In response to widespread member support and recommendations by the AOS Publications Futures Committee, the AOS Council voted to approve changing the names of the Society’s journals from Auk to Ornithology and from Condor to Ornithological Applications. If approved by a vote of the AOS Fellows in August at the society’s annual meeting (which will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic), these changes will take effect in January 2021.
The decision to rename the journal was the result of an onerous year-long process that Council initiated in 2019 when it created the AOS Publications Futures Committee. The committee was tasked with developing strategies to maintain Auk and Condor as preeminent journals in ornithology and for evaluating models for publishing long content materials, including the book series Studies in Avian Biology (SAB).
The 32-page final report of the Committee found here gives a comprehensive analysis and presents three overarching goals to achieve publication sustainability:
- Increase the quality and prestige of AOS publications in order to attract and publish high-quality science, which is inextricably linked with journal Impact Factors and Altmetrics.
- Maintain a net positive business model for publishing journals, books, and monographs. This expectation contrasts sharply with the financial losses for publishing that AOS and its predecessor societies experienced in the past. Since we partnered with Oxford University Press in 2019 to publish our journals, their finances are on solid financial footing. SAB, however, operated at a financial loss before the society ended its publishing contract with CRC Press to leave open options for the future.
- Encourage students and early-career professionals to publish in AOS journals.
Renaming the journals is one of 14 actions recommended by the Committee to achieve these goals. Some actions are big, like changing the names of the journals and changing the model for publishing long content away from SAB toward one that is more sustainable and accessible to broad audiences. Some actions are small, like expanding the journals’ social media presence and subscribers. And some fall in between, like creating a new student publication award. AOS has already implemented or made progress on 10 recommendations and the rest are in the works.
AOS leadership views rebranding the journals now as an important part of the overall strategy to improve them for three reasons:
- The names Auk and Condor are not descriptive of the materials that are published in the journals, making their focal areas unclear to the broader scientific community.
- The lack of clarity and thematic focus in the current journal names impedes colleagues having their work recognized, particularly for early-career professionals who are competing for jobs or facing tenure and promotion review. This makes our journals less attractive publishing venues for higher-quality papers.
- The official names of the journals are confusing to many scientists inside and outside of our community. While we may not be perplexed about The Auk or The Auk: Ornithological Advances, we are confused about how to cite the current names of the journals. Both Clarivate and The International Standard Serial Number (or ISSN) indicate that the officially registered names of both journals do not include the post-colon components of the titles. Thus, the official citation is Condor, not The Condor: Ornithological Applications. The inconsistency of the journal names was a complete surprise to the Committee and to Council. It adds to the urgency to update the titles.
AOS members agree that it is time to change the journal names. The Committee implemented an online questionnaire to gather member feedback from 6-15 Feb. 2020 and received 441 responses (see the Appendix of the Committee’s report for all questions and survey results). As you can see below in Figure 2 from the report, nearly two-thirds of the respondents preferred to update the journal names, while only about a quarter wished to retain the current names. Support for changing the journal names was equally strong among members of almost all career stages and affiliations (details in Tables 7 and 8 of the report on page 20).
We recognize that a name change would result in a loss of continuity, but the journal volume numbers would continue unchanged, partially mitigating this effect. There would also be a two-year time lag for receiving the official Impact Factors for the new journal names, but informal impact factors could be produced and marketed. These are short-term costs that can be overcome with thoughtful and frequent communications to AOS members and others during the transition, and with additional efforts by the AOS Editorial Office and Oxford University Press.
The Committee considered a broad set of potential new names for the journals, and recommended Ornithology for Auk and Ornithological Applications for Condor. AOS membership supports these choices, as you can see below in Figure 3 from the report. These two names garnered twice as many votes as their next most popular alternatives.
Over the past year, we slowly became convinced that the time has come to change the names of our journals, a prospect that has been considered periodically for more than 20 years. With the Committee’s extensive report, we have done our due diligence in thinking about and planning for a name change. The AOS membership is behind it, and we are in a strong position to carry it through successfully with our journal EICs and AOS staff.
We’ll be honest — Ornithology as a journal name didn’t grab us at first. But it grows on you, and it’s actually a really good option because ornithology is defined as the scientific study of birds. Several members commented to us that they were surprised that Ornithology was still available as a journal name. And with Ornithology in mind as the new name for Auk, Ornithological Applications is a natural choice for Condor.
The Committee was also tasked with developing a sustainable approach to publishing longform material of the sort that AOS previously published in SAB, ensuring that the material is widely accessible and searchable. Based on survey results, members expressed a desire for AOS to publish long-content materials, but not in the way they are currently being delivered, as can be seen in their responses to the online questionnaire below in Figure 4 of the report. Only 36% of the respondents felt that books under the current SAB model were very desirable or desirable, compared to 56% that preferred a new, revenue neutral model. Publication of monographs received the strongest support, with 62% of respondents indicating it was very desirable or desirable.
The Committee recommended to Council the creation of “Special Features” in AOS journals. This new program is designed, in part, to publish longer content in our peer reviewed journals and to archive the associated data sets. This also creates the opportunity to bundle the content in Special Collection issues. AOS is rolling out this new program this year.
Now that the AOS Council recently voted to approve renaming the journals and the required changes to the AOS Bylaws to make them conform, we are nearing the final step in this journey and it’s the Fellows’ turn. Making these bylaw changes requires approval by a simple majority of the AOS Fellows. We will ask the Fellows to affirm the new journal names and other bylaws changes during their annual (virtual) meeting in August. Before the ballots are distributed, however, we plan to hold a special online Fellows Forum to provide an opportunity for Fellows to discuss the Committee’s report and the bylaws changes proposed by AOS Council.
We would like to thank the many AOS members who participated in the process by contributing their views during the online survey and the Publications Futures Committee (Catherine Lindell, Irby Lovette, Nicole Michel, Kristin Ruegg, Scott Sillett, and Phil Stouffer, with Ex. Officio members Sarah Andrus (Oxford University Press), Mark Penrose (AOS), and Melinda Pruett Jones (AOS) whose efforts have made this possible.
Kathy Martin, AOS President
Steve Beissinger, Past President & Chair of the Publications Futures Committee