AJCP New Opportunities

The following editorial, from AJCP editor Jack Tebes, outlines the opportunities available to SCRA as AJCP moves to a new publisher. It was published in the American Journal of Community Psychology (2016) 57:3-7.

Editorial: New Opportunities

With this issue I welcome Wiley as the new publisher of the American Journal of Community Psychology. AJCP’s transition from Springer, the journal’s publisher in various imprints since its inception in 1973, came after careful consideration by the leadership of the Society for Community Research and Action, the journal’s owner.  I am excited about our partnership with Wiley, which offers new opportunities for authors and readers that have been envisioned for some time.  With this transition, below I briefly discuss the journals’ current status, comment on its updated journal description, review the types of articles published in the journal, and summarize several new opportunities for authors and readers.   

Current Status of the Journal

AJCP is the flagship journal in community psychology. This year, the journal had the highest number of article citations in its history, and its Journal Impact Factor (JIF) -- which refers to the frequency that a typical article is cited in a given year, calculated across a two-year citation window (JCR, 2004) -- remains strong.  (I summarize a few concerns about the use of the JIF here.[1]) The Web of Science currently ranks AJCP among the top quartile of journals in Psychology (Multidisciplinary) and Public Health, and among the top journals in Social Work. Also noteworthy is that this year the number of journal submissions were 30 percent higher than the average of the previous five years, despite a competitive manuscript acceptance rate of 20-25 percent that has been steady for some time. AJCP continues to draw interest from authors and readers across many fields and disciplines, and also from international authors, which now submit about one-third of all manuscripts.  Finally, the journal sustains an abiding commitment to diversity and inclusion in its operations, including the composition of its Editorial Board and reviewers.

Updated Journal Description

AJCP continues to publish innovative and high impact scholarship in community psychology and community research and action, including work of particular relevance to practice and policy. Community psychology is a broad field, as is evident in its textbooks (Kloos, Hill, Thomas, Wandersman, Elias, & Dalton, 2012; Levine, Perkins, & Perkins, 2005; Moritsugu, Vera, Wong, & Duffy, 2014; Nelson & Prilletensky, 2010; Orford, 2008), the new Handbook of Community Psychology (Bond, Serrano-García, & Keys, 2016), and other practice resources (Community Tool Box at http://ctb.ku.edu/en; Scott & Wolfe, 2015; SCRA, 2012). AJCP continues to embrace the field’s breadth.  

AJCP also encourages submissions of theory, research, and practice that deepen understanding of the field’s core principles, which I have described elsewhere (Tebes, Thai, & Matlin, 2014; Tebes, 2016).  Submissions that: examine systems change; adopt an ecological perspective; focus on prevention, promotion, wellness, and resilience; value empowerment, human liberation, and social justice; seek understanding of diversity and culturally-situated research and practice; advance participatory approaches to action and research; develop empirically-based models for action; and value theoretical and methodological pluralism, are especially welcome. Such scholarship is likely to enhance understanding of community psychology’s distinguishing features, including its values and norms for scholarship and practice. 

Two areas in the updated journal description require special mention.  First, although AJCP has long published work drawing on feminist and critical theory perspectives, the number of such submissions (other than to Special Issues) is relatively low, despite the prominence of this work at SCRA Biennial Conferences. I encourage authors to consider AJCP a welcome outlet for scholarly work in these areas, and in particular, submissions that adopt epistemologies and methods characteristic of feminist research (Campbell & Wasco, 2000; Hesse-Biber, 2012; Riger, 1992) or critical inquiry (Mertens, 2009; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010; Teo, 2015). 

Second, I also encourage submissions that are on the boundary between community psychology and social neuroscience or genetics. Research on adverse childhood experiences, such as poverty and maltreatment, and exposure to traumatic social conditions has shown that these circumstances are social determinants that can have life-long effects on health, social relationships, and mortality, as well as on brain and cellular processes (Gilbert et al., 2015; Miller, Chen, & Parker, 2011).  Community psychologists have generally eschewed involvement in such work, despite having relevant expertise that could contribute to understanding social determinants.  Research on the relationship of adverse social environments to brain-behavior relationships, epigenetic and cellular processes, or the interplay of genes and the environment, can hold promise for altering the impact of adversity (Gilbert et al., 2015; Heim & Bender, 2012; Miller, Chen, & Parker, 2011; Nugent, Goldberg, & Uddin, 2016).  Community psychologists have expertise in understanding social environments, developing culturally-situated and contextualized interventions, and partnering with diverse community stakeholders. AJCP welcomes submissions from transdisciplinary collaborations that address these issues, particularly those embodying community psychology principles and values.    

