Feature

Phillip Ackerman, PhD, may be the proudest new journal editor on the block. That's because Ackerman is taking over as editor of a publication he brought to life in 1991 when he urged APA to launch a journal that would function as "a bridge to applied-oriented experimental psychologists and experimentally oriented applied psychologists" and "devoted to giving away experimental psychology."

As founder of the Journal of Experimental Psychology (JEP): Applied, Ackerman declined to be considered as the journal's first editor to remove any apparent conflict of interest. Instead, he watched with pride as the journal flourished under the direction of Raymond Nickerson, PhD. Moreover, he had the chance to experience the journal as an author and reviewer and fine-tune his ideas on improving the publication, which include launching a system to help graduate students learn about peer review, developing a process to eliminate long delays in manuscript turnaround and targeting an international audience.

"The journal has really taken off," says Ackerman, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It's still a small journal, in part because quality is emphasized more than quantity, but it will continue to grow."

Maintaining the journal's "eclectic" style is the key to that growth, he says.

"So far, it has included everything from perception and sensation to eyewitness testimony to learning and training."

That diversity is important, Ackerman says, because the journal's mission is to provide a home for all applied-oriented theory and research--not to become the exclusive domain of one area.

Ackerman's own eclectic research portfolio makes him an apt editor for JEP: Applied. While his area of expertise is individual differences, he wears hats in experimental psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, engineering psychology and personality psychology. His most recent research has looked at ability, personality, interest and gender determinants of individual differences in knowledge and adult intellectual development. In another stream of research, Ackerman has worked to develop an integrated approach to predicting performance during skill acquisition, based on measures of general ability, perceptual speed and psychomotor abilities.

Working closely with graduate students on many of his research projects gave Ackerman the idea to introduce a program within JEP: Applied where graduate students can learn how to write scientific reviews and see first-hand how journal editing works. Under Ackerman's new system, peer reviewers who are faculty members will identify a senior graduate student or postdoc who will write an independent review. The faculty member and the student will be able to compare notes after the reviews are completed, and both reviews will become part of the journal's peer-review process.

"Often graduate students have a difficult time learning how to write for a scientific audience," Ackerman says. "This will be an excellent educational opportunity for them--and in some cases, students will be more current on the literature than faculty."

Another initiative Ackerman will implement immediately is a system to prevent slow manuscript turnaround. Instead of initially shipping whole manuscripts to prospective reviewers, Ackerman will first e-mail abstracts to them and inquire whether they can complete the review without delay. That way, Ackerman says, authors will receive feedback more quickly and unsuspecting reviewers won't have a mailbox full of dusty manuscripts when they return from a long vacation or conference.

His broader goals for JEP: Applied include expanding the journal's scope and reaching out to an international audience.

"I would like to see more field experiments and more involvement from the international authors and reviewers because there is great work being done all around the world," says Ackerman. "A lot of good research done in the field ends up in technical reports and people don't go through the effort of submitting it for publication, and that is bad for the science. This is the place for it."

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Manuscripts should be sent to Phillip Ackerman, PhD, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170.