shares the tools of scientific thinking and the peer-review process. Sense About Science’s growing Voice of Young Science network engages hundreds of early career researchers in public debates about science. Sense About Science will be publishing a Chinese edition of its public guide to peer review I Don’t Know What to Believe early in 2012 in collaboration with learned societies, patient groups and journalists.

Author Biography 

Tracey Brown
Tracey Brown

Tracey Brown
Tracey has been the Director of Sense About Science since shortly after it was established in 2002. Tracey is a trustee of Centre of the Cell and MATTER. In 2009 she became a commissioner for the UK Drugs Policy Commission. She sits on the Outreach Committee of the Royal College of Pathologists and in 2009 was made a Friend of the College.

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The Inside Track: Elsevier Employees Share their Thoughts

No-one is better placed to offer advice about Asia than those who live and work there. Below, Elsevier employees in China, Taiwan and India talk about research developments in their countries and share tips for editors wanting to build closer links with Asia. Q. What is your role within Elsevier and how long have you worked for the company? […]

Read more >

No-one is better placed to offer advice about Asia than those who live and work there.

Below, Elsevier employees in China, Taiwan and India talk about research developments in their countries and share tips for editors wanting to build closer links with Asia.

Ella ChenQ. What is your role within Elsevier and how long have you worked for the company?
A. I have worked in Elsevier for four years. Currently I’m a Journal Publisher.

Q. Do you manage any journals?
A. Yes, a portfolio of 11 journals in Physical & Theoretical Chemistry, e.g. Electrochimica Acta, Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A, B & C, etc…

Q. What is the general view of Elsevier in China?
A. From my personal experience, people within the scientific research community do know Elsevier and respect it. They associate Elsevier with top quality and feel honored to publish in (some of) our journals. But of course, I can’t speak for all.

Q. Have you encountered any cultural differences working in an international environment?
A. Researchers in Asia (e.g. China and Japan) sometimes progress on to a political career. Inevitably they then have no time to devote to research, which is a pity for us because they could have been good candidates for journal editors, editorial board members or authors.

Q. Do you have any tips for editors who would like to attract papers/editors from China?
A. Promote the journal, know the market (what are the strong subject areas, who is leading the projects), and build connections. Of course, that is our job as publishers too.

Q. What are your thoughts about the scientific progress made in China in the last five years? What do the developments mean for the country?
From an overarching point of view, the number of researchers has now reached 1.4 million, just second to the US. Other figures have also seen a big increase, e.g. the number of papers, expense on R&D. Investment in Science & Technology in the past 10 years has increased by a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 24%. The Chinese government has also developed a few national programs to attract high level researchers back to China.

Q. What are some of the biggest scientific changes you think we will see in your country in the coming five years?
A. I think it’s foreseeable that there will be further growth in research output and improvement in paper quality.

Q. Are there any other observations you would like to make?
A. The rating system in Chinese institutions puts too much emphasis on the Impact Factor – that’s already widely known and discussed. In the meantime, some universities require research students to publish papers to graduate. The incentive for professors and researchers to do real science is therefore eliminated. And problems like plagiarism are still an issue.

Sabine YuQ. What is your role within Elsevier and how long have you worked for the company?
I joined Harcourt in 2000 handling the local publishing (translation & reprint) business for HS books in Taiwan and China. I entered journal publishing in 2003 as a coordinator between the Singapore and Taiwan offices a year after Elsevier acquired Harcourt. We only had three Taiwan journals and four Hong Kong journals then. I’ve learnt a lot about this business and the society clients; it’s what I’m truly fond of. I took full responsibility for this area in 2005 (acquisitions, profits and loss, marketing, customer service, etc…). We continue to sign up more new journals year after year and now have 22 journals in Taiwan and five in Hong Kong.

Q. Do you manage any journals?
Our team handles a total of 27 journals in Taiwan and Hong Kong. They include Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences (KJMS), Journal of the Chinese Medical Association (JCMA) and Asian Journal of Surgery (ASJSUR).

Q. What is the general view of Elsevier in Taiwan?
A. Most societies and doctors/professionals know about Elsevier. We’re a prestigious international publisher. Many of them have submitted to Elsevier journals themselves or have had experience reviewing articles for Elsevier journals.

Q. Have you encountered any cultural differences working in an international environment?
A. I like the working culture and environment in international companies which allow one to work independently and at the same time in a big team.

