It has been almost six months since the JOT Editor-in-Chief, Oscar Nierstrasz, asked me to take care of the JOT Special Sections. It was, I remember, in Zurich, while attending yet another interesting TOOLS conference, and one of the first questions that came to my mind was: Why should anybody want to organize a special section for JOT?
Trying to answer this question motivated me to look for the real raisons d’être for JOT sections, to find out their distinguishing features, and to identify the major advantages they could bring to the community working on Object Technologies. As I soon realized, two of the major advantages of JOT, when compared to other publishing venues, are its timeliness and quality. And they are both essential properties of Special Sections, as we shall see below.
Normally, the main sources for JOT Special Sections are, of course, the conferences and workshops devoted to topics within the scope of the journal (which, by the way, is much broader than most people think, because it encompasses all aspects of Object Technology; see the JOT mission at http://www.jot.fm).
Nowadays there are a myriad of high-quality events with very good papers, which provide excellent snapshots of the research being carried out in most fields. However, it is impossible for the average researcher to read all these workshop and conference papers to keep himself up-to-date. This is precisely where special sections can be so useful: they offer a small selection of the best papers from these events, in particular those papers which are mature enough to present valuable, persistent and distinctive contributions. In addition, an editorial paper from the Guest Editors introduces each topic to distill the main ideas and results discussed during the meeting.
However, this alone is not enough for Special Sections to be useful: the papers also have to be timely! There is no point in reading a paper from a conference or a workshop two years after it was held (and almost three years after it was written). In this respect, JOT can be of great help. In 2010, the renewed JOT journal moved to a new publication model in which there is no pipeline of accepted papers waiting to be published — instead, accepted papers appear as soon as the final camera-ready copy is provided. In addition, we have established a review process for special sections that is able to have papers ready for publication no more than nine months after the conference (including 5 months for preparing the extended versions of the papers), which is much more reasonable.
Another important requirement for the success of Special Sections is to have a thorough and careful review process. This is not only essential for ensuring the quality of the published papers, but it also provides a valuable service to authors. If a paper has been selected, it is because the Guest Editors think that it contains valuable ideas, and that it can be evolved into a mature journal article within a reasonable timeframe. In this respect, it is the job of the Guest Editors and the reviewers of a Special Section paper to help it improve smoothly until it reaches the required level of quality — preferably working more as shepherds and advisors for the paper than as critical judges of it.
Finally, publishing a Special Section with selected papers from a conference or workshop can also be very valuable and rewarding for Guest Editors. They have the opportunity not only to organize the event and select the papers that will be presented, but a Special Section also gives them the chance to prepare a summary for the community; this will introduce the key ideas and concepts from the topic, distill the most valuable discussions held during the event, and will also give prominence to the most significant works presented during the meeting developed to become mature, high-quality journal papers. This is a really valuable service to the community.
In the case of JOT, we have been quite successful so far at attracting Special Sections. Most of them come from events held this year (2011), and are expected to see the light during the first semester of 2012. Others are already planned from 2012 conferences.
- New Mechanisms for Object Oriented Languages (Best papers of ICOOOLPS and MASPEGHI 2010). Guest editors: Markku Sakkinen and Olivier Zendra).
- Refactoring and Testing (Best papers of REFTEST 2011). Guest editors: Steve Counsel and Stephen Swift.
- Object Technology (Best papers of TOOLS Europe 2011). Guest editors: Judith Bishop and Antonio Vallecillo.
- Model Comparison in Practice (Best papers of IWMCP 2011). Guest editors: Dimitris Kolovos, Davide Di Ruscio and Alfonso Pierantonio.
- Model Transformations (Best papers of ICMT 2011). Guest editors: Jordi Cabot and Eelco Visser.
- Object Technology (Best papers of TOOLS Europe 2012). Guest editors: Sebastian Nanz and Carlo Furia.
We are currently preparing a new set of Special Sections. If you recently organized a conference or a workshop, and are thinking of organizing a Special Section, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are also working on how to make the job easier for Guest Editors, and have prepared a set of resources that aim to help editors: FAQ documents, guidelines, template invitation letters, review forms, etc.
In summary, these past months have been very busy, preparing the supporting infrastructure and organizing the forthcoming special sections for JOT, which we expect you to find useful and interesting. But publishing valuable Special Sections is a collective effort, whose success or failure depends on us all, so please keep your proposals coming! I am sure the readers of this journal will appreciate it very much.