Below is AJCP’s updated journal description, which is available on the journal website.

The American Journal of Community Psychology publishes innovative and high impact work in community psychology and community research and action, including: original qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research; theoretical papers; empirical reviews; first person accounts of research, education, practice, and policy; commentaries; and policy statements issued by the Society for Community Research and Action. The journal also publishes selected award addresses of the Society for Community Research and Action as well as Special Issues.

Of particular interest are submissions of innovative theory and research, including those that examine multiple ecological levels (e.g., individual, family, peer, school, organization, neighborhood, or community) or systems change. Also encouraged are submissions focused on prevention, promotion, wellness, and resilience as well as theory and research on empowerment, human liberation, and social justice. In addition, the journal encourages submissions on human diversity and culturally-situated research and interventions.  AJCP has an abiding commitment to theoretical and methodological pluralism, empirically-based models for action, and participatory approaches to research and action, including: multi-level stakeholder collaboration; interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, team-based research and education; and community-based participatory research.  Finally, the journal welcomes submissions that offer a fresh perspective on community psychology or community research and action, particularly from new and international authors, as well as authors from underrepresented groups and other fields and disciplines.   

Examples of topics of interest to the journal include, but are not limited to: behavioral health, physical health, and public health; risk and protective factors for well-being and substance use; research on stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences; legal, educational, and work environment processes and policies; the interplay of individual, family, peer, school, organizational, neighborhood, and community processes; social and community change; program, system, or policy evaluation; sense of community; organizational development and community development; consultation and technical assistance; community education; professional training; self-help and mutual help; social action and action research; advocacy and coalition-building; community organizing and community mobilization; social network analysis; human rights and social welfare; theory and research on indigenous peoples and historically disenfranchised groups; research on the boundary of community psychology and social neuroscience, gene x environment interactions, or epigenetics that address questions of relevance to community psychology principles and values; and scholarship that draws on feminist or critical theory perspectives and methodologies.

AJCP regularly publishes Special Issues on topics proposed by readers. Authors interested in submitting a proposal for a Special Issue should contact the Editor.  Proposal guidelines for Special Issues can be found in the journal Instructions for Authors.  

Types of Articles

Currently, AJCP publishes the following article types: Original Article, Empirical Review, First Person Account, Advancing Science, Commentary, Policy Statement, and Editorial.  The Original Article remains the foundation for most scholarly work published in the journal, representing 85-90 percent of all articles published.  Submissions of this type include theoretical papers and reports of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research.

In 2010 when I became Editor of the journal, AJCP introduced several new types of articles and expanded options for others. One priority at the time was to give authors more ways to share scholarly work that may not fit the usual structure of an original research article. Article types such as Mixed Methods, First Person Account, and Advancing Science, were intended to expand those options. What became evident, however, was that most authors (of the almost two dozen mixed methods studies published since then) preferred to classify their mixed methods submission as an Original Article, not as Mixed Methods. Authors clearly prioritized noting the original research contribution of their study rather than the particular combination of qualitative and quantitative methods used.  Thus, with this issue, authors submitting mixed methods research should designate that submission as an Original Article.

Several other types of articles are available to authors. An Empirical Review provides an integrative summary of empirical literature or a meta-analysis. I encourage authors to consider submitting a review; here are several examples: Durlak, Weissberg, and Pachan (2010); Feldman, Silapaswan, Schaefer, and Schermele (2014); Jacquez, Vaughan, and Wagner (2013); and McMahon (2015). 

