Have a Way With Words
invited to serve as editor of a professional journal is a
coveted honor. These faculty members at New Jersey Dental
School "moonlight" as journal editors in what little spare
time they have.
left to right: Grant Gallagher, PhD; Mel L. Kantor, DDS, MPH;
Cheryl Biber, MS, DMD, MPH; Emanuel Goldman, PhD; Joseph Holtzman,
PhD; Michael Krakow, DMD, MS, MFS; Gary Hartwell, DDS, MS; Michael
Glick, DMD; Milton Houpt, DDS, PhD.
This group formed the basis of the journal's
editorial board. The first issue of Genes and Immunity was
published in September 1999, with Gallagher and another researcher,
Michael F. Seldin of the University of California at Davis,
at the top of the masthead.
"The publishers felt that to create a high-quality
journal, it needed to be international," says Gallagher. "So
the editors were from two different continents, and the editorial
board was also from across the world." Gallagher subsequently
came to the U.S. in September 2001, but he says the journal
still maintains its international flavor, receiving more than
half its manuscript submissions from research groups outside
Lots of work, no pay
Being invited to serve as editor of a journal
is a coveted honor. For a school the size of NJDS, having
nine faculty members who are editors is something of a coup.
"It says quite a bit about the quality of our faculty that
so many here are journal editors," states Gary Hartwell, DDS,
MS, professor and chair of endodontics. He is an associate
editor of the Journal of Endodontics, euphemistically
The "literary lions" at NJDS are involved
in a variety of publications, from basic science journals
to newsletters for professional associations. In terms of
subject matter the journals run the gamut, ranging from basic
science to clinical practice. Highly technical journals may
have a circulation of a few hundred, while publications of
professional associations have many more.
Big professional associations generally publish
and distribute their own journals. Other journals are produced
by independent publishers. For the most part, "editor" and
"associate editor" are honorific titles given to those who
contribute their time, expertise and energy to a publication.
Thanks to high technology, computers and e-mail, editors from
different parts of the country (even the world) are able to
work together as a team. The editorial boards generally meet
once a year (often in conjunction with an association annual
meeting) to do strategic planning and discuss the direction
of the journal.
Hartwell explains that at JOE, and
other journals as well, the main role of the associate editors
is to review manuscripts that have been submitted for publication.
When a manuscript comes in, the editor assigns it to an associate
editor. He or she in turn sends it to two reviewers, choosing
from a list of 50 or so. The reviewers receive a"blind" copy,
meaning that the author's name and affiliation are deleted.
They have three weeks to review the manuscript. When they
complete the review, they are graded on how thorough they
were. "If the reviewer is chronically late, or does a cursory
job of reviewing, they're off the list," says Hartwell.
After the review process, the associate editor
reads the manuscript and makes a recommendation: accept, revise
or reject. "Usually we're in agreement with the reviewers,"
says Hartwell. "But sometimes opinions differ. That always
makes things interesting."
Hartwell says there are two qualities the
editors look for: good science and good writing. "If the science
is there, but the piece is poorly written, or in the case
of a foreign paper, poorly translated, we usually reject it.
We just don't have the time or the resources to rewrite it."
As associate editor for international affairs
for the Journal of Oral Implantology (or JOI),
Cheryl Biber, MS, DMD, MPH, assistant director of educational
technologies at NJDS, also sees submissions from overseas.
JOI, the official publication of the American Academy
of Implant Dentistry, is published six times a year.
"The international community of implant dentists
contributes scientific, peer reviewed articles as well as
case reports, and write-ups of meetings and social events,"
she says. "Generally, most of the contributors submit manuscripts
in English, but many of them need more precise editing and
there lies a large part of my responsibility. Some of the
translations do not capture the scientific nuances that are
important to the readership."
Biber, also an NJDS alum (class of 78), completed
a week-long workshop in science writing at the Columbia University
School of Journalism to improve her editorial skills. She
also oversees the NJDS Web site and writes for it as well,
and she is developing an instructional DVD for community dentists
on providing care for special needs patients. "While I'm no
longer in clinical practice, my passion lies in teaching dentistry
and getting information out in more creative and innovative
ways," she says.
