The Secret Life of New Journals

It is a little-known fact that the launch of the very first physical chemistry journal in 1887 in Germany was strongly opposed by the German chemical community, who considered the subject too unpopular to warrant its own journal. A young Wilhelm Ostwald* was persuaded to launch Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie only after getting wind of a competing project. The publication rapidly became the reference journal for physical chemistry and continues to this day.

Modern chemical publishing bears a superficial resemblance to Ostwald’s landscape. As before, a community benefits when its articles are curated within discipline-specific journals. In addition, modernized articles are entities on a rich digital landscape from which all manner of trends may be deduced with the right tools.

At ChemPubSoc Europe, editor Dr. Greta Heydenrych is tasked with researching vacancies in the publishing portfolio and establishing new journals. Heydenrych has been closely involved in the operation of five journals since she first joined the editorial team in 2007, four of which are new journals for which she has overseen the launch : ChemElectroChem, ChemPhotoChem, Batteries & Supercaps, and ChemSystemsChem.

Identifying the Needs of the Chemical Community

Heydenrych makes full use of the data at her disposal when researching opportunities for new journals. For instance, she tracks the trajectory of papers that are rejected by high-tier journals such as Angewandte Chemie, and sister journals; and she determines whether those “lost” articles have any theme in common. Subjects that do not find a home in the existing portfolio indicate potential for a new journal. She also evaluates growth in a research field alongside publication output in that field. Rapidly growing research areas may signal the need for a dedicated journal, and in fact, that is how ChemElectroChem came about.

All of this entails gathering and analyzing a lot of data, which aligns perfectly with Heydenrych’s interests and background in computational chemistry. “Data mining, it’s the best part of the job,” says Heydenrych. “Because I get to program, I get to plot graphs, and I like doing that.”

The data that Heydenrych gathers forms the basis of a feasibility study that is submitted to a team responsible for publishing development. The decision to launch lies with a committee consisting of representatives from various parts of the publishing house, including marketing, peer review operations, and the in-house editorial office. The ChemPubSoc Europe Council and the European chemical societies that own the 16 ChemPubSoc Europe publications, are important collaborators in this process too. Once a new journal is sanctioned, chairpersons, board members, and editors are engaged, with input from the owner societies, and several other colleagues get involved in setting up the infrastructure for the journal, such as the submission system, marketing, and online presence.


Good marketing is essential to convince authors that a journal is worth publishing in, and part of ChemPubSoc Europe’s guarantee to authors is the worldwide dissemination of results coupled with a consistent marketing presence. Accepted articles that are flagged as very or highly important by referees are promoted across all available channels; including Twitter, WeChat, social media, and regular newsletters that are distributed by the publishing house. Editors play an important role at every stage of this work, first as mediators in the peer review process, then as curators of articles into attractive packages (such as Special Issues in which articles are assembled around a common theme), and finally as spokespeople for the journal.

Editorial board chairpersons and members are crucial partners in a journal’s operation and advocacy, explains Heydenrych. They provide advice and ideas for the direction of a journal, submit good manuscripts, are very active referees, guest editors, and promoters within their research communities. Although board members cannot devote all of their energy to their journals in the way that an editor does, a proactive and interactive editor– board-member relationship ensures the good health of a journal. In 2019, readers will have a unique insight into the vision of board members associated with ChemPhysChem, ChemPhotoChem, and ChemSystemsChem. A “Meet the Board” Special Collection will compile commentaries from board members regarding the development of their respective fields and their vision for its cultivation in universities.

Caption: Members of the journal launch team and the editorial team associated with the chemistry journals ChemPhysChem, ChemElectroChem, ChemPhotoChem, Batteries & Supercaps, and since September 2018, ChemSystemsChem. Click here to meet the editorial team.

Understanding Impact Factors and Indexing

The modern scientific publishing landscape is populated by both legitimate and predatory journals. In this environment, researchers are reassured of a journal’s reputation if it has an impact factor and is indexed on Scopus or Web of Science databases. Of course, a new journal will have none of these characteristics, and for this reason, Heydenrych is bemused when authors ask about the impact factors and indexing of brand new journals. “I think there are lots of things about indexing that people are unaware of,” she says.

Researchers turn to the annual journal citations report (JCR) released by Clarivate Analytics for journal impact factors, which are defined as “a measure of the frequency with which the ‘average article’ in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period.” Journal impact factors are calculated on the basis of two years of citable publications; that is, a journal will not obtain an impact factor until it has entered its third year of life.

In this light, it is clear that arbitrary impact factor caps imposed by funding agencies limit a researcher’s publication options. Young researchers, in particular, are impeded by such measures, which restrict the number of journals in which they can publish at a critical phase of their career. The 16 European chemical societies that receive royalties from the publication of ChemPubSoc Europe journals also suffer under such caps, suggests Heydenrych.

