Editorial Policies and Practices
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research (PRST-PER) is published by the American Physical Society (APS), the Council of which has the final responsibility for the journal. The Publications Oversight Committee of the APS and the Editor in Chief possess delegated responsibility for overall policy matters concerning all APS journals. The Editor of PRST-PER is responsible for the scientific content and editorial matters relating to the journal.
Editorial policy is guided by the following statement adopted in April 1995 by the Council of the APS:
"It is the policy of the American Physical Society that the Physical Review accept for publication those manuscripts that significantly advance physics and have been found to be scientifically sound, important to the field, and in satisfactory form. The Society will implement this policy as fairly and efficiently as possible and without regard to national boundaries."
The American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Physical Society Forum on Education, by sponsoring the journal, share the responsibility for the health and vitality of Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research by providing financial support, advice, and encouraging original research in physics education. PRST-PER has an Editorial Board whose members are appointed for three-year terms by the Editor in Chief upon recommendation of the Editor after consultation with the sponsoring groups. Board members play an important role in the editorial management of the journal. They lend advice on editorial policy and on specific papers for which special assistance is needed, participate in the formal appeals process (see section on Author Appeals), and provide input to help maintain the high standards of the Physical Review.
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research is completely electronic with all steps including submission, refereeing, and publication being done electronically. While this places some restrictions on the acceptable forms of submission, it brings substantial advantages including free unrestricted distribution, easy use of enhancements such as color figures, movies, etc., and hypertext links to references.
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research will cover the full range of experimental and theoretical research on the teaching and/or learning of physics. Review articles, replication studies, descriptions of the development and use of new assessment tools, presentation of research techniques, and methodology comparisons/critiques are welcomed.
CONTENT OF ARTICLES
Excluding review articles, the Physical Review and Physical Review Letters publish new results. Thus, prior publication of the same results generally will preclude consideration of a later paper.
Readers benefit from complete referencing, which is necessary to place any work in the context of the current state of research. Authors should therefore make every effort to ensure that their citations of previously published work are comprehensive at the time of submission. This includes references to books and to published conference proceedings that contain more than abstracts. Authors should also add to the references any works published during the course of the review process.
It may also be necessary for authors to cite unpublished work, such as e-prints, preprints, internal reports, or results which have been reported only orally at meetings (even though an abstract may have been published). Unpublished work that appears during the review process may require citation as well. unpublished work has not been fully vetted by the community, and considerable judgment on the part of the editors will be employed in determining the need to cite such work.
Material previously published in an abbreviated form (in a Letters journal or in a conference proceedings) may provide a useful basis for a more detailed article in the Physical Review. Such an article should present considerably more information and lead to a substantially improved understanding of the subject. Reproduction of figures, tables, and text material that have been published previously should be kept to a minimum and must be properly referenced. In order to reproduce figures, tables, etc., from another journal, authors must show that they have complied with the copyright/licensing requirements of the publisher of the other journal. Publication of material in a thesis does not preclude publication of appropriate parts of that material in the Physical Review.
Review articles should review active areas of research in a form that is useful to both practitioners and people entering the field. Authors are asked to give considerable attention to the presentation of their material, making introductions accessible to intermediate graduate students and readers from other fields. The body of each paper should be economically and thoughtfully organized.
For the practitioner, a review should present the current status of a given topic. In addition to providing a historical background and a literature survey, an ideal review should transcend a mere compilation of previous work. It should examine critically the progress on the topic, identifying the most successful methods and pointing out areas for future development.
In all cases, papers should be clearly written in good scientific English, in a style consistent with that of the journal (see Information for Contributors). New terminology should be introduced only when clearly needed and appropriate, and it should not be introduced in titles. Excessive use of acronyms is discouraged.
The appropriate length of an article depends on the information presented, and there is no length limit. To enhance conciseness, authors may refer to their own internal reports or theses that contain more detail than the article, and to enhance readability some material, especially long tables, may best be placed in a supplemental appendix (see http://prst-per.aps.org/info/supp_append.html). Files submitted as supplemental appendices are made freely available to readers via the journal web pages in the format supplied by the author. These files are not processed by our composition vendor and can accommodate color figures, multimedia, and program files.
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research publishes Short Papers, Comments, and Errata in addition to regular articles.
Short Papers are intended for articles that either extend a previous work (by the authors or someone else) or are initial results from a larger effort that are interesting enough to merit this type of publication. They definitely are NOT studies done on a few students that will not be expanded upon soon. Short Papers should not exceed 3500 words (see Guidelines for Calculating Length).
Comments are publications that criticize or correct papers of other authors previously published in PRST-PER. Each Comment should contain an abstract and should state clearly the paper to which it refers. To be considered for publication, a Comment must be written in a collegial tone and must be pertinent and without egregious errors. A Reply to a Comment must also conform to these requirements. Editorial procedures for processing Comments are described in the following section. When a Comment is published, bidirectional links are created connecting the Comment, the article it comments on, and the Reply if any, so that users accessing any of these documents can easily access the others.
The Errata section contains notices regarding errors or omissions in papers previously published. Besides the standard Erratum, several special categories of documents may appear in this section. In the online journal, each of these documents involve bidirectional links between the original article and the document in the Errata section. The category of the corrective document is indicated in its title and in the link from the original article.
The standard Erratum is a statement by the authors of the original paper that briefly describes the correction(s) and, where appropriate, any effects on the conclusions of the paper.
An Editorial Note is a statement by the journal about the paper that the editors feel should be brought to the attention of readers of the article.
A Publisher's Note is a notice that the article has been corrected subsequent to publication. Such corrections are made to correct typographical or production errors that involve significant metadata (such as title or byline) or have a significant impact on the reader's ability to understand the article. Such corrections are normally made only shortly after publication, with approval of APS management, and are not made for scientific errors or omissions. The Publisher's Note indicates the correction and when it was made.