Another article type is a First Person Account, which provides a forum for one or more stakeholders to share their “lived experience” with research, practice, or policy. A First Person Account usually consists of an integrative Introduction and Discussion that bookends narratives from collaborating authors, thus providing a “360” window into the diverse and situated perspectives of various stakeholders engaged in community research and action. A few examples are: Brown et al. (2013); Case et al. (2014); Jason (2012); and Smith et al. (2014).   

AJCP will continue to welcome Advancing Science submissions that feature original quantitative research that is well-specified, sufficiently-powered, and methodologically rigorous but reports results that do not reach statistical significance. Studies involving pre-registered randomized trials that do not support study hypotheses are well suited to this mechanism.  Advancing Science articles are intended to address a problem in behavioral and social science research known as the “file-drawer problem” -- the failure to include null findings from rigorous research into empirical reviews and meta-analyses, and as benchmarks for estimating power and the potential impact of interventions and policies (Ionnnidis, 2014; Pautasso, 2010; Rosenthal, 1979.) Select publication of such research advances science by helping scholars establish more accurate effect size benchmarks when designing risk or protective factor studies, planning intervention research, or conducting reviews and meta-analyses. Advancing Science articles must be very brief and accompanied by detailed information of study methods submitted as supplementary material. Authors should see the Instructions for Authors for details.

AJCP also publishes commentaries and policy statements.  A Commentary is an invited submission for a Special Issue/Section of the journal, or in response to a controversial article previously published. Beginning in 2016, AJCP will invite more frequent commentaries on work published in the journal to stimulate discussion and debate.  Readers interested in submitting a Commentary about a recent article journal should contact the Editor. 

A Policy Statement published in AJCP is developed through the SCRA Policy Committee, and then reviewed and approved by the SRCA Executive Committee. Once approved, the statement is posted on the SRCA website and published in the journal. The Executive Committee, Policy Committee, and AJCP Editorial Office have developed a procedure to ensure rigorous and timely review of policy statements before publication.  Readers interested in developing policy statements for SCRA should contact the Chair of the SCRA Policy Committee.  Thus far, two such statements have been published on behalf of SCRA: Jason, Mericle, Polcin, and White (2013) and Chicco, Esparza, Lykes, Balcazar, and Ferreira (2016) (this issue).

AJCP also publishes selected addresses (Presidential Address; Award for Distinguished Contributions to Theory and Research in Community Psychology; Award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology; Seymour B. Sarason Award) as well as Special Issues/Sections proposed by readers.  Information on Special Issues is available in the Instructions for Authors. 

Authors may not be aware that AJCP allows for the inclusion of Electronic Supplementary Material (ESM) with submissions that is available online. ESM is intended to communicate essential information not available in the print publication of an article. The nature and type of ESM allowed for any given article is reviewed on a case by case basis, but various formats are available for submission, including: photos, videos, presentation slides, additional data tables or figures, curricula, data spreadsheets, intervention protocols, and qualitative text. This resource is underutilized in AJCP and I encourage authors to consider how including ESM may enhance their article. Here are some examples of ESM available online for articles published in AJCP: Neal and Neal (2013) and Mohatt et al. (2013).

Additional details about the types of articles published in the journal, including page guidelines, is available in the Instructions for Authors. 

New Opportunities for Authors to Enhance their Impact and Visibility

This year, AJCP will introduce several new ways to enhance the impact and visibility of work published in the journal.  As Editor, I know that the journal’s readers, authors, and reviewers come from many fields within psychology (e.g., community, clinical, counseling, developmental, social, applied, educational, health) and a host of disciplines (e.g., public health, sociology, social work, anthropology, prevention, psychiatry, nursing, medicine,  education, administration, and gerontology). This year, AJCP will be implementing various ways to share and communicate journal content with a wider audience, including scholars in psychology and the social sciences, health services and medicine, practitioners, policymakers, educators, and the general public.  Among the innovations to be introduced are:

  1. Creation of a user-friendly synopsis of selected articles from each issue. Each synopsis will be done in collaboration with authors, posted on the AJCP and SCRA websites with links to social media, and disseminated to author institutions.
  2. Increased digital and mobile access to AJCP, with features to increase access and use.
  3. Creation of a customizable AJCP journal homepage through the Wiley Online Library that includes SCRA and Wiley quick links.
  4. Use of Wiley e-newsletters in which AJCP content is distributed to a wider audience of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. 
  5. Introduction of a new section, Highlights, for each article published in AJCP. Authors will be asked to identify 3-5 succinct bullet point summaries of their article (“highlights”), including its key contributions. Highlights will facilitate communication about an article’s impact and make it more visible to interested readers. 

