All baseball players eventually hang up their cleats. After 18 years as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (JOCN), I have decided it is time for me to retire from the game. I am thrilled to be handing the ball off to Brad Postle, who has been an Associate Editor at JOCN for over 10 years. I have the utmost confidence that JOCN will thrive under Brad's leadership and he will guide it in new and exciting directions. Thirty-two years ago, Mike Gazzaniga founded JOCN, laying out a roadmap with these words:
In the past 10 years, there have been many developments in sciences concerned with the study of mind. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the gradual realization that the sub-disciplines committed to the effort such as cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science and philosophy should not exist alone and that each has much to gain by interacting. Those cognitive scientists interested in a deeper understanding of how the human mind works now believe that it is maximally fruitful to propose models of cognitive processes that can be assessed in neurobiologic terms. Likewise, it is no longer useful for neuroscientists to propose brain mechanisms underlying psychological processes without actually coming to grips with the complexities of psychological processes involved in any particular mental capacity being examined. This Journal is for those investigators working in the various disciplines that realize this important dimension of their work.
During my time at the helm, the field of cognitive neuroscience grew rapidly, and scientific publishing changed drastically. When I began as Editor-in-Chief, we were still mailing hard copies of manuscripts to reviewers, who in turn would send hard copies of their reviews back to us, which we would then send to the authors. Today, online submission and review of manuscripts has replaced all of that. However, efficiency sometimes comes with a price, and we soon found that online submissions led to an overwhelming number of manuscripts submitted, which we did not have the capacity to handle. For this reason, we were forced to be selective in the papers we chose to send out for review, reflecting the realities of the new world of scientific publishing. There was also an explosion of new scientific journals. In 1989, JOCN was the first journal dedicated to publishing cognitive neuroscience research. Today, at my last count, there are over 75 journals (10 with the word “cognitive” in the title) that publish cognitive neuroscience papers! These journals span many different disciplines ranging from neuroscience, psychology, medicine, philosophy, ethics, law, and methods. This explosion of outlets for publishing cognitive neuroscience research begs the question—how does one choose what journal to submit to? A reason to choose JOCN has always been that it represents the cognitive neuroscience community. Our papers are reviewed and edited by our peers, and the policies it implements have evolved based on feedback from our community. We will always publish issues that have a balanced representation of different approaches (e.g., patient studies, ERP, fMRI) that ask questions about the mind that span many domains. We have always avoided populating our journal with papers dominated by one approach or question, especially any that is the most popular at that point in time.
Our wonderful publisher, MIT Press, has never told us how to run JOCN, which has given us the freedom to be innovative and take risks. For example, in 2001, in collaboration with the National fMRI Data Center, housed at Dartmouth College, we bit the bullet and decided to require sharing of fMRI data for papers published in JOCN. Unfortunately, no other journal joined us in this effort at that time, despite us reaching out to them to do so. To our surprise, we experienced pushback to our decision, resulting in a decrease in the number of fMRI papers being submitted to JOCN for consideration for publication. In retrospect, the cognitive neuroscience community was not ready for mandatory data sharing. However, the story has a happy ending, given that almost all journals today have such a requirement, and our discipline has now embraced data sharing. I know that Brad has other innovative ideas in mind that he would like JOCN to implement, which also may be ahead of their time, such as preregistered reports and conscious efforts of reducing gender bias in citation practices. I encourage him to continue to take risks that can lead to positive changes in scientific publishing.
Finally, JOCN has always maintained a close relationship with the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. We have done this in numerous ways including drawing upon its members to be editors, editors on our board, and reviewers. Our most successful collaboration with the Society has been the yearly publication of a collection of papers that we call a “Special Focus.” These papers come out of symposia from the Society's annual meeting and are organized by the chair of each particular symposium. We have also always been open to ideas generated by anyone in the cognitive neuroscience community to publish a special issue on a timely topic or in honor of someone who has made great contributions to our discipline.
The process of how scientists communicate with each other, as well as the public, to advance knowledge about the function of the human brain continues to evolve. Whatever form scientific publishing takes in the future, there will always be a need for dedicated and thoughtful editors and reviewers. We have been blessed with the very best. I am forever grateful to all of the Associate Editors who have worked with me, with most of them having been with me throughout my entire tenure as Editor-in-Chief. I am also extremely grateful to the thousands of reviewers who made it possible to publish the highest quality cognitive neuroscience research. Thirty-one years later, JOCN continues to be the flagship journal of our discipline, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will always be an important player for shaping the evolution of the discipline of cognitive neuroscience.