Issue No. 06 - November/December (2006 vol. 21)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MIS.2006.122
James Hendler , University of Maryland
This issue marks the end of my second year as editor in chief and thus the end of my first term. However, the IEEE Computer Society has chosen not to toss me out on my rear but rather, in a move of dubious sanity, to keep me on for another two years. So I guess I have to keep writing these columns for a while more.
Back in the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue, I included my first letter, "Impact and Action," which outlined my goals for the magazine. So, two years into what now looks to be a four-year stint, I thought it would be a good time to give myself a midterm report card. Here's my attempt to access how we're doing; if you disagree with the grades, please let me know.
I proposed that one of the things that made this a high-impact publication was that we had been aggressive about looking for new hot areas and publishing early special issues on them. I used the Semantic Web as an example—there are now several journals in that area, but we still have some of the most highly cited early papers by having gotten there first.
I don't think I get an A in this area because despite our best efforts, we just don't seem to be seeing anything this exciting on our radar screen at this point. But we're still looking, and we're keeping some flexibility in our schedule to allow good things to happen. Meanwhile, I do think we've had some very successful special issues (judging by your comments and by download rates), and we've expanded our coverage to include topics such as machine ethics and bioinformatics. I'm also very pleased with the previous "Interactive Entertainment" issue. Not only did it have high-quality articles in an emerging area, but it also showed off the "magazine" nature of our publication—it was a visually compelling issue, and I hope to have more of those.
One of my goals for the magazine was, and continues to be, breaking down the walls between AI subareas. I've addressed this in my editorials and have tried to address this in the content, as I said I would, by trying to organize the special issues around cross-cutting themes rather than around methodologies. I think this has helped, but we still need to improve our coverage beyond traditional symbolic AI, but in a way that's commensurate with the magazine's goals. In particular, a key differentiator between us and other AI magazines is our focus on implemented or deployed systems, and that should remain our concentration. I've brought in a couple of new editorial board members to help make this happen, and I hope to do more in the next two years.
Fast reaction: B-
The only way to really maintain our publication's high impact is to get the best articles into press as soon as possible. While we've had some success in cutting our time to a decision (with many more fast rejections, as befits the quality of our magazine), the time to publication for non-special-issue articles (or nontheme articles, as we call them) still isn't good. Some of our unpublished nontheme articles are more than a year old, which is unacceptable. We plan to publish a couple of nontheme issues in the coming year to reduce our backlog, but we still need a way to get these articles in front of our readers sooner. So, we're exploring methods for making preprints available sooner, or at least bringing electronic versions out sooner. We hope to find a model that works in the coming years.
A bit of distraction: C+
Another one of my goals was to find a mechanism by which we could occasionally have special issues that were different from the norm. I wanted some "edgier" issues where we might have many short pieces, or some sort of review of top new AI ideas, and so on. One problem is that we're constrained by the fact that we're a "scholarly," peer-reviewed magazine. But the biggest impediment is that it's difficult to find the right people and topics to make things like this happen, especially because we don't have the budget for writers and reporters that a commercial magazine has. Still, I think we can do better here, and I'm trying to figure out how. I welcome suggestions.
Star attraction: A
I also wanted to bring some bigger names to the magazine, in both the main articles and department articles. I focused particularly on the Dartmouth conference's 50th anniversary as an opportunity to do this, and I'm pleased to have delivered on this one. I think our May/June 2006 "Future of AI" issue was a great mix of the traditional, the nouveau, and some cutting edge. We had both big names reflecting on years of experience and our "AI's 10 to Watch," which featured promising young members of our community. We distributed this extra-long issue to all AAAI 2006 attendees, and we've continued the thread of "the future of AI" in the following issues (with more to come). This one goes in the Success column.
Editorial board compaction: A-
Another goal was to bring in a number of new editorial board members, which was a problem because our ed board was already pretty full. We solved this by asking some of the people who'd been on the board for a while to move up to an advisory board, thus maintaining continuity without sacrificing our ability to introduce some new blood. I outlined several areas where I hoped to recruit people, and I've been able to attract many of the people I wanted. However, there's still more to do in that space, so I'll continue to work to bring in some of the best people to help keep our quality high.
OK, a B average isn't terrible, but it allows plenty of room for improvement (and I always was an easy grader). I'll work hard in the next two years to raise my grades and to continue to bring you a high-quality, high-impact magazine.