Q. Do you have any tips for editors who would like to attract papers/editors from Taiwan?
A. Since we’re not a native English-speaking country, authors in Taiwan would like to know more about how to publish in international journals and especially in the high IF journals. They need to be connected to the global resources and channels.

Q. And any tips for Asian researchers/editors who want to work for Elsevier?
A. I think a lot of them are interested in working with, or for, Elsevier. First, they need to be informed of such opportunities. Second, they should know clearly what they are expected to do and what resources they have to accomplish their tasks.

Q. What are your thoughts about the scientific progress made in Taiwan in the last five years? What do the developments mean for the country?
A. From the scholar’s perspective: “The biggest progress is the governmental investment in the scientific development. The Government has granted 1.7 billion (USD) in five years to encourage the enhancement of scientific researches and advancement of the technologies. The salaries of scholars have improved too. This has allowed Taiwan to be more competitive in the scientific development. As far as the publication quantity, it’s been quite stable for the past few years. As the non-native English speaking country, the quality of the papers is also improving. We’ve seen more papers got published in prestigious international journals like Nature & Science.” Prof. Huang, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Formosan Medical Association (JFMA).

The number of journals in Taiwan has also grown beyond expectation and last year we contracted four new ones. Many existing local journals have also decided to publish with Elsevier. The mindset of Taiwan medical societies has changed; they would like to contribute to the international health science community. The internationalization of Taiwan journals helps to bring attention to the research and scientific works done in Taiwan. Our society partners all rely heavily on Elsevier’s global resources and channels to promote their journals to the world.

Q. What are some of the biggest scientific changes you think we will see in your country in the coming five years?
A. The governmental scientific investment will continue. This has stimulated the private sector and we expect investment from the “biopharma” industry to increase. This will certainly help to enhance the R&D environment in Taiwan.

Q. Are there any other observations you would like to make?
A. As Asia rises, the researchers and scientists in our regions hope to play a more active role in the international community. The Editors’ Conferences are a good opportunity for them to do that. Those who attended the Hong Kong event last year all had a wonderful experience with Elsevier. Thanks to Gerrit Bos, Managing Director Health Science APAC, all our journals are now in the Production Tracking System (PTS) for journal workflow and benefit from the full scope of our publishing services. My purpose is to connect our editors to our global resources, so that they can truly benefit from Elsevier’s brand name, which will also ensure Elsevier’s leading position in the Taiwan market.

Elsevier is the only international journal publisher who has local publishing support in Asia and that is one of the reasons we have had no competition in Taiwan until now. To sum up, our strength in the Taiwan market is really “pay locally and publish internationally”.

I’m also looking forward to EVISE, the new online submission Elsevier Editorial System (EES), which takes into consideration the needs of Asian journal editors.

Sheenam Aggarwal

Q. What is your role within Elsevier and how long have you worked for the company?
A. I work as a Product Manager for the Elsevier India Journals Program. I have been associated with the company for two years now.

Q. Do you manage any journals?
Elsevier India has built up a journal portfolio over the last couple of years and my role includes, but is not limited to, setting up the journal production workflow for both online and print so as to ensure a seamless production process, timely delivery and quality output. The journals I have established include Indian Journal of Rheumatology and Medical Journal Armed Forces India.

Q. What is the general view of Elsevier in India?
People, especially students pursuing medicine as a career and specialists, are very well aware of Elsevier and look up to it for providing them with world class content. They recognize Elsevier as a high class brand that publishes breakthrough content written by some of the best people in the world.

Q. Have you encountered any cultural differences working in an international environment?
I have been interacting regularly with our international colleagues, specifically in the APAC region. From what I have gathered, markets and societies in countries like Australia and Taiwan etc… are mature, have established publishing programs and follow a very structured approach and standard workflow. In the Indian market, since the societies are fairly new, they are bit reluctant to follow a standardized approach. We have been trying to convince them to follow workflows such as the Elsevier Production Tracking System (PTS) and are hopeful that our publishing program will soon be on a par with international standards.

Q. Do you have any tips for editors who would like to attract papers/editors from your country?
Yes I do.

  • People in India place a lot of emphasis on writing quality articles and contributing to the scientific community and are extremely inclined towards submitting their work to highly regarded and valued journals – especially those that are indexed.
  • The acceptance of a paper to an indexed journal with a high Impact Factor is highly credible for the author and gives him/ her global visibility and reach beyond their own country.
  • Participation in society conferences in India is one of the best ways to attract Indian manuscripts, as these conferences guarantee the attendance of the majority of the people in that particular field.

