Each year we share a commentary with our readers, reflecting on the previous year and sharing our plans to improve the journal for the coming year. We are writing this in the waning months of 2020, a year marked by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and greater awareness of the insidious impact of racism in the United States. We have all been affected professionally and personally by the events of this past year. However, we are both humbled and inspired by the work that was submitted to be considered for publication during this challenging time.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a doubling of the number of submissions monthly to Pediatrics. Pediatricians and others invested in improving child health outcomes have somehow been able to balance challenging work and personal demands to share with us their studies and insights about how to meet the needs of children and families across the many difficult issues that have confronted us in 2020. Our goal with Pediatrics is to keep the child and family at the center of all we do by disseminating high-quality peer-reviewed clinically and policy-relevant research studies, reviews, and commentaries to improve child health. Like everyone else, we have had to adapt our “usual approach to business,” and by doing so have developed improvements that will carry us forward into the new year and beyond.
One of the most visible changes is the reduction of our time to publication. Previously, we were able to release articles online from 4 to 6 weeks after acceptance, which was a source of pride because it had been much longer before we joined the editorial office of the journal. However, it is clear that our readers need information about COVID-19 even faster, including descriptions of epidemiology and clinical characteristics, treatment studies, assessment of secondary effects on children and their families related to the pandemic, and evaluation of practice change in response to the pandemic. We are grateful for our peer reviewers who have been so responsive to the importance of expediting this critical component of the review process to ensure the rigor of the science we publish. After peer review, all manuscripts are independently evaluated by the editor in chief, the deputy editor, and multiple other members of the editorial board before a final decision is made. Beginning in 2020, we have been able to publish online time-sensitive articles on topics ranging from COVID-19 to racism within 5 days of acceptance. These fast-tracked manuscripts, referred to as “prepublication releases,” are published before professional copyediting and formatting for rapid dissemination. The final publications follow about 1 month later with a subsequent online release. We will continue with prepublication on topics deemed important by the editor in chief and deputy editor. Readers should be reassured that rapid publication does not alter our ongoing dedication to ensuring a rigorous approach to evaluation of submitted manuscripts.
In 2020, we added a new manuscript type: Research Briefs. Research Briefs are a new venue to share important findings that contribute to the field but do not need the length necessary for a regular report. Please refer to our author guidelines for specific information on writing this type of article. Research Briefs have been an important strategy for sharing novel findings. Not surprisingly, many of the ones published so far have addressed issues related to COVID-19.
Pediatrics continues to also make changes to address racism and health equity. We are proud that we have published articles describing and addressing systemic racism and health disparities in all sections of the journal. This will not change. However, we recognize the need to create a dedicated space within Pediatrics to ensure ongoing dialogue on these issues. Starting in late 2020, we launched a new feature entitled “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” Please see our author guidelines for more information should you wish to contribute an article. In addition to these changes, we have also updated our author guidelines to be clear that the use of race in analyses should be justified and be treated as a social, not biological, construct, and findings related to race should be contextualized regarding the potential causes of any observed disparities.
In addition, we recognize the need to minimize bias in how articles are selected for publication in Pediatrics. One potential way to do this is to modify the peer-review process. Starting in 2020, we have given authors the option of deciding whether their article should undergo single-blind review, in which peer reviewers know the identity of authors but authors do not know the identity of the peer reviewers, or double-blind review, in which no identities are revealed. Our editorial board fellow is now evaluating what factors contribute to an author choosing to undergo single- or double-blind review and whether this is related to the decision on whether to publish the manuscript. This research will help guide whether we continue to offer authors the choice of review type or switch over to using only one approach.
We have also expanded our editorial board to include more nonphysician professionals and public members. We remain committed to having the editorial board reflect the demographics of our profession. We are proud that in 2020 we received hundreds of applications to join the editorial board, which we consider a marker of enthusiasm for the work that we are doing. This enables us to have an editorial board that reflects the diversity of our profession. Our next call for editorial board members will be in February 2021. We encourage you to consider applying, although please understand the challenge of selecting members for the limited number of positions that will be available. We will continue to select individuals who are able to help ensure that the journal continues to meet the needs of our readers and represents the full breadth of diverse experience and expertise in improving child health.
We recognize that simply publishing articles is not sufficient to guide improvements in children’s health. The articles must be easily available and accessible in a variety of ways. In 2020, we expanded the availability of video abstracts, which are 3- to 4-minute videos summarizing findings of selected published articles. We now have more than 300 of these, and the number grows with each published issue. In addition to posting the video abstract within the online article, we now have a video gallery organized by topic on our Web site that contains all of our video abstracts to allow easy browsing.
We are excited that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2020 started a new weekly podcast, Pediatrics On Call, and are even more excited that our journal is a part of it. Authors and members of our editorial board are included in segments on the podcast to highlight new and important findings that can influence how we practice. Of course, we continue with our journal blog and social media engagement with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to highlight important articles. Both the video gallery and the podcast complement the type of remote learning that is successful for trainees and busy clinicians.
Having all articles published in the journal related to COVID-19 and to racism easily accessible, including to the general public, became a strategic priority for us in 2020. For both topics, we released online open-access collections that include all articles published by Pediatrics and the AAP (COVID-19 and racism). We have also added online collections this past year on key issues in mental health, including depression, autism, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. These provide a single location to browse all recent articles on these topics. We welcome your suggestions for additional collections that we might create in the years ahead.
In her address at the 2020 AAP National Conference and Exhibition, AAP President Dr Sally Goza said that we as pediatricians are “in this together.” Although we cannot predict what will happen in 2021, our commitment to improving child health through Pediatrics is unwavering, and we hope our journal is part of what brings us together. Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” No matter what difficult issues threaten the health of children, we are committed to ensuring that Pediatrics offers an opportunity to us all by providing timely evidence-based scientific information that ensures the health and well-being of all children.
Drs First and Kemper conceptualized this commentary and drafted the initial manuscript; Ms Larson and Mr Puskarz conceptualized this commentary and reviewed and revised the manuscript for important intellectual content; and all authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
FUNDING: No external funding.
American Academy of Pediatrics
coronavirus disease 2019
POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: All authors receive payment from the American Academy of Pediatrics for roles in the production of Pediatrics.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.