The journal features research from such fields as criminal justice, sociology, psychiatry, political science, education and communication as well as law and psychology.
"What we really look for is the best research in psychology and law on any topic," says Margaret Bull Kovera, PhD, a past president of Div. 41 and psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. "We're less concerned about which disciplines are contributing."
As editor in chief, Kovera—who has served as associate editor for the last six years—plans to continue the journal's tradition of commissioning special scientific review papers with the aim of influencing public policy.
Unlike the regular articles the journal publishes, these papers originate with the editor and Div. 41's executive board, who identify both topics and authors. The manuscripts are posted for public comment, presented at psychology meetings, revised and posted for another round of public comment before they even begin the regular peer review process. The journal has published two such papers in the past, one on best practices in eyewitness identification situations and another that offered recommendations for interrogating suspects in ways that help prevent false confessions.
"Those two articles have been very influential, both research-wise and in practice," says Kovera, adding that they also helped raise the journal's profile. "There are other areas ripe for that." Possible topics include gay parenting, the effects of pre-trial publicity on jurors and the best way to deal with juvenile offenders.
Of course, adds Kovera, the commissioning of these papers is to augment—not to replace—the articles the journal receives through the normal submission process.
Kovera also plans to revive an old tradition at the journal: a student editorial board. The mentorship program would allow editorial board members to appoint students to serve as reviewers alongside them. "Schools don't teach reviewing," says Kovera. "If we want to ensure future generations of reviewers write well-balanced, insightful reviews, then we need to spend some time training them." Kovera is also committed to continuing her predecessor's goal of reducing the time it takes to review manuscripts.
Kovera, whose own research focuses on eyewitness identification, jury decision-making, jury selection and legal decision-makers' evaluation of scientific evidence, is the first woman to edit the journal.
"At times, people have expressed concerns about women's ability to rise in the divisions, especially in Div. 41," she says. "This is one of the last great barriers."
In her free time, Kovera sings with her choir at such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Vatican's music festival. And she's trying to like running. "The jury's still out on that—every pun intended," she says.