By Holly Webb
May 2, 2016
Editor’s Note: Holly Webb, one of our recent ASAS/ASAP communications interns, compiled a history of the Journal of Animal Science during her 10-week internship in the U.S. Webb’s summary takes you from the Journal’s early roots, including the influence of World War II on publishing of the Journal and adoption of the Metric System by the Journal, to its growth from quarterly to monthly publication, as well as the development of sections in the table of contents. Follow the Journal as it enters the digital age, and learn about its most recent successes.
The Journal of Animal Science (JAS) publishes more than 600 fully reviewed research articles, invited reviews, technical notes, and letters to the editor each year. In 2014, JAS had an Impact Factor of 2.108, and according to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), JAS consistently ranks as one of the top animal science journals.
JAS was first published in 1942 as a quarterly scientific journal with Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Animal Production, the forerunner of ASAS, being the main avenue of publication from 1908 to 1940.
At the 1938 Annual Meeting, members discussed the need for a comprehensive, peer-reviewed scientific journal to document and communicate knowledge from the animal science field. At the business meeting on November 26, an Executive Committee was given the responsibility of investigating the feasibility of publishing a quarterly journal, and to report its findings at the 1939 meeting.
On November 30, 1940 the society decided to publish a JAS, beginning in 1942. It was decided that the Executive Committee would appoint an Editorial Board of 7 members, an Editor and if necessary, a business manager.
The first edition of JAS was published in 1942. The first JAS editor (later the title was changed to editor-in-chief) was Ralph W. Phillips. Phillips was editor from the inaugural issue until 1949.
As plans for the Journal were evolving, World War II was underway in Europe. By the time Vol. 1, No. 1 was printed, the United Sates was fully engaged on both the European and Pacific fronts. Research programs were reduced or eliminated, and researcher workers were diverted to wartime activities. The Journal also operated on a limited budget. At the 1940 annual business meeting the society increased annual dues from USD 2.50 to USD 3.00 to meet the increased expenses of publishing. As a result of wartime activities and allocated budgets, the supply of scientific papers and size of JAS was limited in the early publications.
In 1959, the policy of publishing abstracts and papers of the national and sectional meetings was first introduced. Biographical sketches of the recipients of the first Extension and Distinguished Teacher Awards were published in JAS in 1960.
In 1962, The Metric Committee was appointed to look into the desirability of using the metric system exclusively in papers reported to the Journal. At the annual meeting in 1963, the committee recommended the adoption of the Metric System and the expression of temperatures in the Celsius (Centigrade) scale. Full conversion was achieved with Vol. 24, 1965.
Some members were concerned the change to the Metric System would have adverse effects on the number of papers submitted for publication. However, during the first year after the change there was no reduction in the number of manuscripts submitted. The Editorial Board did encounter an unforeseen issue with how to report data when cited by authors from literature who had used the customary manner. The board recommended that, where conversion could be made without access to original data, authors should use metric units when citing data.
As submissions increased, the Editorial Board was increased to 24 members for Vol. 23 to process manuscripts through the review system more efficiently and shorten the interval to publication. A full-time editorial assistant was also employed to handle the increasing number of manuscripts submitted. There was an increase in print run of JAS from 4,800 copies in 1964 to 5,500 copies in 1966. Due to increased content, JAS increased publication to 6 issues per year from 1968-1969, beginning with Vol. 26.
A year later, in 1969, JAS continued to grow in size, and a sharp increase in pages resulted in the decision to publish monthly as two volumes per year.
“The most characteristic feature of the Journal was its rapid growth and maintenance of scientific excellence,” reflected Editor-in-Chief from 1970-1972, Verle R. Bohman.
As the field of animal science diversified, special interests of participating scientists indicated sections be introduced in each issue. In 1967, section editors were appointed. Initially, there were 7 sections and papers were grouped into subject matter in the table of contents. Applied Animal Science was later added in 1971. The editorial board was again increased to 38 members in 1972.
In 1973, the job placement section first appeared in the January issue. The board also suggested that authors be allowed to release experimental results to the popular press before submitting their results to the Journal.
In addition to the existing subject matter, the rapidly expanding research areas of growth and development, animal behavior, pharmacology and toxicology, and environment were eventually identified as separate subject areas in JAS. From 1976 to 1978, the number of editorial board members increased from 56 to 64.
In 1988, the Board of Directors voted to publish an index of abstracts and to combine all issues published in a calendar year into a single volume. From 1986 to 1990, the number of manuscripts published in JAS remained fairly constant but the submission rate did decline in the early 1990s.
The searchable, electronic database was made available in 1990, thanks to D.M. Hallford. The computerized index for JAS was available for purchase through the ASAS business office. All volumes and supplements of JAS and ASAS proceedings have since been accessible online. Electronic manuscript submission and review began in 1999.
In 2002, the ASAS Board of Directors tasked the Editor-in-Chief with changing the JAS editorial structure in a manner that would decrease the burden on the Editor-in-Chief to handle every paper. The result was a change in structure to the currently designated topic areas of Animal Genetics, Animal Physiology, Animal Nutrition, Animal Products, and Special Topics/Symposia. Each topic area was led by one or more Division Editors, with Associate Editors working under them. In 2005, the ASAS Board of Directors also approved the recommendation of the Editor-in-Chief to begin solicitation of Board-Invited Reviews and to start the process of scanning all “back content” of JAS that was not already in digital format, thereby allowing JAS to be fully available online. Initial efforts to achieve a “publication ahead of print” option also began in 2005, with full implementation over the course of the next 2 years.
With a large influx of international authors and the 2008 ASAS strategic plan to include all managed animals in the Journal, JAS went through a rapid expansion of submissions and accepted publications which increased the number of pages published between 2005 and 2012 by 43%, while maintaining the excellent quality of the science.
In January of 2012, the time from manuscript submission to publication was approximately 1 year, frustrating authors and overwhelming reviewers. The JAS review system was altered to reduce this length of time. In November 2015, the median time from submission to acceptance was 81 days and the mean time to appearance in the Journal in final format was 6 months.
To continue to decrease time to publication, on January 1, 2015, the JAS Editorial Board made changes to the editorial and review structure. The changes were targeted at reducing the time for review, time for revision, and time for final decision. The most visible change was the conversion from the Editor-in-Chief – Division Editor – Associate Editor – Reviewer structure to the current Editor-in-Chief – Section Editor – Reviewer structure. The new structure intends to streamline the review process by increasing the number of people with final decision authority on a manuscript, without increasing the number of people serving in these positions. There were additional changes that target the times permitted for revisions, as described in the 2015 Instructions for Authors, JAS.
Past Editors-in-Chief Dr. Steven Zinn and Dr. Micheal Galyean contributed to this article.