Q. And any tips for Asian researchers/editors who want to work for Elsevier?
Asian researchers / editors who work for Elsevier will have the unique privilege of being part of the Elsevier family. Almost all our systems are automated and we use user-friendly online interfaces. Elsevier has a very transparent system in which the researchers / editors are well informed at every stage of the manuscript lifecycle. They also get access to the world’s largest scientific repository – ScienceDirect – and get an opportunity to have their work cited in Scopus and Embase etc… Elsevier believes in improving their systems and services continually by capturing the customers’ feedback via, for example, the author and editor feedback programs.

Q. What are your thoughts about the scientific progress made in India in the last five years? What do the developments mean for the country?
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Over the years the Indian government has invested a lot of money in R&D and creation of infrastructure, as well as institutional capacity and instrument and laboratory facilities. The institutional participation in research has almost doubled. Indian authors’ contributions to quality journals have improved, resulting in an increase in their average impact per paper. Also, the average citations received per paper have improved marginally over time. There has been a substantial rise in publication output in emerging areas, such as biotechnology, drugs and pharmaceuticals, material sciences, and medical sciences, to name but a few. The number of peer-reviewed international journals reporting India’s research output has increased consistently. More and more scientists are publishing in medium & high impact journals, there has been a strengthening of current arrangements for international collaboration and institutes have set up open access archives to make their research more widely accessible. All these developments highlight India’s potential to become a significant contributor to the growth of science.

Q. What are some of the biggest scientific changes you think we will see in your country in the coming five years?
I believe that India has the potential to deliver and sustain much higher publication growth. The Indian government is setting up more and more premier institutions along the lines of the Indian Institute of Technology & All India Institute of Medical Sciences. With this increasing emphasis on research, there will be a phenomenal increase in the amount of contributions and publication of research findings. India will probably catch up with other leading countries in the world by encouraging greater institutional participation. I think we will also:

  • make sophisticated laboratory and instrument facilities more widely available;
  • increase investment in R&D;
  • improve the research environment by introducing goal-oriented research; and
  • increase scientific cooperation with developed and developing countries.

I also feel that more research programs will be initiated to attract bright young talent into the field of science.

Q. Are there any other observations you would like to make?
Communication with the Indian authors should be more sensitive and culturally compatible.

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Recruiting an Asia-based Editor. Case Study: The Lancet

We know from editor feedback during conferences and webinars that many of you are keen to attract Asia-based editors on to your boards. We also know that some of you are unsure how to begin the important task of recruitment. Who should you approach? What qualities should you look for? Are there any pitfalls you […]

Read more >

We know from editor feedback during conferences and webinars that many of you are keen to attract Asia-based editors on to your boards.

We also know that some of you are unsure how to begin the important task of recruitment. Who should you approach? What qualities should you look for? Are there any pitfalls you should be aware of?

In this article we chat to two of The Lancet’s regional editors; Beijing-based Asia Editor, Helena Wang, and New York-based North American Senior Editor, Maja Zecevic. They reveal the positives, the challenges - and the surprises - they have experienced since Wang’s appointment to the team 18 months ago.

Helena's story 

Helena Wang_The Lancet Asia Editor

Helena Wang

I had been working for three years on the Chinese version of The Lancet to develop various editorial projects when I spotted the advert for an editor on the English-language journal. I thought why not try?

That was one and a half years ago and the role has turned out to be beyond my expectations. It is my dream job...The Lancet is my Mr Right.

I am a member of the fast track team, which involves peer reviewing manuscripts submitted globally to enable publication within four weeks. I am also responsible for peer review of normal track papers from Asian countries such as China (including Hong Kong), Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

My role includes writing editorials in English commenting on research and health policies, many of which relate to China, and that has been so interesting for me. One of my editorials focused on the predicament of Chinese doctors - their thoughts, feelings and doubts - and it received a lot of feedback and support.

I also work on The Lancet’s ‘China’ issues, which feature submissions of high quality research from Chinese authors or research teams working in China. The number of submissions from China is increasing fast. However, the methodology and novelty of the research undertaken by most Asian countries, including China, are still of major concern.

Bridging the cultural gap

During my time on The Lancet I have noticed a number of differences between myself and the editors in London. In Asian cultures, people do not express their thoughts as openly and directly as westerners. Instead we read between the lines and believe that ‘silence is golden’. That is why, compared to westerners, some Asians appear quieter in discussions.