Scopus and Web of Science have raised their requirements for inclusion so as to weed out predatory journals, and consequently, it now takes longer for legitimate journals to appear on these databases. Inclusion is not automatic and requires an application, explains Heydenrych. “The burden of proof is on the publisher to show that this is a serious and legitimate journal,” she says. In the case of Scopus, applications are only entertained once the journal has been published for two years.

The three new journals under Heydenrych’s care—ChemPhotoChem, Batteries & Supercaps, and ChemSystemsChem—have not yet received their first impact factors as they are all under two years old and are at different stages of maturity. ChemPhotoChem, which launched in 2016, is already indexed on Web of Science and has just submitted a Scopus application. Batteries & Supercaps, which started in 2018, has an application running with the Web of Science, and ChemSystemsChem recently put out a call for papers and will publish its first issue in 2019.

Welcome ChemSystemsChem!

Heydenrych’s eyes light up when she talks about the newest addition to the ChemPubSoc Europe portfolio, ChemSystemsChem. She has received very positive feedback for the journal at conferences and is confident that the systems chemistry community is ready for a dedicated journal.

For the uninitiated, systems chemistry studies organization of chemical reactions into functional complex molecular systems. Editorial Board Chairperson, Prof. Ludovic Jullien, calls it: “a most intellectually challenging area and a virgin field for adventurers.” The field includes research areas such as prebiotic chemistry—the chemical systems from which life originates, reaction networks present in autocatalysis and catalytic cascades, and supramolecular chemistry. Heydenrych sees great potential for growth in the latter because one of the ways in which interacting parts may be built up is through supramolecular chemistry. She explains: “And there what one sees is responsive materials that respond in different ways depending on the stimuli that they receive.”

Caption: The subject scope of ChemSystemsChem and the journal’s executive team.

ChemSystemsChem will also cover the many methods that are needed to monitor, record, and interpret emerging behavior, and it will encompass statistical modeling and other advanced computational techniques that allow insight and replication of complex systems.

Editorial Board Chairperson Prof. Wilhelm Huck considers systems chemistry a field requiring diverse expertise, saying: “Systems chemistry is emerging as a major sub-discipline, drawing researchers with experience in physical organic chemistry, synthesis, supramolecular chemistry, and materials science, as well as computational scientists, and those with an interest in biochemical problems.” Heydenrych believes that multidisciplinary journals, such as ChemSystemsChem, will become the preferred publication venue for authors in the future. “It’s going to sound a bit paradoxical,” she laughs, “but as people are becoming more interdisciplinary, I think they need journals that are interdisciplinary in a specialized way.”

Checking in on ChemPhotoChem and Batteries & Supercaps

Fundamental research remains important, believes Heydenrych, even as the focus of modern chemical research favors applications-oriented discovery and development. Photochemistry is a perfect example of a specialized discipline with relevance to numerous research fields, and in this area, Heydenrych is proud to say that ChemPhotoChem showcases photochemistry “in its whole spectrum” and not just as a technique. “We’re trying to show that photochemistry is a field that is dynamic and on the move,” she says, and the strategy appears to be working, as the reputation of the journal is growing.

Over at Batteries & Supercaps an early editorial decision to select good quality, investigative articles, is starting to reap rewards. Material performance is a major focus of battery-related journals, and consequently, many articles appearing in this field report incremental improvements. As a point of difference, Batteries & Supercaps delves into the how and why of battery and supercapacitor performance. “The field has reached a point where this is becoming important,” says Heydenrych, and from what researchers tell her this approach is already finding favor within the community.

A Commitment to Quality

Heydenrych takes a long view of the challenges faced by new journals, saying: “We commit to quality. If you want to set the journal apart, and if you want to make sure that this journal has a unique identity, then you have to have a plan.” At all stages of a journal’s life good-quality submissions are a gesture of trust on the part of the researcher; an investment into the future of the journal and the community that it serves. “Those good quality submissions come from people who already know us,” says Heydenrych confidently. “They know what we stand for and they know what ChemPubSoc Europe is about.”

By Kim Meyer

* Wilhelm Ostwald, winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibria, and reaction velocities, is widely considered one of the fathers of physical chemistry.

Meet the Editorial Team

The editors supporting ChemPhysChem, ChemElectroChem, ChemPhotoChem, Batteries & Supercaps, and ChemSystemsChem have accumulated experience as chemical researchers across six continents.

