At the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Copenhagen in September, Water Science & Technology Editor-in-Chief, Wolfgang Rauch sat down with IWA Publishing and shared his thoughts on the journal’s history and growth since its launch 50 years ago.
How would you describe the history of the journal?
The history of the journal is an interesting one. 30 years ago, Water Science & Technology was a fantastic instrument for the dissemination of conference papers which was a great way of highlighting interesting new research and helping to grow the event in its future iterations, a case of “two birds, one stone” working extremely well.
This link to conferences has been lost over the years and I think it should be a focus to rebuild this. Of course, the pandemic has not helped with this activity, but it is great and encouraging to see the enthusiasm for the return of events as witnessed here at the World Water Congress.
What has been the main factor for changes that the journal has gone through?
The next big thing for us and I think for any journal has been the flip to Open Access. This change is absolutely necessary I think, and it gives Water Science & Technology the chance to move forward as a journal. Open Access was implemented astonishingly quickly by the community at large which has helped to make journals flip more smoothly.
Another big change over the last few years has been in scope. When the journal started, Water Science & Technology had a huge scope. Over the last two decades, the scope of the journal has been focused and the bulk of the research published nowadays is on wastewater treatment, urban drainage and modelling. The question the Editorial Board needs to ask is ”Is this specialization a good thing?” If the research is out there, of course the answer is yes. Should the journal perhaps be looking to expand and include topics not yet covered by IWA Publishing journals?
Which other external factors have impacted the journal?
There has been a big shift in the landscape of the author base. We are very excited to see an influx of submissions coming in from especially China, Iran and India. The question this creates is “how do we react to this?” The journal is becoming more dependent on regulations from countries whose background the current Editorial Board is unfamiliar with. This creates an exciting opportunity for the diversification of Editorial Boards and for involving students and universities in these regions through these new contacts. Universities are changing the industry by putting constraints on their students and academics regarding publishing.
How do you think the increased participation of young water professionals will change the journals community?
As mentioned, universities are pushing their students to publish in Q1 journals. It looks like younger researchers are on board with removing Impact Factors for this reason, among others. Younger researchers are more pragmatic, they are assessing where their paper belongs based on multiple factors concerning the journal. Loyalty to Editorial Boards and the reputations of its members is becoming less important. An interesting idea could be moving Impact Factors from the journal level to the article level, however I do not know what the impact on the community would be. Could we move away from the need of individual journals? I am not so sure.
In any case, the key focus for the journal is and should always remain determining the quality of the paper submitted.