That difference also applies to management styles. In Asian countries, staff are often more happy to listen and let their boss tell them what to do. They can be more unwilling to make suggestions and speak their mind. My boss on The Lancet is always helping and encouraging me to express my own thoughts more freely and openly to the editorial team.

Another difference I see is in the standard of research papers submitted. Western countries have adapted very well; they know the research as well as the submission rules. They know how to present their ideas clearly and strongly to the editors. But in Asian countries, gaps in understanding remain. Part of my role is to educate. I give presentations at universities, research institutes and seminars to try to overcome those gaps. If you play football or basketball you have rules and if you don’t follow the rules you won’t score. It’s the same principle with submissions.

Two-way street

The Lancet Chinese edition

The Lancet Chinese edition

I don’t believe that exchange of knowledge has been only one-way. At the beginning of this year I travelled to London to give a presentation about The Lancet in China and my colleagues were very impressed by the journal’s influence here. The Chinese really respect The Lancet very much. If a Chinese doctor publishes with us he will be headline news and receive a large financial reward. The Lancet’s interest in China has made the Chinese admire the journal even more. My colleagues were also surprised by the huge investment in research in China and the ambitious goals of that research. China is quite open-minded these days and has invited many editors from top journals in western countries to share their knowledge.

Another issue I’ve encountered is the time difference. When we finish work in China, the London office is just beginning. I need to pay attention to the emails that flow in then to make sure I don’t miss any urgent tasks. Sometimes, I need to work or join telephone editorial meetings at night.

The other challenge involves living and working in different cultures. It goes far beyond the differences in languages – English or Chinese - which I understand very well. The challenge is that when you work with colleagues in the UK or US, you need to think and act as westerners do, while when you contact Chinese government or doctors, you must act in a very traditional Chinese way.

Opening doors in China

I think The Lancet is a very good fit for China. The name can mean a window letting in light or a surgical scalpel. Things are changing in Asia and so are health policies. We need to cut off the bad policies and shine a light on what we are doing well. We can learn from Western countries; understand their advantages as well as the lessons already learned.

I feel very appreciative of The Lancet, which has also provided many valuable training opportunities, including English language polishing and clinical statistic courses.

Another thing I have learned at The Lancet is to think globally. I now say to researchers to think outside of the box when they are preparing their papers - think about the global perspective!

Maja’s story

Maja Zecevic

Maja Zecevic

Things in Asia work very differently. If one wants to succeed in those countries, one must adjust to the local customs and culture. It is very important to have someone who has local connections and respect; someone who knows the mentality and local language and who speaks fluent English. In my experience, experts in India, for example, often speak very good English but that is not always the case in China.

We are a medical journal and for us the Asian market is really evolving; China and Japan are two of the biggest funders of basic science research and are responsible for a substantial number of clinical trials. Sometimes these are run by local companies, but Asia is also really attractive for Western pharmaceutical companies who carry out trials in both Caucasians and Asians. Differences in genetic make-up can influence the side effects and efficacy of the drugs being tested. Asia also offers a population of ‘therapeutically naive’ patients who have not taken drugs before. Add to that the large population base and the low costs and one can see why it is so popular.

It is also important to note that some diseases are simply more prevalent in Asia, for example gastric cancer in China, so naturally a lot of related studies are conducted in China or use Chinese subjects.

Improving standards

One of Helena’s roles is to look into how we can ensure this research is done ethically. She has been visiting institutions and medical centers to educate authors and principal investigators on how to properly carry out and report their research. The other main goal is to attract high-quality clinical research content from China for the journal.

Interestingly, she picks up on things we aren’t aware of here, for example, how the media in China reports items in The Lancet. That helps us understand what aspects of our content other world regions find important.

The Lancet China issue

A 'China' issue of The Lancet

We also produce special issues of The Lancet focused on China because their health reforms are educational and of interest to our global audience. Those issues give us the opportunity to highlight advances made in the right direction and to emphasize areas that currently need to be addressed in China. They can also help to focus the existing diverse health priorities and improve funding.

Authorship is often an issue with regard to submissions from Asia. The same goes for copyright regulations. They are still discovering the ways these things are done properly and ethically. The pressure to publish there is much higher; guest authorship is very strong and the top people, who have a lot of influence, want their names on high-impact papers. That means young researchers can feel compelled to include authors who actually had very little to do with the reported research. There is also the perception that an important name on a paper makes it more likely to get respect and be published.

