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One Year Later: An Update From Insect Systematics and Diversity

Insect Systematics and Diversity covers

As an online-only journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity isn’t confined by what works on a static, printed page. It can take full advantage of the online-only format to better communicate, by way of top-quality graphics and photos, the science of insect systematics, evolution, and biodiversity.

By Sydney Cameron, Ph.D., and Jim Whitfield, Ph.D.

One year ago this week, Insect Systematics and Diversity published its first issue. We had been working toward that first issue for more than a year by the time it was published last October—honing the journal’s mission statements, recruiting subject editors, reaching out to potential authors, recruiting and reviewing invited papers for the first issue, reviewing cover design and web page templates, strategizing with ESA and Oxford University Press staff, and learning all the nitty-gritty details involved in editing a journal. When Issue 1 went live online, we felt like new parents.

Sydney Cameron, Ph.D., and Jim Whitfield, Ph.D.

Sydney Cameron, Ph.D., and Jim Whitfield, Ph.D.

It was extremely gratifying to us that the authors of this first set of excellent papers had chosen Insect Systematics and Diversity for their work. It was also reassuring to know that colleagues around the world could benefit from and build upon their findings. Now in our fifth issue of Volume 2, we still feel the excitement every time a new ISD paper is posted online.

In recognition of ISD’s first year in operation, we wanted to take this opportunity to share a few lessons we’ve learned from the experience.

A journal lives and ultimately thrives (or not) by its volunteers. When we originally recruited subject editors for ISD, we knew they would be important to the journal’s success. But only in working with them do we see how critical their roles are in making the enterprise run. Our subject editors manage the day-to-day work involved in keeping the review process moving smoothly without losing sight of the true goal of helping authors produce stronger papers. On top of all this, they provide us with ideas, support, and feedback to help improve the journal as a whole.

Our reviewers find time in their incredibly busy schedules to carefully evaluate every paper they receive and point out specifics for improvement. Whether that paper is eventually published in ISD or in another journal, every paper our reviewers and subject editors handle is better thanks to their efforts.

A journal’s vision is a conversation. When we originally interviewed with the ISD Editorial Board, we were asked to describe our vision for the journal. But that vision has expanded since then. With the input of our subject editors and queries from authors about the kinds of papers ISD will and will not accept, we’ve re-evaluated and adjusted our ideas. Once authors began submitting papers, we found ourselves re-evaluating our concept again. It became important to clarify, in particular, ISD’s interest in highlighting new developments in taxonomic research and how this aspect of ISD’s scope is distinguished from that of journals with a more targeted focus on taxonomic reports.

Recently, we began requiring all authors to include a cover letter with their manuscript submissions explaining why they believe their paper is a good fit for ISD. This lets us communicate more directly with authors about the scope and vision of the journal. We also encourage prospective authors who have any uncertainty about the fit of a paper to pitch the focus of the manuscript to us in advance—we are always happy to provide feedback so that authors can have a good sense of whether ISD is right for their paper before they go to the work of submission.

New opportunities are on the horizon. As an online-only journal, ISD isn’t confined by what works on a static, printed page. It’s our goal to take full advantage of the online-only format to better communicate—by way of top-quality graphics and photos, including new 3D imaging capabilities—the science of insect systematics, evolution, and biodiversity.

We are fully integrated with the Dryad data repository to make it easier for our authors to share their datasets with readers and for future scientists to build on the work published in ISD. We’re also benefitting from innovations in figure formats made possible through our publishers at Oxford University Press, who have recently added the ability to integrate 3D PDFs directly into the PDF versions of research papers and will be launching more robust 3D modeling options through SketchFab in the very near future. These new figure formats will give readers the opportunity to interact with and manipulate morphological figures, zoom in on important features, and view an image of an insect much in the same way you would view a physical specimen in the lab.

What will the next year bring for us at ISD? We don’t know—and that’s half the fun of being co-editors-in-chief. Any day can bring the next great submission or opportunity. We look forward to organizing the next year’s set of excellent papers and finding new ways to serve our authors and readers.

Sydney Cameron, Ph.D., and Jim Whitfield, Ph.D., are professors in the Department of Entomology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-editors-in-chief of Insect Systematics and Diversity. Email: scameron@life.illinois.edu and jwhitfie@life.illinois.edu.

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