Tianquan (Tim) Lian, the new Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Chemical Physics, shared some thoughts on the past, present, and future of the journal, as it nears its ninth decade of publication. In addition to serving as the William Henry Emerson Professor of Chemistry at Emory University, Tim also leads an active research lab, where as he notes, “One of our proudest accomplishments is illustrating that fundamental chemical physics research is essential to solving important problems in energy harvesting, conversion, and storage.”
AIPP: You’ve just come on board as Editor in Chief this year, but you’re not a newcomer to JCP – over the past year, you’ve been the Guest Editor of a special issue of JCP on Interfacial Electrochemistry and Photo(electro)catalaysis that recently published. Please tell us more about your history with JCP.
TL: I go way back with JCP. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my career as a scientist was shaped by many of the seminal papers published by this journal. Some that immediately come to mind are the time-resolved spectroscopic studies of chemical dynamics in the gas phase (Zewail), the condensed phase (Harris), and biological molecules (Hochstrasser), as well as the theories of electron transfer (Marcus) and semiconductor quantum dots (Brus).
Since JCP was founded by Nobel Laureate Harold C. Urey in 1933, it has become an important resource for scientists working at the boundary of chemistry and physics, and played an essential role in leading and expanding the discipline of chemical physics and physical chemistry. It is an honor to take on the responsibility of ensuring that the journal will continue to inform and inspire scientists for many generations to come.
AIPP: What changes do you see in the physical chemistry and chemical physics community and how do you see JCP evolving to address them?
TL: There’s been rapid and dynamic change in the research, funding, and publishing landscapes over the past 20 years and it shows no sign of slowing down. The emergence of ever more journals gives authors expanding choices of peer review and publication venues. As a result, journals must compete and improve themselves to maintain their authorship and readership. And the boundary of chemistry and physics keeps changing.
As we lead JCP into the future, we will keep in mind that Urey’s original vision emphasized the importance of in the field: “We shall accept papers for publication which fit into the field of this journal as we see it at each moment…. We wish its editorial policies to be characterized by a flexibility which will enable it to follow the new and interesting developments of each year of its existence.”
AIPP: What do you see on the horizon for JCP, to adapt to developments and serve the evolving needs of our community?
TL: To build on JCP’s strong legacy, we are looking at expanding the journal’s coverage of growing areas to serve the full spectrum of physical chemistry and chemical physics, including catalysis (electro-, photo-, and photoelectro-), plasmonics and nanophotonics, optical electronics, energy conversion and storage, interfacial structures and dynamics, and chemical physics of nanomaterials. In addition, we plan to tighten our editorial standards for publication, raise the bar for novelty, and maintain/improve review time without compromising the quality of review. I believe we can maintain and grow JCP’s leadership role with a continuous improvement mindset.
Another high priority is stepping up our engagement with early career researchers to ensure that they have real input into JCP’s direction. We’ve already set in motion a number of new initiatives to extend our reach with the next generation over the coming years.
- To provide important insight about how to better serve the next generation, my first act as as Editor-in-Chief has been to launch The Early Career Editorial Advisory Board and appoint its first members, as full members of our Editorial Advisory Board.
- The JCP Emerging Investigators Special Collection is now open to contributions. To be eligible, a principal investigator must be within 10 years of their Ph.D. graduation on the day of submission. The author(s) of the best paper in the special topic will be awarded the JCP Best Paper by an Emerging Investigator Award.
AIPP: From your own considerable experience, do you have any advice to share with early career researchers?
TL: The most important advice that I received was to work on problems/fields that were different from those of my PhD and postdoctoral advisors. This is hard and scary sometimes, but in the long run it is the best way to distinguish one’s self and to make unique and notable contributions to science.