David Cliffel is the Professor of Chemistry & Department Chair at Vanderbilt University, where he leads research on the electrochemistry and analytical chemistry of nanoparticles and photosynthetic proteins. He has recently become a new Technical Editor for the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, concentrating in the Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry, Electrocatalysis, and Photoelectrochemistry Topical Interest Area.
What do you hope to accomplish as the new Technical Editor of JES?
I’d like to improve the connection between what’s happening – as far as vibrant science – at the meetings and have that reflected in the quality of the papers in the journal. I think my role is really to facilitate the extension of the quality of the meetings into the journals.
How important is the peer-review process to the integrity of scientific publications?
Peer-review is the heart of how science gets evaluated and how important discoveries get communicated to the rest of us. The review process is still the best method we have of being able to evaluate the quality and importance of what’s really happening in our field. The reviewers are a critical part, and in JES, the key aspect is that our reviewers are in electrochemistry and that may or may not be the case in any other journal. One of our greatest assets is the quality of our reviewers’ knowledge in electrochemistry.
What kind of impact have you seen open access have on academic publishing?
Open access really has expanded the rest of the world’s ability to access high-quality journals. It’s also opened up technical papers to a larger part of the scientific audience and expanded what the audience is reading. That has been a very exciting thing. My open access papers are getting read by high school students and I’m getting emails from high school teachers about what’s the new paper that just came out in an area they happen to be searching in. Open access drives scientific knowledge and the spread of scientific knowledge to people who never had access before.
What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in scientific publishing?
There seems to be a proliferation of journals. One of the things that JES has going for it is that it has a long tradition and long-standing history. These pop-up journals and pop-up publishers diluted the field, so this gives ECS a leg up in the field because of its history and its continual importance and quality throughout.
What are your thoughts on Free the Science?
The very heart of Free the Science is the democratization of science. If the funding agencies are going to be the ones who pay for it, it should be accessible to all those who are interested – including those at the fringe of publishing community; the college student interested in some area, or the high school student, or the high school teacher. People who don’t have resources to pay for access are suddenly now enabled to make the community bigger. That’s the dream and hope of Free the Science.