Finding the right qualities

Journals wanting to attract Asia-based editors on to their boards should bear a few key things in mind. Working in a side editorial office has its challenges and advantages - that’s something both Helena and I have experienced – and I like to say we are often the ‘face, eye, and ear’ of the journal in our respective regions.

Editors working alone must have an independent mind, be flexible, and be happy to interact on your journal’s behalf. It’s not only about the editorial side, we also have a role raising awareness and promoting the journal. It is also important that we communicate and interact frequently with the journal’s main editorial team.

Journal boards should find someone who is outgoing and approachable because this is very much a networking and out-of-office role. The job is to interact, react and field what is important in the local region and convey this to the main editorial office.

The addition of Helena to our editorial team has enormously benefited The Lancet. She is doing a truly wonderful job. We are all so very fond and proud to work with her and have learned so much from her.

Author Biographies

Helena Wang_The Lancet Asia Editor

Helena Wang

Helena Hui Wang
Helena took on her current role in 2010 and focuses on reviewing manuscripts, writing editorials, and developing The Lancet’s presence in Asia through outreach, conferences, and themed issues. She is also The Lancet’s first point of contact for authors in Asia. She is the only China-based editor for the journal. She holds a Master’s degree in Pathology and Pathophysiology and a Bachelor degree in Clinical Medicine from Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China. Before taking on her current role, she looked after The Lancet’s Chinese edition and was involved in various journal publication projects in Elsevier’s China office. Prior to that, she worked as a peer review editor for a local general medical journal.

Maja Zecevic
Maja Zecevic

Maja Zecevic
Maja Zecevic, PhD, MPH, is the only US-based editor for the journal. She commissions clinical and public health pieces; represents the journal at major conferences and invitation-only meetings; discusses research with leading academic, government and for-profit clinical and global health leaders; is an invited lecturer and conference moderator; and writes editorials for The Lancet. Originally from Serbia, after living in Latin America for several years Maja moved to the United States to pursue her drive and passion for biomedical and public health research. She received her PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Virginia and a subsequent Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. Before joining The Lancet, she was a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute and at MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Meeting the Challenge of a Global Academic Community

“While everyone has the possibility to submit a paper and become an author, editors are selected by their networks…” — David Clark, Senior Vice President, Physical Sciences There is no doubt the number of papers submitted by Asia-based authors is increasing, and increasing fast. But what are the possible consequences of this influx, not only […]

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"While everyone has the possibility to submit a paper and become an author, editors are selected by their networks..." — David Clark, Senior Vice President, Physical Sciences

There is no doubt the number of papers submitted by Asia-based authors is increasing, and increasing fast.

But what are the possible consequences of this influx, not only for editors, but for journals and the scientific community at large?

Philippe Terheggen, Elsevier Senior Vice President of Physical Sciences II, is confident this sea-change bodes well for the future of publishing.

He explains: “The birth of new internet technologies and the growth in these countries are two of the biggest trends in science and scientific publishing; they have transformed the landscape. Global collaboration with Asian scientists is rife and academics are regularly travelling. We are witnessing the emergence of one single academic community and that is fantastic.”

According to Terheggen, Elsevier has an obligation to ensure these prospective authors can fully participate in the publishing process. An obligation it shares with the authors’ parent institutions.

He acknowledges: “Yes, that brings challenges. Right now the rejection rate needs to be high and there are language problems that require editors and reviewers to spend too long on their evaluations. However, the papers that are published are often highly-cited and the overall quality is good. We know reviewers are doing some fantastic filtering and are choosing the right articles.”

He adds: “The danger is that poor language and presentation could be a recipe for under-publishing with good quality research lost. However, I see this as a temporary problem because the English language skills of the younger researchers are often really strong and improving fast.”

The importance of training

Concerns have been raised that the rate of duplicate submissions is higher in some Asian countries than those of more established scientific communities. Terheggen responds: “All countries have authors who show that sort of behavior. It’s probably more apparent in Asia because of the relatively large numbers of eager, early-career researchers who are not familiar with international codes of conduct. Don’t forget, a professor in China may have 100 PhD students, while in Germany that figure could be as low as 10. That makes it more challenging for the Chinese professor to get important messages across.

“But even if eagerness is to blame, duplicate submissions are highly undesirable as they double the workload for peer reviewers.

