Feature

The journal Psychology and Aging already publishes papers drawn from just about every area of psychology, and new editor Fredda Blanchard-Fields, PhD, will expand that reach. In particular, she will encourage submissions from the field of cognitive neuroscience, which can help researchers who study aging better understand the brain/behavior link.

To do that, Blanchard-Fields hopes to bring on a third associate editor, with the new editorial position dedicated to cultivating submissions by cognitive neuroscientists.

"I want to go with where the field is going," says Blanchard-Fields, noting that cognitive neuroscience can link changes in the aging brain to changes in behavior. Such research is important to the field of aging research because scientists need to better understand how physiological changes in the structure of an aging brain result in changes to an older person's cognitive abilities.

Cognitive neuroscientists can also help researchers understand how older adults compensate for changes in the brain to maintain cognitive functioning, she says.

In addition to soliciting more cognitive neuroscience papers, Blanchard-Fields says retaining the topical breadth that has characterized the journal since it was established 20 years ago--and the quality of the manuscripts published--will be her top priorities.

Some of those areas, which she emphasizes she will continue to promote to the same degree as editor, include cognition, social psychology, personality, emotion, perception, biopsychology, and clinical and applied issues related to the aging process, such as caregiving and intervention issues.

"The range is huge, all of the fields of psychology from an adult development perspective, and that's made it quite unique," says Blanchard-Fields, whose six-year term as editor begins Jan. 1.

A psychology professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Psychology, Blanchard-Fields served as an associate editor at Psychology and Aging since 2003, with previous experience as an action editor and an editorial board member since 1999. In these capacities, she shepherded manuscripts all the way through the submission, review and publication process, specializing in social cognition, emotion and personality papers. A particular strength of the journal is the team approach instituted by current editor Rose Zacks, PhD, and associate editor William Haley, PhD, in which the different editors handled papers in particular topic areas, says Blanchard-Fields, who will continue that tradition. Having specific editors with expertise across several general areas of psychology helps diversify the subject areas of the submissions and increase the number of papers submitted, she says.

So far, Ulrich Mayr, PhD, of the University of Oregon has agreed to serve as an associate editor, she says.

As a researcher, Blanchard-Fields studies the role of social cognition and emotion in older adults' decision-making. Specifically, she explores what kinds of strategies they use to deal with real-life problems, often involving interpersonal relationships.

Overall, her work has shown that while older adults experience declines in such areas as working memory, attention and executive control, they maintain or even improve functioning in such areas as emotional processing, social behavior and emotion regulation.

"Older adults seem to have a larger repertoire of strategies to draw upon, and they draw upon them effectively from accumulated years of experience," she says.

As editor, her other priorities include:

  • Expanding the number of reviewers. Working with colleagues, Blanchard-Fields wants to increase the number of reviewers available, as well as develop a database on reviewers who can tackle a specific topic within a manuscript. By working with a reviewer strong in a particular area, the goal is to move the review process along when it gets stuck on a particular aspect, such as a paper's use of statistics.

  • Improving turnaround time and review quality. The review process is a balancing act between speediness and quality, Blanchard-Fields says. To make the processes more efficient without decreasing the quality of reviews, she will develop new ways to keep track of where a paper stands in the review process. The goal is to have a six-to eight-week time frame from when a paper is sent out to review to the date an author gets an "action letter," detailing whether a paper is rejected or a request for revision is made.

  • Publishing special sections. Blanchard-Fields will to continue the practice of focusing on hot topics in psychology and aging, as a way to stimulate further research. To this end, she will be working with the editorial board and the associate editors to pick topics for special sections.

Further Reading

Blanchard-Fields begins accepting manuscripts Jan. 1. Submit manuscripts electronically at APA Journals.