The faculty members agreed that being a journal
editor is not only personally gratifying, it's also a way
to promote or advance your specialty. Mel Kantor, DDS, MPH,
professor and vice chair of diagnostic sciences at NJDS, is
an associate editor of Radiology, the journal of the Radiological
Society of North America (RSNA), the largest radiology association
in the U.S. Radiology is not a dental journal, but serves
the radiological community at large. Kantor, an oral and maxillofacial
radiologist, has the distinction of being the only dentist
on its masthead.
Oral and maxillofacial radiology is one of
nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.
"It's radiology below the brain and above the neck," Kantor
explains. "We have strong links to our medical counterparts,
and use the same tools - from plain film to CT and MRI - to
evaluate patients and make diagnoses." Kantor welcomes the
opportunity to represent oral and maxillofacial radiology
in the larger radiological community. "While it's nice to
be the only dentist on the masthead, what's more important
is to have a dentist there at all," he says. "It is somewhat
of a breakthrough for our specialty, that its importance and
relevance is recognized by a field of medicine."
He has been a member of RSNA since the mid-1980s,
and his involvement with the journal goes back to 1990. "First
you're tapped as a reviewer for your content expertise," he
says. "Once you've proven yourself by doing the work and meeting
the deadlines, the editor might select you for an associate
While he appreciates good writing, Kantor
says that as a student, he did not particularly like English.
"I wasn't crazy about biology either, but things change,"
he adds with a laugh. "My father was a printer, and there
were always a lot of journals and books around. I guess it
rubbed off on me."
Joseph Holtzman is another faculty member
who is quite different from others on the masthead. He's associate
editor of the journal Special Care in Dentistry, but he's
a medical sociologist, not a dentist. The journal covers dental
care for the elderly and those who are handicapped or disabled.
These individuals pose unique challenges to dentists: They
are often more difficult to treat, and as a group, their oral
hygiene is generally poorer than those who are not disabled.
They may have problems accessing and paying for care and finding
dentists capable and willing to treat them.
How is a behavioral scientist able to contribute
to a dental journal? "People come to the dentist will all
kinds of fears and anxieties," Holtzman says. "There are many
social, economic and psychological issues in dentistry, and
even more among special needs patients. My primary role at
the journal is to evaluate the articles dealing with socio-behavioral
He cites as an example a recent submission
to the journal. A researcher wrote a paper about oral defense
syndrome, claiming it was a group of behavioral symptoms that
taken together explain why certain children will not open
their mouths for a dentist. He recalls, "It sounded very scientific,
and the reviewer sent the editor conflicting recommendations
concerning whether or not the article should be published.
They brought it to me and asked me to resolve the issue.
After reading the article and evaluating the
available data, I concluded that there was insufficient information
at this time to support the existence of the syndrome. So
the submission was ultimately rejected."
Making this and future generations of dentists
more medicine-oriented is a personal mission of Michael Glick,
DMD, professor and chair of the department of diagnostic sciences
at NJMS. It's also one of the reasons he has become involved
with the Journal of the American Dental Association
(JADA). Glick was named to the JADA editorial
board eight years ago, and he's currently one of five associate
editors. He is section editor of dentistry and medicine. "JADA
is an interesting mix of research, entertainment, clinical
information and education," he says. "Some readers want more
science, while others want more informational items. It's
not easy pleasing everyone, but I think we're a good amalgamate
- kind of a cross between a scientific journal and a source
of non-scientific information geared specifically to our constituency."
And a fat one too: There is a fair amount
of advertising in JADA. Most journals accept advertising
and are happy to have it. Ad sales are generally left to the
journal publisher with little or no input from the editors.
Glick's specialty is oral medicine - providing
dental care for medically complex patients: those with diabetes,
hypertension, heart disease, infectious diseases (including
hepatitis and HIV) and other conditions. "The patient population
is getting older," he points out."They come in with chronic
diseases, but still retain their teeth. As dentists, we have
to modify the way we treat these patients. Protocols need
to be developed."
He believes dentists should take things one
step further, and play an active role in screening for medical
problems. Some 65 percent of all adults in the U.S. went to
see a dentist within the past year - while far fewer people
visited a physician's office. "Dentists have the potential
to screen for a number of diseases, including hypertension
and diabetes," he says. "The tests are simple to perform and
don't take much time. For example, only 34 percent of people
with hypertension have it under control. By screening for
it, dentists are in a position to help the other 66 percent,
many of whom don't even know they have it."
