Publisher’s Note: Filtering for the Highest Quality

Information is easier to get but seemingly less reliable every day. That’s why quality filters like JBJS are so important. And why we spend so much time and effort deciding what not to publish.

This is one of the great hidden aspects of a strong journal – the material that is deemed unsuitable to publish. These decisions can occur for any number of reasons, but usually these boil down to quality, novelty, or interest.

Quality refers to the kind of study, its power, the strength of its hypothesis and analysis, and the care the authors take to draw conclusions from the data. An underpowered study, a muddy analysis, or extravagant conclusions can independently or in combination scuttle a paper’s chances.

A paper that has novelty breaks new ground. It can be a surprising hypothesis borne out by evidence, a new method for divining previously undetected perspectives on an old problem, or simply a new discovery.

Relevance is another word for interest, and making sure the papers we publish are relevant to the high-powered orthopaedic professionals we reach is a key function of our review process.

Together, filtering for these and other aspects of quality research, from IRB approval to author conflicts to plagiarism, all takes a good deal of expertise and effort. But it’s effort that most readers never see. It is what we publishers call “the cost of rejection,” and it can be a significant expense, especially for highly selective journals.

Last year, we implemented a submission fee to help defray some of the costs of rejection. Since then, we’ve seen our rate of submission decline to about the same level we had in 2010, while the level of evidence of the population of papers has increased. We are getting fewer, better papers. And we’re able to take more care with each one. Overall, while we know this was an unexpected fee for our authors, we feel the benefits have been mutual.

In an age of quantity – more information, more emails, more blog posts, more tweets, more statuses – we continue to believe that quality is a key differentiator. Our commitment is deep and lasting in this area. We hope our efforts are apparent in what we deliver.

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