Feedback Welcome

It is a privilege to serve as Editor of AJCP, and I welcome feedback about these new initiatives as well as any other aspect of the journal or its operations.  I can be reached at jacob.tebes@yale.edu.

Jacob Kraemer Tebes

Editor

References

Brown, L. D., Alter, T. R., Brown, L. G., Corbin, M. A., Flaherty-Craig, C., McPhail, L. G., Nevel, P., Shoop, K., Sterner, G.,. Terndrup, T. E., & Weaver, M. E. (2013). Rural Embedded Assistants for Community Health (REACH) Network: First‐Person accounts in a community–university partnership. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 206-216.

Campbell, R., & Wasco, S. M. (2000).  Feminist approaches to social science: Epistemological and methodological tenets.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 28, 773-791.

Case, A. D., Byrd, R., Claggett, E., DeVeaux, S., Perkins, R., Huang, C., Huang, C., Sernyak, M. J., Steiner, J. L., Cole, R., LaPaglia, D. M., Bailey, M. Buchanan, C., Johnson, A. &  Kaufman, J. S. (2014). Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Community‐Based Participatory Research to Enhance Mental Health Services. American Journal of Community Psychology, 54, 397-408.

Chicco, J., Esparza, P., Lykes, M. B., Balcazar, F. E., & Ferreira, K. (2016).  Policy Statement on the Incarceration of Undocumented Migrant Families.  Society for Community Research and Action: Division 27 of the American Psychological Association.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 57.

Community Tool Box.  (2016). Work Group for Community Health and Development,    University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. http://ctb.ku.edu/en.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta‐analysis of after‐school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294-309.

Feldman, M. B., Silapaswan, A., Schaefer, N., & Schermele, D. (2014). Is there life after DEBI?  Examining health behavior maintenance in the diffusion of effective behavioral interventions initiative. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53, 286-313.

Gilbert, L.K., Breiding, M. J., Merrick, M.T., Thompson, W.W., Ford, D.C., Dhingra, S.S., & Parks, S.E. (2015).  Childhood adversity and adult chronic disease: An update from ten states and the District of Columbia. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48, 345-349.

Heim, C., & Binder, E. B. (2012). Current research trends in early life stress and depression: Review of human studies on sensitive periods, gene–environment interactions, and epigenetics. Experimental neurology, 233(1), 102-111.

Hesse-Biber, S. N. (2012).  Handbook of feminist research: Theory and practice (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ioannidis, J. P. (2014). How to make more published research true. PLoS Med, 11(10), e1001747.

Jacquez, F., Vaughn, L. M., & Wagner, E. (2013). Youth as partners, participants or passive recipients: A review of children and adolescents in community‐based participatory research (CBPR). American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 176-189.

Jason, L. A. (2012). Small wins matter in advocacy movements: Giving voice to patients. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49, 307-316.

Jason, L. A., Mericle, A. A., Polcin, D. L., & White, W. L. (2013). The role of recovery residences in promoting long-term addiction recovery. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52, 406-411.

Kloos, B., Hill, J., Thomas, E., Wandersman, A., Elias, M. J., & Dalton, J.  (2012). Community psychology: Linking individuals and communities. (3rd Ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Levine, M., Perkins, D.V., & Perkins, D. (2005).  Principles of community psychology. 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford.

McMahon, S. (2015).  Call for research on bystander intervention to prevent sexual violence: the role of campus environments. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55, 472-489.

Martin, B. R. (2016).  Editorial: Editors’ JIF-boosting strategms – What are appropriate and which not? Research Policy, 45, 1-7.

Mertens, D. M. (2009).  Transformative Research and Evaluation. New York: Guilford Press.

