Now in its third year of production, APA's first solely electronic journal, Prevention & Treatment, is flourishing. Its articles are widely read and the journal is gaining acceptance among academics, says the journal's editor, University of Pennsylvania's Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD.
Articles in Prevention & Treatment get anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 hits each. And those who click to open an article tend to stick around long enough to read it, says Gary VandenBos, PhD, APA's executive director of publications and communications and managing editor of Prevention & Treatment.
"Next to the American Psychologist, it's the most widely looked-at APA journal," Seligman observes.
Prevention & Treatment was initially planned in partnership with the American Psychiatric Association, as the online journal, Treatment. That journal had scarcely seen the light of day when the American Psychiatric Association withdrew its support in late 1997, citing a conflict of interest with APA's efforts to secure prescription privileges for psychologists.
"The two had nothing to do with each other," says Seligman. "But it was a rupture between the two associations."
Following the psychiatrists' pullout, Treatment was reborn in 1998 as the APA journal, Prevention & Treatment.
In its first year, the online publication put forth a single article, accompanied by several peer commentaries. In the second year, 1999, there were two packages of articles and commentaries. This year, the journal has already published three issues and has received about 40 submissions--about the number typical for a small division journal, says VandenBos. By the end of 2000, he estimates, the journal will publish about 10 articles with accompanying commentaries.
Electronic publication carries several advantages over traditional, print publication, Seligman argues. First, he says, electronic publication eliminates many of the delays endemic to print publishing, cutting the submission-to-publication lag nearly in half. The medium also facilitates quick communication among readers and authors and allows readers to link to cited articles and details of statistical analysis.
In addition, APA members can obtain continuing-education credits by reading Prevention & Treatment, says VandenBos.
Despite those incentives and Prevention & Treatment's encouraging readership, Seligman says, the journal has not yet reached its submissions goals. He attributes part of researchers' reluctance to rely on electronic publication to longstanding habit.
"Right now, people are still doing what they're used to doing, taking their best data, putting it in an envelope and sending it to the paper journals," says Seligman. "I'd like to see our members give up the carriage and move to the automobile."
The journal's editors suggest that some researchers are especially hesitant to make the leap to electronic publication when tenure decisions may be affected.
"People wonder, 'How is the tenure committee going to look at this, and will they take it as a real publication?'" VandenBos says.
But unlike print journals, Seligman and VandenBos argue, Prevention & Treatment can tell tenure committees how often a given article has been read and even the details of what pages were read and for how long. That information enables them, in principle, to evaluate the impact of an article.
"For serious tenure committees, I think this is the wave of the future," Seligman says. "It's better than the science citation index," which only indicates how often an article has been cited. Prevention & Treatment's success has encouraged APA to push forward with plans for more online journals. The association recently launched a second, albeit smaller, electronic journal, PsycScan: Psychopharmacology. And APA's Publications and Communications Board is considering a proposal for a third electronic journal this fall.
Members may view Prevention & Treatment online.