Alan Eli Willner, Editor-in-Chief of Optics Letters from 2008–2013, reflects on his time leading the Journal and some of the major advancements made during that period.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

I had the distinct privilege and pleasure to serve our community as Editor-in-Chief of Optics Letters from 2008–2013. During that time, I gained a much deeper level of appreciation for the extremely high quality and selfless dedication of our wonderful publication staff and outstanding volunteer editors and reviewers. They inspired me to believe that Optics Letters represents our community at its best, striving to achieve significant impact on the world of optical science and engineering.

Life at Optics Letters was quite good, even from the mundane perspective of quantitative measures. During this period, the number of Topical Editors doubled, the number of submitted manuscripts doubled, there were 1 million article downloads per year, and we became more geographically and technically diverse than ever. This occurred while maintaining high-quality content and decreasing our submission-to-publication time from 107 days to 76 days.

As I think about this period, three issues that may seem simple do stand out as being somewhat impactful:

  • 1. Instituting Deputy Editors: Based on the avuncular advice of my predecessor, Tony Campillo, we instituted a tier of three Deputy Editors. This was done mostly due to the dramatic increase in manuscript submissions, which had made it increasingly difficult to deal effectively with maintaining the Journal’s high standards. These original three Deputy Editors—Antonio Mecozzi, Brian Pogue, and Jinendra Ranka—were instrumental, and they were all scholars who worked tirelessly and fair-mindedly for the benefit of our community. We were partners in regular contact, and I relied on their valuable wisdom. We maintained our comitment to serve the community and to our high quality, and the transition was seamless to the authors, reviewers, and readers.
  • 2. Increasing Article Pages: In what may have been the simplest change implemented to Optics Letters in this time period, the page limit was increased from three to four pages, which had a dramatic and positive impact. This allowed authors the ability to more fully describe their results and cite relevant prior works. We saw an enthusiastic embrace of the new page limit and a significant increase in submissions.
  • 3. Complementing Other Journals: During this time, Optics Express had grown beyond almost anyone’s initial expectations, and the as-yet-unnamed Optica was going through the approval process at OSA. Optics Letters leadership took the position that whatever was good for our community was also good for Optics Letters. We recognized that high-quality work may be better served by Optics Express if a longer treatment would benefit readers, and we hoped that Optica would provide our authors with a complementary venue for their high-impact work.

Importantly, I was deeply moved by the respect that OSA publications staff showed both to our excellent volunteers and for the technical quality we all hold dear at Optics Letters.

I sincerely hope that our community will benefit from the excellent scholarship of Optics Letters for many years to come, and I applaud Xi-Cheng Zhang for his outstanding leadership of this year’s anniversary celebration of Optics Letters.

Warmly and respectfully submitted,

Alan Eli Willner
Editor-in-Chief, Optics Letters (2008–2013)
University of Southern California

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