09-24 Breaking news

Credit: Jernej Furman, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Breaking news alert

Those words coming across your screen tell you that something important is about to be shared. When it comes to research, we want to share important findings as fast as possible. But we also want to make sure the information is sound. Problems can arise when unvetted information is released, as exemplified by the “cold fusion in a jar” saga.

Peer review is the accepted mechanism for judging the soundness of scientific reports. But as all authors know, peer review can be a slow process. The ACerS journals have made substantial changes to improve efficiency, and these changes have shortened review times by up to two months.

Sometimes, however, researchers present discoveries so new and important that they merit even shorter review times. For these manuscripts, the ACerS journals offer the article type “Rapid Communication.” As the name suggests, these manuscripts are reviewed through a modified workflow that enables rapid decisions and priority of publication if the article is accepted while retaining the rigor for which ACerS journals are known.

The rules for acceptable Rapid Communication manuscripts include but go beyond those for standard submissions. First and foremost, the subject matter must fit the journal’s aims and scope.

For Journal of the American Ceramic Society (JACerS), the manuscript must describe fundamental science of ceramics and glasses and composites. International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology (ACT) and International Journal of Applied Glass Science (IJAGS) focus on applied science for advanced ceramics and glass, respectively. International Journal of Ceramic Engineering & Science (IJCES) accepts all sound scientific and engineering studies in ceramics, glass, and related materials.

Second, Rapid Communication articles are short and must focus on the specific discovery. How that focus is achieved for IJCES is different than it is for JACerS, ACT, and IJAGS. Given the broad publishing aims of IJCES, it accepts brief reports of any in-scope findings for Rapid Communications. This setup is not true of the other three journals, which have more stringent requirements.

For JACerS, ACT, and IJAGS, the aims and scopes of the journals require the finding to be highly novel. Examples include outstanding performance or structural characteristics, highly effective processing techniques, and novel compositions.

The brevity necessary for accelerated review demands that the Rapid Communication manuscripts be highly focused on the novel finding, with sufficient supporting background and evidence to substantiate the novelty. This brevity can be a challenge as it demands inclusion of only the most relevant information in the introduction, data, analysis, and conclusion.

Below are some examples of Rapid Communication articles from JACerS.

Effect of AlN addition on the electrical resistivity of pressureless sintered SiC ceramics with B4C and C

  • The authors found that 1% addition of aluminum nitride reduced electrical resistivity by four orders of magnitude and ascribed it to excess nitrogen charge carriers. Higher concentrations increased resistivity with aluminum trapping the nitrogen carriers. The latter results (increased resistivity) were comparable to prior work. The reduced resistivity is novel in that it differed from prior studies.

Formation of Si3N4 coating on SiC substrate by gas transporting self-propagating high-temperature synthesis with the addition of NH4Cl

  • Silicon nitride (Si3N4) is a promising substrate with high thermal conductivity. It is also expensive and hard to synthesize consistently. This article describes the first-time use of the unique synthesis method of the title and the reaction mechanism.

Fabrication of ZrO2/rGO nanocomposites by flash sintering under AC electric fields

  • Extremely rapid (5 second) and low temperature (<1,000°C) sintering of this composite with in-situ reduction of the graphene oxide (rGO). The resulting dense (up to 99%), small-grained (as low as 86 nm) composite exhibited harness up to 12.8 GPa under Vickers indentation with no cracking.

Reactive hot pressing of TiC0.5 ceramic at low applied pressure with 1 wt% Ni additive

  • Adding nickel to the reaction mixture of titanium and carbon powder allowed synthesis of a dense, nonstoichiometric titanium carbide using a 10-fold reduction in reaction/sintering pressure (from 40 to 4 MPa). The mechanical properties of the titanium carbide with and without nickel were comparable.

It is instructive to discuss the characteristics of Rapid Communication manuscripts that are likely to be rejected. In addition to subjects being out of scope or having low readability, other characteristics that lead to rejection of a submitted manuscript include

  • Highly novel papers that are longer than four printed pages. We have a limit of 4,000-word equivalents, which includes actual word counts and assigns each figure and table a word equivalent value.
  • Incremental or other minimally novel findings. One example is minor composition change and/or element substitution of an obvious nature (e.g., strontium for calcium), unless some substantially new property or structure emerges. Another example is minor changes to a processing technique with minimal corresponding improvement to either properties or processing characteristics.
  • Lack of focus. These manuscripts are sometimes referred to as “short papers.” For example, an author might provide good information, but they do not provide strong evidence or background for the novel discovery.

Authors have many routes to address rejected Rapid Communication manuscripts. If the editor refers your manuscript to another ACerS journal, the transfer is the fastest, easiest way toward getting published. A referral means the editor determined that your paper is worthy for consideration at that ACerS journal. All reviews transfer with the manuscript. The new journal’s editor can evaluate them and may make a decision without further review. This case is especially true for IJCES, which publishes good work without consideration of novelty.

Alternately, you can revise your manuscript with further experimentation/modeling as needed to address the concerns of the editorial team and then resubmit it as a standard research article. Editors can use the prior submission’s reviews for guidance on the resubmitted paper, which often result in shorter review times for the resubmitted paper.

The American Ceramic Society journal editorial teams are committed to publishing high level ceramic and glass research as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate to contact a journal editor for guidance on how to get your next manuscript published.