CrossCheck logo“We try to explain that to prospective authors and the initiative CrossCheck is also proving useful.  It makes it relatively simple to pick up researchers who engage in plagiarism or multiple submissions.”

He adds: “Sometimes the duplicate submission is deliberate, just a couple of items are changed before the second submission. That is the worst form of ‘salami slicing’ but it’s not typical.”

Terheggen says Elsevier is continuing to build its presence in Asia, both in publishing and support roles.

“Nothing can replace that on-the-spot contact. We are therefore investing in the relocation of senior publishers to our Beijing office for periods of one month or six weeks. While our China-based professional expertise is growing, the visiting publishers gain deeper Asian knowledge. That two-way learning curve is also created by extended stays of Asian staff in Europe and the US.”

Disciplines witnessing an Asian boom

Asia’s expansion has closely followed a pattern established in other emerging countries. Subject areas such as chemistry, material sciences and engineering typically experience the first growth. This is usually followed by life sciences, social sciences and some of the inter-disciplinary sciences.

How Elsevier can help

David Clark, Elsevier Senior Vice President of Physical Sciences, agrees that Elsevier has an important support role to play in Asia.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of submissions from emerging countries and a larger universe of authors brings its own set of problems. We know the new authors are not necessarily up to date with the ‘dos and don’ts’ of publishing so it is up to us to help them.”

Clark has some practical tips for editors swamped by papers from Asia.

“Talk to your publisher. Ask them how other journals are coping and about the services we have in place to help.

“For example, we run author workshops*, which are often visited by hundreds of early career researchers. These can be hosted by an editor and publisher, or by an editor alone and there is material available for use.

“It is not the editor’s job to rewrite a paper and there is a danger errors can creep in during the process. We encourage authors to ask a native English speaker to read their article prior to submission so they can make the corrections themselves. We certainly don’t feel that editors should be spending time on papers that they struggle to understand or follow – it is the author's job to get that right.”

Closing the gap

According to Clark, while the spread of countries represented on the editorial boards of Elsevier journals is ‘reasonable’, countries such as India and China are under-represented in comparison with their share of published articles. For example, the percentage of Elsevier editors from China is 3.3% while nearly 13% of published articles originate there.

% share of Elsevier S&T articles

Figure 1 - percentage share of Elsevier S&T articles by country. Source: Elsevier Operations Reporting, 2010.

Clark admits: “Some countries are also significantly over-represented, for example, 40% of our editors come from the US while only 18% of published articles originate there.

“This discrepancy can partly be explained by market shifts that are not reflected yet in editor representation, e.g. China has gained more article share in Elsevier journals at the cost of the US, UK, Japan, and Germany.

“Culture and politics also play an important role. While everyone has the possibility to submit a paper and become an author, editors are selected by their networks and people tend to turn to those they know.

“Levels of appropriate expertise can also be a stumbling block.

“I know some editors worry communication will prove problematic. This concern stems from a time when we dealt with paper but new communication technologies make international boards easier to run.

“Sometimes it is simply a case of hesitating to make changes to the current board.”

He adds: “This gap needs to be addressed, not for reasons of political correctness, but because of the practical advantages. It eases the burden on traditional academic communities and it offers access to good new people coming up through the system. Just look at the high standard of work already coming out of some institutes in China.

“However, the quality of a journal rests with the people editing it. We know that means that in some fields there will not be board members from emerging countries, while in other fields they might comprise half the editorial board.

“Many journals have already appointed editors in Asia and there are clear benefits for doing so. For example, the editors we do have from China do seem to accept, on average, better-cited papers than those from other countries. That suggests they do a good job and my own experience supports that.”

Practical steps

Clark has advice for editors keen to attract an Asia-based editor onboard.

“As I’ve mentioned, there can be concern about changing the current board. Remember, board members aren’t permanent and your publisher can announce member changes on your behalf.

“And if you want to identify potential Asian editorial board members we can help with that too. Using Scopus we can identify the best authors to approach. We can also give suggestions based on our experience with Asia-based guest editors. Our network can help...publishers can help, so please use us.”

* Asian countries are not the only venues to play host to our growing workshop programs. Learn more about recent successful events held in Brazil.

Seeking the solutions – Elsevier-supported initiatives that can help

Elsevier Language Editing Services
We will ensure that your manuscript is free of grammatical and spelling errors within four business days.

Elsevier Author Workshops
Training authors and research students in emerging academic communities to write world class papers. Modules on ethical and copyright issues are included.