Miller, G. E., Chen, E., & Parker, K. J. (2011). Psychological stress in childhood and susceptibility to the chronic diseases of aging: moving toward a model of behavioral and biological mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin, 137(6), 959.

Mohatt, N. V., Singer, J. B., Evans, A. C., Matlin, S. L., Golden, J., Harris, C., Siciliano, C., Kiernan, G., Pelleritti, M., & Tebes, J. K. (2013). A community’s response to suicide through public art: Stakeholder perspectives from the Finding the Light Within project.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 52, 197-209.

Moritsugu, J., Vera, E., Wong, F. Y., & Duffy, K. G. (2015). Community psychology. (5th Ed.) Psychology Press.

Neal, Z. P., & Neal, J. W. (2013).  The (In)compatibility of diversity and sense of community.  American Journal of Community Psychology. 53, 1-12.

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being. 2nd Edition. United Kingdom. Europe: Palgrave MacMillan.

Nugent, N. R., Goldberg, A., & Uddin, M. (2016). Topical review: The emerging field of epigenetics: Informing models of pediatric trauma and physical health. Journal of pediatric psychology, 41(1), 55-64.

Orford, J. (2008).  Community Psychology: Challenges, Controversies, and Emerging Consensus.  West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons.

Pautasso, M. (2010).  Worsening file-drawer problem in the abstracts of natural, medical, and social science databases.  Scientometrics, 85, 193-202.

Pendlebury, D. A., & Adams, J. (2012). Comments on a critique of the Thomson Reuters journal impact factor. Scientometrics, 92, 395-401.

PLoS Medicine Editors (2006).  Editorial: The Impact Factor Game-It is time to find a better way to assess the scientific literature.  PLoS Medicine, 3, e291.

Riger, S. (1992).  Epistemological debates, feminist voices: Science, social values, and the study of women.  American Psychologist, 47, 730-740.

Rosenthal, R. (1979).  The file drawer problem and tolerance for null results. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 638–641.

Rousseau, R. (2012).  Updated the journal impact factor or total overhaul?  Scientometrics, 92, 413-417.

Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, S. M. (2015).  Community psychology: Foundations for practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

SCRA: Society for Community Research and Action (2011).  Competencies for community psychology practice. The Community Psychologist, 45, 8-14.

Smith, E. P., Wise, E., Rosen, H., Rosen, A., Childs, S., & McManus, M. (2014). Top‐down, bottom‐up, and around the jungle gym: A social exchange and networks approach to engaging afterschool programs in implementing evidence‐based practices. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53, 491-502.

Tebes, J. K., Thai, N. D., & Matlin, S. L. (2014).  Twenty-first century science as a relational process: From Eureka! to team science and a place for community psychology.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 53, 475-490.

Tebes, J.K. (2016).  Foundations for a philosophy of science of community psychology: Perspectivism, pragmatism, feminism, and critical theory.  In: M.A. Bond, C. B. Keys, & I. Serrano-Garcia (Editors). APA Handbook of Community Psychology, Volume 2: Methods for Community Research and Action for Diverse Groups and Issues. Washington, DC: APA Books.

Teo, T. (2015).  Critical psychology: A geography of intellectual engagement and resistance.  American Psychologist, 70, 243-253.

Vanclay, J. K. (2012).  Impact factor: Outdated artefact or stepping-stone to journal certification?  Scientometrics, 92, 211-238.



[1] Although the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is increasingly used in academia and in publishing as an indicator of a journal’s scholarly impact and reputation, I believe, along with several scholars and editors, that it has a number of limitations (PLoS Medicine Editors, 2006; Martin, 2016; Pendlebury & Adams, 2012; Rouseau, 2012; Vanclay, 2012). One limitation of particular relevance to community research and action, is that the JIF favors laboratory and bench research because such studies can more readily be completed and cited within a two-year window. Most research done in community psychology requires more time to complete due to community collaborations and the constraints of community settings.  In addition, fields that emphasize use of research in practice are likely to underestimate the impact of scholarly work in that field (Pendlebury & Adams, 2012). Nevertheless, the JIF appears here to stay and AJCP’s standing in this regard is relatively strong for a field of its size.