In the past 5 years, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT) has undergone dramatic changes and has been transformed into a solid research journal publishing many of the profession’s most significant research studies. Important changes include the move to online submission, peer review, and publication; a steady increase in the journal’s impact factor (IF) score; and a continuing increase in the amount and rigor of published intervention effectiveness studies. March 2012 marked the 2nd-year anniversary of the journal’s online submission, peer review, and publication process.
In 2012, AJOT received 234 manuscript submissions, the 3rd straight year in which the journal received more than 200 submissions. Our ability to publish a greater number of articles has increased with online publication. For the past 2 years, the journal has published six issues per year (available online and in print) and one supplemental issue reserved for official American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) documents (available online only). This format has allowed publication of approximately 90 articles per volume (see Table 1). A future goal of the journal continues to be publication of more online-only articles, along with a reduction of print articles, to decrease publication costs and increase available publication space.
Mirroring membership practice trends (AOTA, 2009), two practice areas continued to receive the greatest amount of research attention in 2012: (1) rehabilitation, disability, and participation and (2) children and youth. This research trend has remained consistent for the past 5 years and has underpinned the generation of much-needed empirical support for occupational therapy services in these practice areas.
To address the call for greater research in the practice area of productive aging, three special issues were published in 2012. For the March/April 2012 issue, Elizabeth W. Peterson, Marcia Finlayson, Sharon J. Elliot, and Jane A. Painter guest edited a special issue on occupational therapy opportunities in fall prevention for elderly clients, a unique compilation of empirical studies supporting the profession’s services in this specialty area. A special issue sponsored by the AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Project was featured in the May/June 2012 issue and provided support for the relationship between occupation and productive aging. In the September/October 2012 issue, Roseann C. Schaaf and Erna Imperatore Blanche guest edited a special issue on autism that produced almost half of the children and youth practice area articles published in this volume, including many of the most important autism studies in the profession.
In stark contrast, few or no research studies were published in 2012 addressing the practice areas of mental health and work and industry. Occupational therapy researchers must undertake studies addressing mental health and work and industry to enhance the profession’s roles in these practice areas, or we risk losing these domains (see Tables 2 and 3).
The year 2012 was the 3rd straight year in which intervention effectiveness studies were published in greater number than any other research type (see Tables 2 and 3). It also was the 3rd straight year in which Level I studies (based on AOTA Evidence-Based Practice Project; Lieberman & Sheer, 2002) were published in greater number than any other evidence level. What made 2012 unique, however, is that of the 18 Level I studies published, only 6 were systematic reviews; the other 12 studies used randomized, controlled designs. In 2010 and 2011, most of AJOT’s Level I studies were systematic reviews of evidence within the profession’s domain but generated by other professions. The 2012 volume was the first to break this trend and indicates the profession’s developmental progression of research skills: Occupational therapy researchers are beginning to generate studies examining practice that are characterized by higher levels of rigor and evidence.
Paralleling the increase in Level I studies, 2012 saw a similar increase in the number of studies receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other federal funding (see Table 4). That occupational therapy researchers are increasingly securing NIH or other federal funding for their research also supports the idea that the profession’s research skills are maturing. For the first time in the profession’s history, we now have a growing cadre of researchers trained in occupational therapy or rehabilitation science doctoral programs who are asking and answering questions about the effect of occupational therapy services and who are able to successfully compete for increasingly limited research funds. The emphasis on functional outcomes by insurers coupled with the increase in federally supported occupational therapy research may begin to bring long-deserved recognition of the profession’s unique contribution to health care.
The year 2012 also saw a continued increase in the journal’s IF—the score compiled by Journal Citation Reports (JCR) that reflects the number of times a journal is cited in 2- and 5-yr time periods (Table 5). AJOT is now ranked as the Number 16 journal in the Social Science Division of JCR. The steady increase in AJOT’s IF in the past 4 years reflects the enhanced level and rigor of the research studies published in it. In future years, AJOT’s IF will likely be influenced by the recent indexing of several other occupational therapy journals in JCR. When AJOT publications are cited in other occupational therapy journals indexed in JCR, AJOT’s IF increases. Thus, this addition of occupational therapy journals to JCR promotes the entire profession and provides acknowledgment for all occupational therapy research.
In the past 5 years, AJOT has achieved striking accomplishments:
The journal is now ranked Number 16 in the Social Science Division of JCR, and the IF has steadily increased.
The number of published research studies with high levels of rigor has consistently increased.
The number of published intervention effectiveness studies has consistently increased and has begun to provide a foundation of support for occupational therapy services.
The call for greater research in the area of productive aging has been addressed, as demonstrated by the increased number of publications in this practice area.
The number of published articles per volume has increased, promoting the dissemination of occupational therapy research.
To maintain and further advance these accomplishments, the following goals will be adopted:
Publication ahead of print or continuous publication options will be explored in 2013.
The journal’s current publication goals as stated in the Guidelines for Contributors to AJOT will be maintained.
Efforts to monitor and increase the IF will be continued.
Special issues will continue to be developed to address gaps in the profession’s evidence base.