A Retraction is a notice that the paper should not be regarded as part of the scientific literature. Possible reasons for this include, among others, presentation of invalid results and inclusion of results that were published previously in substantially similar form. (In the latter case, the prior publication, not the Retracted article, should be regarded as the source of the information.) To protect the integrity of the record, the retracted article is not removed from the online journal, but notice of Retraction is given. Retractions are sometimes published by the authors when they have discovered substantial scientific errors; in other cases, the editors conclude that Retraction is appropriate. In all cases, the Retraction inicates the reason for the action and who is responsible for the decision. If a Retraction is made without the unanimous agreement of the authors, the approval of the Editor in Chief of APS is required.
The following is a description of the usual procedure, but there can be exceptions to almost all the matters discussed below.
Usually, two referees are selected by the Editor for each manuscript, and papers are accepted for publication based on favorable recommendations by the referee(s). Referee reports are advisory to the Editor, but are generally transmitted by the Editor to the authors, and so should be written in a collegial manner. The Editor may withhold or edit these reports for cause.
Any resubmittal should be accompanied by a summary of changes made, and a brief response to all recommendations and criticisms. This material will normally be forwarded to reviewers, and so should be written in a collegial manner. Remarks that authors wish to address solely to the Editors should be clearly identified and separated from the summary and response.
A manuscript may be sent to additional referees if warranted, either by request of the authors or by editorial decision. In most cases the new referee will be provided with previous correspondence on the manuscript, but not with the identity of the previous referee(s). Editorial Board members, however, may receive this information.
There are some exceptions to the stated acceptance criterion above:
Authors should state whether the paper they submit has been previously considered for publication in any of the APS journals (Physical Review Letters, or other Physical Review journals, or Reviews of Modern Physics) and supply the code number assigned by that journal. They should also provide information about other recent relevant unpublished work of theirs (e.g., for a paper under consideration by an APS journal, supply the code number; for one submitted to another journal, provide the title; for a paper deposited on an e-print server, supply the e-print number).
When a manuscript has several authors, one of them, the corresponding author, should be designated to receive and respond to correspondence from the Editor. This designation can be changed upon notification of the Editor. It is the responsibility of the corresponding author to represent all those involved with the work reported.
By submitting the manuscript, the corresponding author certifies:
Authors may not present data and other results obtained by others as if they were their own. Nor may authors incorporate without attribution text from another work (by themselves or others), even when summarizing past results or background material. If a direct quotation is appropriate, the quotation should be clearly indicated as such and the original source should be properly cited. Papers that have been found to be in violation of this rule will be rejected. In such cases, resubmission of the manuscript, even with the plagiarized text removed, is not ordinarily allowed. However, the Editor may allow exceptions to this policy if warranted by special circumstances.
Authors may request that particular individuals not be chosen as referees. Such requests are usually honored, although it is customary to give authors whose work is criticized in a manuscript an opportunity to respond to the criticism. Authors are welcome to submit a list of experts whom they consider especially suited to referee their paper. Such a list is particularly useful when a manuscript treats a highly specialized subject on which papers are infrequently published. The Editors, however, are not constrained to select a referee from that list.
In some circumstances information about a manuscript considered by Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research and subsequently submitted to another journal may be provided to the editor of that journal. Such information might include the comments and identities of referees.
The reviewing procedure for Comments, papers that criticize others' work, is usually as follows:
Authors may appeal a rejection of their paper by the Editor. In the case of a formal appeal, the paper and all relevant information, including the identities of the referees, will be sent to a member of the Editorial Board. The Board member may review the case on the existing record or may seek additional expert opinion. The Board member will present an advisory opinion to the Editor, which will be sent to the authors and/or referees with the Board member's name.
If a Board member has provided a referee report on a paper prior to appeal, another Board member must review the paper on appeal. Authors may suggest those Board members they feel are appropriate (or not appropriate) to conduct the review, but the Editor is not bound by such suggestions. If there is no suitable Board member available, the Editor may appoint an appropriate scientist to consider a paper under appeal as an ad hoc Board member.
The author of a paper that has been rejected subsequent to an Editorial Board review may request that the case be reviewed by the Editor in Chief of the APS. This request should be addressed to the Editor, who will forward the entire file to the Editor in Chief. Such an appeal must be based on the fairness of the procedures followed, and must not be a request for another scientific review. The questions to be answered in this review are: Were our procedures followed appropriately and did the paper receive a fair hearing? A decision by the Editor in Chief is the final level of review.
Each paper, when published, carries a receipt date indicating when the manuscript was first received by the Editor of Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research. If authors make substantive changes in a manuscript or if they hold it for an unusually long time after it has been returned to them with a referee's report, the paper will be given a "revised manuscript receipt date." In such cases, the authors may be required to revise references to include material published since the original submission of the manuscript. In cases of especially lengthy delays the original paper is considered withdrawn, and the resubmitted version is considered to be a new paper and is given a new receipt date.
The Author Status Inquiry System (ASIS) provides information to authors regarding the status of their manuscripts automatically via the World Wide Web at the URL http://publish.aps.org/STATUS/. Telephone inquiries regarding status are discouraged, since the interruption of normal office procedures can cause delays. In those cases when clarification of the information from the ASIS is needed, send an electronic mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org (with subject line, for example, Status YE12345 Jones).
For papers that have been accepted for publication and sent to production, information about their status in the production process is available via a similar service maintained by the production vendor. A link to this service is provided by ASIS for such papers.
The Editor welcomes suggestions from authors and referees regarding improvements in editorial and refereeing procedures.