JADA has some 150,000 readers, making
it the largest dental journal in the world.
Glick took on the associate editorship of
JADA in part to promote his different vision of dentistry
to this large group. He believes the journal provides an excellent
forum for promoting a more medicine-oriented approach to dentistry.
"JADA's readership is very diverse,
including clinicians, researchers, students, and others,"
he explains. "Such a wide audience makes it a great place
to spread the word: we're not just treating teeth."
The other end of the spectrum
In contrast to JADA is the newsletter
of the American Academy of Oral Medicine: AAOM News.
Much more modest and "homegrown," it is published twice a
year and distributed to academy members, who number roughly
1,000. Michael Krakow, clinical associate professor of diagnostic
sciences, is editor of the publication. He says he's always
enjoyed writing and grammar, and describes his editorship
as a labor of love.
Krakow JOIned the NJDS faculty in January
2003, following a long and distinguished career in the Army.
After 25 years of service in the U.S. and all over the world,
most recently as chief of the oral medicine service at Walter
Reade Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, he retired as
a colonel. Following a four year stint teaching at Howard
University College of Dentistry, he came to NJDS, where he
is clinical associate professor in the Department of Diagnostic
He became editor of AAOM News after
many years of membership in AAOM. "Back then, the newsletter
was not all it should have been," he says.
"There were errors, and it looked amateurish
- not at all like a publication of a professional association."
He took it over in October 2002 and set about trying to improve
Krakow is a hands-on editor, to say the least.
He does much of the writing and editing himself, with other
members submitting articles for publication. He e-mails the
final files to the printer, a local shop in Closter, NJ. He
estimates that he spends between 60 and 100 hours on each
issue. He recently named Paul Vankevich, a colleague at Tufts
University, as the newsletter's official photographer and
A primary goal of the newsletter is to obtain
specialty recognition for oral medicine. (There are currently
nine specialties formally recognized by the American Dental
Association). "We feel very strongly that oral medicine should
be recognized as a specialty, and we're working hard to get
this designation," says Krakow. "The newsletter is a way to
demonstrate our growth and let our members know of our progress."
'How'm I doing?'
In dentistry, it isn't difficult to evaluate
the quality of someone's work. A tooth is filled, a complicated
procedure completed, and the patient goes about his or her
business. In publishing, however, it's a bit more complicated.
Manuscript submission is one benchmark. The
acceptance/rejection ratio is an important indicator of a
journal's importance in a given field. "When a journal is
really outstanding, researchers want to be published in it,"
says Holtzman. He says that Special Care in Dentistry receives
300 to 400 submissions a year, and publishes some 20 to 30
percent of them.
Genes and Immunity publishes approximately
one-third of all manuscripts received, says Gallagher. "You
have to be selective, and use some common sense too," he says.
"We need to publish studies with a large enough study population
to permit legitimate statistical analysis."
definitive evaluation is the impact factor: measurement of
how frequently papers in the journal are quoted by other scientists.
It is a ratio of the number of papers published in a specific
journal to the number of papers cited.
A Web search for journal citation reports brings up Journal
Citation Reports on the Web (JCRŽ on the Web), which "presents
statistical data that provides a systematic, objective way
to evaluate the world's leading journals and their impact
and influence in the global research community." The science
database covers some 7,500 leading international scientific
journals from all over the world.
Grant Gallagher explains the simple formula: "If you publish
10 papers and have 100 citations, your impact factor is 10.
The journals are ranked every year. The impact factor and
rankings change from year to year. You can compare yourself
to other journals in your field."
In 2003, Genes and Immunity received an impact factor of
3.8, which Gallagher describes as "high." He says, "We have
consistently received the highest impact factor of all the
immunogenetics journals (there are half a dozen or so), and
are currently ranked 25th among all immunology journals, and
17th among immunology basic research journals overall." Not
bad grades at all for a journal, particularly such a specialized
one that counts its subscribers in the hundreds.
Report cards aside, all the editors agree that the hours
they put in are well worth the rewards they gain. "You work
hard on something like this, and try to improve it," says
Krakow. "It's not exactly what you were trained for. But it's
very gratifying when you see it's getting better and better."