Written by Anne-Kristin Løes, Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture

27 participants from different countries attended the workshop, which was arranged at the National Centre for Organic Farming in Ghaziabad on November 8, 2017 as a pre-conference for the 19th OWC.

The Springer journal “Organic Agriculture” is the official journal of the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR). It is based on the definition of organic agriculture given by IFOAM. The journalprovides a platform for sharing of knowledge on all aspects of organic agriculture and food systems. The journal was launched in 2011, and publishes four issues per year, each with 7-8 papers and 70-80 pages per issue. According to the statistics:

  • 25 issues published until now
  • 638 papers received and reviewed
  • 199 papers accepted (published)

The acceptance rate has decreased from about 50 to 35%, which is a sign of increasing quality. The journal published 19 papers in 2011 and 29 in 2016. Minimum 25 papers per year must be published to be eligible for a Thompson-Reuters index. Authors and downloads are until now mostly coming from Europe and Asia.

To promote the successful progress the journal has had since 2011, the Editor-in-Chief (Gerold Rahmann) and Advisory Board of the journal decided to organize a workshop on November 8th, 2017, one day before the 19th Organic World Congress in Delhi, India. Many editors, some active reviewers and other supporters of the journal were present, in order to discuss the future strategy. We need to further improve the quality of the journal, and to encourage more scientists to consider to submit their papers to Organic Agriculture.

 

Introductions were given by Professor Gerold Rahmann (Editor-in-Chief), Professor Raffaele Zanoli (Member of the Advisory Board) and Ilse A. Rasmussen (Chair of the Advisory Board). Their presentations are available upon request. They focused on the most important points to improve the aims of the journal, as well as the volume of citations, which is an important measure of a journal’s impact.

 

  •           How to increase the quality of submissions, and increase recognition and citations?
  •           How to find more skilled reviewers? What to offer them?
  •           How to restructure the Editorial Board to improve balances with respect to gender, regional location, and to cover relevant disciplines?We need at least 15 members with a broad geographical distribution, and with good records of publications, to apply for a Thompson-Reuters index.

The impact factor of a journal is the average number of times per year articles from this journal published in the past two (or five) years have been cited in the Journal Citation report. All journals count equal, but only journals ranked by Thompson-Reuters are included in the report.

People were active in discussions about aim and scope of the journal. A common understanding was that the term “sustainability” could be considered removed from the scope.

In a process where each participants delivered one keyword, proposed aims were grouped into following terms:

  • Systems approach, participatory research, multidisciplinarity, co-innovation
  • Above certification, tailored versus regulated agroecosystems, good for farming,
  • High impact, scientific quality, good organic research, attract authors, share new results and ideas, encourage young scientists

The journal does not categorize papers. However, it was discussed that more review papers would be nice, as well as regional scale studies. Possibly, we could publish popularized key messages e.g. five power point slides per paper to be available as supplementary material.

The current scope covers arable crop production, vegetable production, soil fertility etc. The journal should have a global focus on organic agriculture and food systems. In a discussion of the need to amend this, new topics were proposed:

  • Agrozooforestry, aquaculture, vermiculture
  • Public health; consumer studies, food services, alternative marketing channels
  • Environment, system resilience, functional biodiversity, regenerative agriculture

The participants were then divided into three groups, to discuss the journal from the perspective of an author, a reviewer or an editor.

To attract more authors, we may motivate young researchers who may have unpublished data and innovative results, but we need an impact factor first. Guidelines for authors should be improved. Authors should be informed about ISOFAR, and ISOFAR members about the importance of citing OA papers in their publications.

To attract more reviewers, we may reflect on possible reasons why people may decline to be a reviewer. In addition to revision being time consuming, it usually has no impact on the CV of the researcher. Another reason may be that the reviewer is not enough familiar with the topic, and that 2 weeks is a short time to decide. On the other hand, good reasons to accept being a reviewer could be that the reviewer gets to read the newest papers on their topic and get to know names of other researchers within their topic. It also helps them to become better authors. To attract more people’s interest for reviews, we may launch a guide form for the reviewer to fill in, preferably accompanied by a “how to review”-guide. It is also important that the editor does not send really poor papers for review, and finds the most suitable reviewers. Some kind of feedback from the editor to the reviewer is also appropriate. “Monetary” incentives such as free membership of ISOFAR (includes free access to Organic Agriculture!) for a year after a certain number for reviews is another option, but easier to administrate may be to put up a prize to be given to one lucky out of all reviewers per year.

For editors, their first rule should be to never send a bad paper to a reviewer. If editors want to be informed about when a review is completed, to be able to check the review, they should tick for this option in the web-based editor menu. They are welcome to send an acknowledgement when a (good) review is completed. Former reviewers should be allowed to conduct a second review, when interested and required. To reduce the time needed for revision of each paper, the paper may be sent to more than two persons for review. Then, not-yet-responding candidates may be un-invited as soon as two have accepted. The journal realty demands new editors. We need minimum five plant scientists; fruit and vegetables are currently not covered and we need more editors on arable and grassland cropping. For livestock, we need an editor for monogastrics, for ruminants and for aquaculture. Within socieconomics, we miss an editor for farm management and food systems. Further, for food science, supply chain, processing methods, agroecology biodiversity and systems research. We could consider more than one Editor-in-chief. Most journals have three.

The advisory board, filled by the Editor-in-chief and two members of the ISOFAR board, has done a good job, communicating with Springer and following the development of the journal closely. Only the editorial board should be presented on the Springer website. The advisory board is related to the ISOFAR board, and may be presented on the ISOFAR website. Springer wants to host web conferences for the Editorial board. This is a nice offer that should be utilized.

OWX AK Reza Ilse