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By Benjamin F. Gibson and Christopher Wesselborg
Nuclear physics was a growing and changing field in 1970 when the original Physical Review journal gave birth to four children: Physical Review A-D. Out of that split came Physical Review C, which has since become the pre-eminent journal of nuclear science.
One only has to look at the past nearly 50 years, in which Physical Review C has featured myriad nuclear physics developments: investigation of the structure of the proton; research that led to the Nobel prize for observing solar neutrino oscillations; the evolution in measurement of the neutron electric dipole moment; characterization of the quark-gluon plasma; the role of the proton-neutron interaction in shape coexistence and fragility of magic numbers; and the continuing search for new isotopes, among many others. During this time the journal has more than doubled the number of published papers per year from initially about 500 to over 1000 last year.
An important factor in the strength of the journal was its growing reputation under the 30-year leadership of the first two long-term editors Heinz H. Barschall (1972-1988) and Sam M. Austin (1988-2002). They placed primary emphasis upon a knowledgeable review process, which attracted important research papers from around the world. That approach continues to this day.
Physical Review C has always been and continues to be an international journal. While in 1982 approximately 40% of the papers published were submitted by non-U.S.-based corresponding authors, by last year this number had increased to more than 75%. Similarly, the referee base has become significantly more international.
Other changes in the journal content reflect expanding research interests and the evolution in physicists’ approach to research. Owing to the trend toward larger and more complex international research collaborations the number of U.S.-submitted experimental papers has fallen slightly; in contrast, the number of non-U.S.-submitted papers has grown substantially. Moreover, the evolution in subject matter has followed the trend in research activities. Relativistic heavy-ion collision physics and nuclear astrophysics have exhibited the largest percentage growth. The classic areas of nuclear structure and nuclear reactions have remained strong but show a shift in focus to nuclei far from stability and investigations with radioactive beams.
The journal also introduced new article structures and article types. In order to improve information content and increase efficiency of computer searches Physical Review C introduced “structured abstracts” in 2011. A year later Physical Review C joined the other Physical Review journals in highlighting articles that the editors find particularly interesting or important by marking these as “Editors’ Suggestions.” These specially marked articles are posted on the journal’s home page along with a brief summary and link to the online version.
In January 2018, APS took an important step forward in open-access publishing by joining SCOAP3 (see APS News, December 2017 ). Under this agreement, high-energy physics articles published in Physical Review D, Physical Review Letters, and Physical Review C have been published fully open access (under a so-called CC-BY 4.0 license) at no additional cost to the authors or readers.
As another innovation, Physical Review C has embarked on an important experiment: Certain spectroscopic data are being checked, in collaboration with the National Nuclear Data Center at Brookhaven National Laboratory, for consistency in an effort to avoid having to publish corrections at a later date.
The field of nuclear physics has undergone continual change in the 49 years since Physical Review C was established. Yet the central goal of the journal has remained unchanged: to accept and publish those manuscripts that are scientifically sound and advance the field of nuclear physics. In that endeavor Physical Review C, the APS Division of Nuclear Physics, and the larger nuclear physics community owe a debt of gratitude to the outstanding scientists who have served as Associate Editors, Editorial Board members, and diligent referees of whom a few are recognized each year under the APS’s Outstanding Referees program .
Finally, the journal appreciates the many talented scientists who have entrusted Physical Review C with publishing their best research. The authors are truly the heart and soul of the journal.
Benjamin F. Gibson has served as Editor of Physical Review C since 2002. Christopher Wesselborg is the journal’s Managing Editor, having joined PRC in 1993.
 What You Need to Know: APS and SCOAP3, APS News, December 2017, go.aps.org/2j0eDqK.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
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