Elsevier Reviewer Workshops and Mentorship Program
Together with the editorial community, journal publishers at Elsevier have created a number of programs to develop and nurture the pool of future reviewers.

Cross-publisher initiative with CrossRef to screen published and submitted content for originality.

Author Biographies

Philippe Terheggen

Philippe Terheggen

Philippe Terheggen
Originally a medical scientist and author, Philippe has an international background in book and journal publishing, marketing, production, and product innovation. In an earlier role, he was responsible for implementing the online article submission system to Elsevier journals. His current role is focused on chemistry and chemical engineering, engineering, energy and renewable resources, environmental sciences, agricultural and water management, as well as oil & gas and geological sciences.

David Clark
David Clark

David Clark
David oversees our program in physics, mathematics, computer science and materials which includes both some of the newest and longest-standing Elsevier journal titles. Previously he was a publishing director for physics and mathematics, publishing director for economics and a publisher for economics and for geography. David was educated at Oxford and London Universities.

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bar chart 168 x 168

The Rise of Asia: A Research Profile

The rapid growth of Asia’s research community has led to some countries in the region being referred to as “rising stars” or the “next scientific superpowers”. The region is certainly promising from a scientific point of view. In this article we discuss some of the statistics underlying its development and we examine the current state […]

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The rapid growth of Asia’s research community has led to some countries in the region being referred to as “rising stars” or the “next scientific superpowers”.

The region is certainly promising from a scientific point of view. In this article we discuss some of the statistics underlying its development and we examine the current state of research in Asia.

How many articles are published in each of the Asian countries per year?

Figure 1 (below) details article output for Asian countries on the horizontal axis. The different data points per country represent the years from 2006-2010. We can see that China is experiencing explosive growth in article output. India is catching up: output numbers are still low but the growth percentage is impressive. Output from Japan has remained stable for the last couple of years. Impressive growth can also be seen in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (see figure 2).

Figure 1. Article output for Asian countries combined with citations per article for 2006-2010 datapoints (in both Elsevier and non-Elsevier publications). Source: Scopus Country Data, August 2011.


Figure 2. Detail of lower section of Figure 1.

What is the impact of Asian articles?

In Figures 1 and 2, we can also see the impact of the articles on the vertical axis, defined as citations in year Y to articles published in the previous two years. The citations per Chinese article have improved slightly but are still relatively low in quality when compared to other countries. There is a strong emphasis in China on article output, and less so on quality, which may account for the discrepancy between quantity and quality growth.

Elsevier’s international editors and reviewers currently reject a substantial part (almost 80%) of the articles submitted from China. This quality control is crucial to ensure that the articles published are representative of the high quality of research coming from China. This rigorous peer-review process has ensured that Elsevier-published articles from China already have citation rates higher than those of established countries like France.  For India, we can see in Figure 1 that there was an initial increase before citations per article appeared to stabilize.  For Japan, not much has changed in the last five years.  Even though Taiwan publishes fewer papers than Japan, both the number of papers published and their impact seem to be increasing.

Which countries are strong in international collaboration?

For this analysis, we selected countries with more than 250 articles published in 2010. At 71%, Vietnam has the highest percentage of articles achieved through international collaboration. China and India appear at the bottom of the list with only 15% and 18% respectively. In general, we see that the larger the output from the country, the lower the international collaboration. (For more information see Research Trends, Small Countries Lead International Collaboration, December 2009, Judith Kamalski.)

It is clear that most of the larger countries in Asia have low international collaboration percentages.  An increase in international collaboration could well lead to a positive effect on citations per article.

Language issues appear to form a barrier for some of these countries. In order to assist the scientific community in Asia, Elsevier regularly organizes author workshops. These offer advice ranging from how to increase the chance your article is published to international publishing standards (including language), and ethics. Elsevier also offers a Language Editing Service that ensures manuscripts are free of grammatical and spelling errors. 

Asia’s future in science

One of the consequences of China’s meteoric rise is that it is projected to have the same world article share as the United States by 2013 (see Figure 3). From that point onward, China will be the largest country in the world in terms of scientific output.

Figure 3. Forecasted country shares of global output. Source: Scopus Country Data, October 2010; China versus US world share of total article output (1996-2008) extrapolated with a linear best-fit trend.

