Leaving, me, and BJDP…

I was asked to write a valedictory 500-word article for the Developmental Forum as I stand down from editing the British Journal of Developmental Psychology (BJDP). IĀ sort of failed. Failed because what I have written is most certainly more than 500 words (you may see a heavy edit when this appears in print). Failed, too, because I actually stepped down in October 2018 so this is not so much a farewell as a postcard from the past. A companion blog (“The future does not fit in the containers of the past” – here) takes a deeper dive into some extra bits with my views on the current state of the field, publishing, life… do read it if what follows here whets your appetite or if you’re in the business for a bit of developmental futurology. Although I’m gone, I would love to stay in touch.

BJDP was first published in 1983, with Peter Bryant as the founding editor. The journal, which (if you do the math – do the math!) has been going for 35 years, has therefore successfully negotiated infancy, childhood, those tricky adolescent years, and is now fully in the throes of adulthood. It is now at the stage where its human equivalents born in 1983 will be looking at friends and wondering if it is time to consider settling down and getting a mortgage… I’d like to think it has matured.

It is one of relatively few journals that are focused on developmental psychology processes and theory in a broad sense: from prenatal development to old age; experimental, qualitative methods, case studies, discussion pieces. Many other excellent journals in the area typically have a more defined focus (e.g., Child Development, Developmental Science, Social Development, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology). BJDP stands asideĀ Developmental Psychology as a journal that seeks to understand fundamental developmental processes through empirical studies. in this respect, I’d argue, it has a distinctive theoretical and intellectual “soul” in an academic world where, increasingly, psychological research can feel fractionated or assimilative rather than inter-connected and meaningfully innovative.

My involvement with the journal has occupied a significant part of my professional life to date. I joined the editorial board in 2011, and became editor in 2013. In 2017 Michaela Gummerum joined me as co-editor. Since October Harriet Tenenbaum, who replaces me as co-editor, has joined Michaela and I cannot imagine a better editorial team! There can be no doubt that the journal’s future is exciting and that it will progress to greater heights in the years to come under their leadership. Developmental psychology is important, relevant, and every psychological process has a developmental history.

There have been numerous developments in the journal in recent years, including introducing the brief report format for speedier publication, commentaries, a number of Special Sections and most recently opening the journal to the registered reports format. The journals impact factor (IF) rose to over 2.0 in 2016 (it’s now 1.80) so around the “Q1/Q2” range. But, most definitely, while IF signifies something about readership and visibility it is an over-used metric. For a start, readership and citations are not the same thing. And, additionally, we are in a fast-changing publishing world where the impact and influence of traditional journal publication can count as little compared with a well-run Twitter campaign or government policy change influenced by any study. Moreover, while the journal is British (the clue is in the title), it is by no means parochial. Its editors are German and American. Seven of the twelve Associate Editors are at institutions outside of the United Kingdom, as is the majority of the Editorial Advisory Board that includes representation from all continents apart from Antarctica. The last issue (November 2018) included only one of eleven manuscripts from an entirely British team. The journal operates on a global level.

The real pleasure in editing the journal comes from the “bird’s eye” view you get of work across all areas of developmental psychology. Rarely, and this is true, are submissions truly bad. Meeting the bar for publication, with so many submissions and so little space to publish, is another matter. So interesting and inspiring work includes papers that ultimately don’t get accepted for publication either because they fell short methodologically or didn’t really fit the journal’s aims and scope. Providing the science is tight, in the end, it is ideas that matter.

As for my own plans? Well, I’ll still be involved in the journal in a role overseeing all British Psychological Society journals and their direction as Chair of the Society’s Editorial Advisory Board. I’ll be kept busy: it is certainly an interesting time for academic publishing with content and media changing, academic publishing under scrutiny for the costs involved, open science… there’s also a threat to the diversity of both the science and the authors of papers. More on that, and on my thoughts about the field, in my next blog. And here, too, some links for new researchers on getting published, and my slightly tongue-in-cheek blog about “funny” article titles. Enjoy.