Dr. Fabian Bebensee joined Wiley-VCH in 2016 as an Assistant Editor for ChemPhysChem. He did his Ph.D. thesis under the supervision of Prof. Hans-Peter Steinrück and Prof. Michael Gottfried at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, on metal–polymer interfaces using surface science techniques. Fabian went on to do a postdoc in the group of Prof. Flemming Besenbacher and Assoc. Prof. Trolle Linderoth at Aarhus University, Denmark, where he investigated on-surface reactions using scanning tunneling microscopy, and with Prof. Christof Wöll at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, studying molecular adsorption on, and exciton generation in, bulk single crystals using IRRAS. Fabian has a broad interest in surface science, which he brings to his role as an Associate Editor at ChemPhysChem. In addition to spending time with his young family, Fabian enjoys playing table tennis and competes with his team in the “1. Pfalzliga”.

Dr. Greta Heydenrych has been with Wiley-VCH for over ten years. She started out as an Assistant Editor for ChemPhysChem where she is now the Editor-in-Chief. She served as the Editor-in-Chief of ChemElectroChem from 2014 to 2018. Her work also entails the development of the society publishing program, resulting in the recent launch of ChemPhotoChem, Batteries & Supercaps, and ChemSystemsChem. Greta did her Ph.D. at the University of Stellenbosch on homogeneous catalysis and computational chemistry under the tutelage of Professors Jan Dillen and Helgard Raubenheimer, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. In the year before joining Wiley-VCH, she was a postdoc at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany, in the group of Prof. Gernot Frenking, where she studied structure–property relations of small molecules and organometallic compounds. In her spare time, she rides road or mountain bike.

Dr. Kate Lawrence completed her Master’s degree in Chemistry for Drug Discovery and a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Bath, UK, supervised by Prof. Tony James and Prof. Frank Marken. She also spent some time with the group of Prof. Jianzhang Zhao at the State Key Laboratory of Fine Chemicals, Dalian University of Technology, China. Her main research focus was on the synthesis and functionalization of carbon nanoparticles for fluorescence and electrochemical sensing applications, which formed the basis of her current scientific interests, spanning materials science, physical and electrochemistry, as well as device fabrication and real-life applications. Kate joined Wiley-VCH in 2013, where she is now the Editor-in-Chief of ChemElectroChem and ChemistryOpen, as well as an integral member of the physical chemistry team.

Dr. Deanne Nolan obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2011 from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland, under the supervision of Prof. Sylvia M. Draper, working on the synthesis and spectroscopic characterization of organometallic and nitrogen-containing polyaromatic hydrocarbons. In 2012 she joined the group of Prof. Luisa De Cola at the Université de Strasbourg to do postdoctoral research on light-emitting materials for application in OLEDs. Deanne joined Wiley-VCH in 2014 and spent two years at Angewandte Chemie before joining the editorial team at ChemPhotoChem as an Associate Editor when the journal was launched in Summer 2016.

Dr. Xin Su received his B.Sc. in chemistry from Nankai University in 2009. He then moved to the USA and conducted graduate research on hydrazone-based molecular switches and functional materials at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA, where he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 2013. Following postdoctoral training at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, USA, he worked as an Associate Editor for Wiley-VCH’s materials science journals, including Advanced Materials, from 2015 to 2017. After spending a year at SpringerNature as a Senior Editor of Nature Chemistry, Xin joined the editorial team of Angewandte Chemie and Batteries & Supercaps in 2018. Xin fulfills his duties as a Senior Associate Editor from the In-house Editorial Offices in China.

Dr. Kira Welter studied chemistry at the University of the Andes, Mérida, Venezuela. After working for two years at an energy company, she moved to Germany with a DAAD scholarship where she obtained her Ph.D. in electrochemistry from the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, under the supervision of Prof. Joachim Walter Schultze and Dr. Georgi Staikov, for research on electrodeposition and physical chemistry of semiconductors. She joined ChemPhysChem in 2004, for which she is now a Senior Associate Editor. Kira has experience as a science writer and has covered interesting research for several outlets. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing the piano, zumba workout, and spending time with her family.

Dr. Mathias Wiechen completed a Ph.D. thesis on the investigation of manganese oxides for bioinspired water oxidation catalysis at the University of Kiel, Germany, with Prof. Philipp Kurz. Two postdocs followed: one with Prof. Leone Spiccia at Monash University on a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which focused on integrated devices for sunlight-driven water splitting for production of solar fuels, and the other with Prof. Matthias Drieß at Technische Universität Berlin, which focused on heterogenizing photocatalytic reaction pathways. Mathias’ scientific interests lie in sustainable catalytic systems and primarily those used in energy conversion and storage. In 2018, Mathias joined the Batteries & Supercaps team as an Assistant Editor.

Correction (October 16, 2020)
The text was changed to correct the first name of Prof. Kurz.