Notes from the Editors: Introducing Physics

Published July 14, 2008  |  Physics 1, 1 (2008)  |  DOI: 10.1103/Physics.1.1

Anyone who has recently glanced at a library shelf of physics journals or browsed the literature online will instantly recognize both the increase in volume and the fragmentation of disciplines. How can a researcher stay on top of his or her own field, much less stay abreast of related areas that might harbor interdisciplinary gems? To address this, we begin a new publication, simply called Physics.

Anyone who has recently glanced at a library shelf of physics journals or browsed the literature online will instantly recognize both the increase in volume and the fragmentation of disciplines. How can a researcher stay on top of his or her own field, much less stay abreast of related areas that might harbor interdisciplinary gems? One way is to seek the counsel of experts, and so we begin a new publication, simply called Physics. Our goal is to highlight exceptional papers within the body of excellent research that the American Physical Society publishes each year in all of the Physical Review journals.

Each week, Physics will feature brief commentaries called Viewpoints that spotlight papers selected by the editors of the Physical Review on the basis of interest and importance. The selection process will be rigorous but not rigid – we will highlight papers that change the rules of the game, afford cross-disciplinary potential, or report a substantial breakthrough in a particular field. Once chosen, these papers will be explained and discussed by researchers noted for their knowledge of a field and ability to communicate. We are keen to provide context and foster understanding across fields, so that – for instance – a major finding in condensed matter physics becomes clear to a nuclear physicist. We hope that an advanced undergraduate can take home the message.

Longer articles called Trends will appear roughly every month to highlight a larger body of work that spans the past few years, and indicate what researchers in that field see as the key challenges and interesting questions. Trends are not intended to be comprehensive reviews (already available in the gold-standard publication, Reviews of Modern Physics) but overviews of recent results and where a particular field is headed. We also hope to cover especially fast-paced fields in which rapid-fire clusters of papers would benefit from the survey treatment. In addition, shorter staff-written summaries called Synopses will cover interesting papers selected by the editors of all the Physical Review journals.

Why Physics? We feel that it fills an important niche in the Physical Review ecosystem. At the core we have the exceptional research published by the Physical Review journals and Physical Review Letters, some 18,000 peer-reviewed papers last year. To bring this work to wider notice, every week the American Physical Society alerts journalists to these exciting research papers, to stimulate coverage in print and electronic news media. And broadening the audience further, the online website Physical Review Focus highlights research papers each week in short articles written by professional science writers. Physics now satisfies the need for comment and context written by independent scientific experts, for physicists and those in related fields.

We welcome your feedback by e-mail at physics@aps.org, and we plan to publish selected Letters to the Editor in future issues.

- David Voss, Editor