Differences in output and quality between Asian countries are larger than those between, for instance, countries in Europe. In general, with a rising number of scientists having access to more and more articles, differences between countries are reduced. Does this mean that Asian countries will increasingly resemble each other in terms of scientific profiles? That is difficult to predict as a number of factors will play a determining role, including government policies on, and investments in, science, and the economic growth of the country. These influence how quickly they can grow scientific output and increase quality.

The path ahead

Asia’s research position is getting stronger, but is still divided: countries such as Japan are relatively stable in output and quality, while other countries, such as China and India, see a rapid growth, especially in output. What does this mean for our editors? The flow of submissions from Asia will continue to increase, but so will the quality of articles. These developments outline the need for a gradual adaptation of our journals’ editorial boards to accurately reflect the geographical balances in the scientific world.

Author Biographies

Judith Kamalski
Judith Kamalski

Judith Kamalski
Using citation information, Judith gives advice to journal publishers and editors on how to improve their journals, or to sales staff on characteristics of the universities they visit. Her particular interest lies in the use of the Impact Factor and the emergence of alternative metrics for journal evaluation. Judith regularly presents on these and other topics. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Corporate Communication and one in French Literature (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and Sorbonne, Paris IV). Her PhD research focused on the role of language in persuasion (Utrecht and Florida State Universities).

Rose L'Huillier
Rose L'Huillier

Rose L’Huillier
Rose trained as an applied mathematician at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and also holds Master’s degrees in English Literature and Literary Science. She is currently an MBA candidate at the Rotterdam School of Management. In the past seven years she has worked in various Elsevier departments such as production, marketing, strategy, and publishing. She has worked with flagship journals such as The Lancet and Cell and in specialized areas such as High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and Astronomy. She has recently turned her focus to strategic issues in the company and she is currently responsible for the high-level strategy of Elsevier S&T Journals.

Asia special 168 x 168

Welcome to this Asia Special Edition of Editors’ Update

If we had a crystal ball that allowed us to sneak a peek at the future of academia, what insights would we gain? While no-one can really say what the coming years hold, one thing is certain: research in Asia is enjoying an explosive boom and while the sun rises on this rapidly developing continent, […]

Read more >

If we had a crystal ball that allowed us to sneak a peek at the future of academia, what insights would we gain?

While no-one can really say what the coming years hold, one thing is certain: research in Asia is enjoying an explosive boom and while the sun rises on this rapidly developing continent, the implications for the wider research community are immense.

Join any Editors’ Update Webinar, attend any Elsevier Editors’ Conference and it is soon clear that Asia is a topic never far from the thoughts of our editors.

Youngsuk "YS" Chi

Youngsuk Chi

Youngsuk (YS) Chi, Chairman of Elsevier’s Management Committee, is one man who has a clear vision of the possibilities on offer. He says: “Asia is home to countries that are among the highest in research impact and the fastest growing in research capability and performance.  At Elsevier, we have a long standing commitment to fostering the development of the emerging research powerhouses.  It’s an opportunity not only to share our global experience and networks, but also to learn from the research leaders in this dynamic region. It is not about a one-way conversation, but rather an exchange of ideas and that is exciting.”

In this Asia Special edition of Editors’ Update, we take a closer look at some of the implications of these developments for publishing and journals.

In The Rise of Asia: A Research Profile, we examine the current state of research in Asia and make some interesting predictions for the future. Many of the statistics could prove surprising!

Meeting the Challenge of a Global Academic Community discusses some of the challenges surrounding Asia’s growth and offers some practical advice for editors swamped by submissions.

While the number of papers published by Asian authors is increasing, the percentage of Asian editors remains comparatively low. In Recruiting an Asia-based Editor. Case Study: The Lancet, two of the journal’s editors – one of whom is based in China – speak frankly about their experiences.

No-one is better placed to offer advice about building connections in Asia than those who live and work there. In The Inside Track – Elsevier Staff Share Their Thoughts, we meet employees in China, Taiwan and India.

China has played host to some of the most accelerated research developments. Tracey Brown, Managing Director of UK charitable trust Sense About Science, talks to Editors’ Update about some of her key take-aways from a recent visit to the country in Fact-finding Mission to China Provides Key Insights.

Last but not least, in Editor in the Spotlight we meet Singapore-based Professor Jackie Ying, Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today.

We always welcome your views and would be happy to receive your feedback at

We hope you enjoy reading this Asia Special edition, but most of all we hope it proves useful to you in navigating the changes that lie ahead. 

Linda Willems
Academic Relations Coordinator

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