Connecting European Neuroscience

One year as EJN co-editors-in-chief

One year into their terms as co-editors-in-chief of the European Journal of Neuroscience, John Foxe (University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, USA) and Paul Bolam (University of Oxford, UK) talk about the changes they have made to the journal and the changes the journal has made to their lives.


  • John Foxe Paul Bolam

  • FENS: Is being Editor in Chief a full-time job?

    J.F.  You could say that EJN is a fulltime, life-encompassing job. Both Paul and I are so passionate about the journal that it is permanently on our minds. Wherever we are, be it at conferences or giving talks, we are promoting EJN and FENS to the best of our abilities.  Of course, as a Department Chair and with the business of my own lab to conduct, I have to fit my EJN editorial duties into the spare hours I can carve out during the day, so I often end up doing this during the early morning hours.

P.B.  I agree. In the back of our minds, we are continually mulling over the difficult papers, the not-so-difficult papers and all the things we are trying to get right to keep us competitive and at the forefront.  If there were just one of us, the volume of work would be over-powering. The fact that we are a general neuroscience journal means that we can work to our different areas of expertise.  It would probably take an inordinate amount of time for me to deal with a paper on multisensory processing and I guess the same would be the case for John dealing with a paper on the ultrastructural localization of dopamine receptors.  We work well as a team.

  • FENS: What are the vital statistics of the European Journal of Neuroscience?

    J.F. Well, I’m not sure if this counts as a vital statistic, but it is certainly of vital importance to most active neuroscientists. It is absolutely free to publish in EJN. We don’t charge submission fees, page fees, or colour charges for our online issues. In turn, all members of FENS and of SFN can access and read the articles for free.

P.B. The vital statistic for me is: ‘society-owned, scholarly, general neuroscience journal’.  Our Editorial Board includes experts in different aspects of neuroscience from across the globe.  We receive between 800 and 900 submissions per year. Our time to first decision is about 30 days and our final acceptance rate is around 45%; we thus publish about 400 papers per year. EJN has a world-wide readership and we are approaching two million full-text downloads over the past three years.   


  • FENS: What is the relationship between the European Journal of Neuroscience and FENS?

J.F. EJN is the official journal of FENS. As Paul and I like to say – It is your journal! The key thing for members of FENS to understand is that EJN provides the major source of funding for all of FENS activities. When you support EJN by sending your best papers, you support both the journal and the society. The strength of one is inextricably linked to the strength of the other.

P.B. As a UK scientist I was brought up in the tradition of the strong relationship between learned societies and their journals; the Physiological Society and The Journal of Physiology, the British Pharmacological Society and The British Journal of Pharmacology.  We fall into this category.  EJN is the journal of the neuroscience societies of Europe, hence we are ‘as one’ with FENS. 


  • FENS: All scientific journals are having to think carefully about their positions in the competitive and rapidly changing world of publications. What are the key issues that journal editors need to consider?

    J.F. There is such an inordinate emphasis on journal impact factor these days. This obsession is corrupting the process of publishing and it is a deeply anti-intellectual force in our scientific enterprise.  The great irony of the joint impact factor is that we are all fully aware that it is driven by just one tail of the distribution (a handful of papers drive the mean up), and that it has almost no relationship to the quality of most papers published in a given journal. For a community supposedly founded on the principles of objectivity, the degree to which we have allowed the cult of Joint Impact Factors to rule our actions is remarkable. At EJN, we completely reject this approach. The journal exists to serve the community of FENS and neuroscientists across the world. Doing this means publishing solid science, not just the latest faddish or ‘sexy’ curios. EJN has been serving the FENS community since 1989 by hewing to this basic principle, and that is the tradition that Paul and I intend to follow. If the work advances our knowledge meaningfully, the experiments have been conducted with rigor, and the analyses are solid, then the work should be published. It is that simple.

P.B. We speak as one.


  • FENS: What new features have the new editors in chief brought to the journal?

- Papers are published online within a few days of acceptance.

- We’ve removed all artificial word limits. Authors should use as many words as it takes to explain the work fully (but no more of course).

- We have instituted a policy that we call “Your paper, your way”.  We commit to reviewing your paper in whatever format you send it to us. Only when the paper is accepted do we require authors to format into a specific EJN template.

- We have become much more active in policy issues, publishing NeuroOpinions and Editorials on major issues of the day.

- As of January 1st 2016, we will begin to accept Registered Reports for pre-review.

- We are in the process of establishing a young reviewer mentorship programme to train graduate students and post-docs in the art of fair and rigorous reviews – stay tuned.

- Together with Wiley, we have re-designed the cover and branding of the journal.  Watch out for the new-look EJN in January.


  • FENS: What ambitions do they have for increasing the impact factor of the journal?

    JF: We are not interested in, or driven by, Journal Impact Factors. We are only interested in publishing good solid science and in serving the FENS community to the best of our abilities.

P.B. We speak as one.