Publication in the Congress Proceedings: the scientific glue of SIL

Anyone associated with SIL for several decades has witnessed enormous changes within the association. Those changes involve much more than size as we have grown from a few dozen limnologists of a few European countries to over 3,200 members of more than 80 countries globally. The SIL has shifted and correctly expanded interests to increasingly urgent inland water problems plaguing humankind. Many of these problems are much more complex than simply quantity and quality of freshwater resources. Biodiversity of inland waters, particularly in developing tropical countries, and maintenance of habitat diversity is an example of recently assumed priority within SIL. Scientific and instructional outreach programs are major thrust areas within SIL.

SIL congresses are times of scientific limnological exchange and communication. That science is essential to the solution of societal problems affecting inland waters. Water problems and political strategies to address water ills must be based on science. Science is the glue and must underlie solutions to these problems and must drive our association. If the science is supplanted with politics, SIL will degenerate quickly as a scientifically-based organization.

Oral and poster presentations at a scientific meeting dissipate instantly as the meetings conclude. The only real contribution of the science is the written record in a published journal that is widely distributed and permanently available for evaluation by the discipline. The Proceedings provide a triennial overview of worldwide limnological research activities and directions. The Proceedings provide a major source of limnological information throughout the world but particularly within a large number of Eastern and developing countries. A recent survey found that >95% of members found the Proceedings and Communications of use in their research and administrative positions. Importantly, the Proceedings are distributed to over 3000 scientists and institutions, which is nearly an order of magnitude greater than most commercial journals.

Throughout the growth and evolution within SIL, the Executive Board and International Committee of SIL national representatives have clung rigidly to retention of the Proceedings (Verhandlungen) of SIL. The governing Statutes of SIL specifically state that any member in good standing in SIL is entitled to present a scientific paper at the SIL congresses and to publish this contribution in the Proceedings if it is deemed scientifically sufficient by the Editor and referees. Members have equal opportunities to publish and the Proceedings afford the possibility for young scientists to attract attention to their work.

The quality of the Proceedings remains high and is increasing, and they function as a major attractant for both established and emerging scientists. Scientific contributions of the Proceedings are consistently among one of the seven most cited publications in limnology, despite not being included in certain citation evaluation systems. The Proceedings, as most journals, will eventually convert totally to electronic recordings and distribution. Nonetheless, most members concur that the Proceedings are essential to the scientific structure of SIL.

In order to be effective, the Proceedings must appear in a timely manner after the conclusion of the congresses. With the shift to a new editor and increasingly rigorous editing practices following the last congress, the appearance of the Proceedings was delayed from a normal 18 months to 24. All parts of the 26th Proceedings from the São Paulo congress should have been issued in 1997.

The officers of SIL are acutely aware that long intervals between presentation and publication of contributions are not acceptable and will result in the deference of the best contributors to alternative journals. To alleviate the current problems associated with increasing size, we have contracted with a professional editorial service that will assist the Editor with the overwhelming tasks of redactory editing of the 1000 or more papers that inundate the Editor and referees at one time at the end of the congress. In addition we are streamlining our external refereeing procedures to accelerate peer reviewing of the papers. Evaluations of scientific sufficiency will remain with the Editor and his referees.

Much of the cost of accelerated reviewing and publication procedures will be gained from our steady shift to electronic publication of our contributions. Nearly all journals will be published in electronic form within a decade. We will begin as well with the 27th Proceedings from the 27th Congress in Dublin and offer the Proceedings to members of good standing in either printed or CD-ROM format. Those wishing both forms can purchase the electronic form at a reasonable additional cost. In an attempt to evaluate the wishes of our members, please inform the Secretary-Treasurer whether you wish the Proceedings in printed copy as previously or on CD-ROM format . The searching and indexing abilities will of course be greatly increased in the electronic form of the Proceedings.

We respectfully request of members of SIL that they do not abandon the society during this transitional period as we attempt to improve our ability to maintain high quality and to publish the Proceedings in the shortest possible time (issuance within less than 18 months after a congress). This time period between submission and publication is similar to or less than most other journals, few of which have the wide dissemination of our Proceedings. These onerous tasks, however, also require members to be responsible in following explicitly the instructions to contributors, specified in the 2nd Circular of the Congress issued in October 1997 to all members. In addition we request that responsibility to include immediate attention to any revisions needed by the editors and immediate (less than 72 hours) evaluation of galley proofs. Publication schedules will be tightened appreciably in comparison to previous practices.

Your scientific contributions are critical to the missions of SIL. The 27th Congress of our unique association in Ireland promises to be extraordinary – we encourage your participation and invite you to submit your strongest contributions to the Proceedings.

Robert G. Wetzel >>>

General Secretary and Treasurer