New IOVS editor-in-chief maps out the road forward


Joe Carroll, PhD, FARVOOn Jan. 1, 2023, Joseph Carroll, PhD, FARVO (Medical College of Wisconsin) began his five-year term as the 13th editor-in-chief (EIC) of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS). One of ARVO’s three open access, peer-reviewed online journals, IOVS features leading clinical and laboratory ophthalmic and vision research.


Dr. Carroll sat down recently with ARVONews to share his roadmap for the journal going forward.

ARVONews: IOVS has been around since 1962. With the launch of ARVO's Translational Vision Science & Technology (TVST) journal in 2012, some might debate that an overlap in scope was introduced. As the new EIC, what is your opinion of the current scope of IOVS? Would you like to make any adjustments?


IOVS exists to serve both the entire ARVO membership and the broader vision community – this will not change under my term as EIC. However, as research evolves, so must the scope of IOVS (and any journal for that matter). Technologies like gene editing, artificial intelligence, cellular-resolution retinal imaging, and proteomics are just some examples of things that did not exist when IOVS was founded in 1962 but are in widespread use today. Manuscripts using these or other emerging technologies are generally welcome at IOVS.


We have made some minor clarifying edits to the scope to help authors determine if IOVS is a good fit for their manuscript (regardless of the methodology used). Included are “original contributions that report clinical or laboratory hypothesis-based research with statistically valid results that clearly advance our knowledge of normal or abnormal processes impacting the visual system. For purely descriptive research, we will consider well-designed studies that provide novel or important insight into the structure and/or function of the visual system (normal or pathological).”


The launch of TVST has been a success, providing the vision science community with another high-quality open-access publishing option. With this however has come confusion from authors, reviewers, and editors alike as to the boundary in scope between IOVS and TVST. The difference in scope between IOVS and TVST is more nuanced than simply “basic” vs. “clinical”, and “translational” research is broad and ever-expanding terminology to some. As such, Dr. Roy Chuck (TVST's new Editor-in-Chief) and I have come up with a few examples of the types of studies that might fit best in one journal versus the other. We are asking that authors consider this guidance on scope (summarized below) and carefully choose which journal they determine to be the best home for their manuscript:


We ask authors to choose TVST if the purpose of the study is to develop and/or validate a clinical biomarker, the study is reporting results from a registered clinical trial (though results from a thorough natural history study that advance understanding of disease process/mechanism would also fit in IOVS), the study is focused on outcomes and effectiveness in populations, the study aims to develop clinical guidelines or relates to the detection, diagnosis, or management of disease, the study describes the development or validation of an animal model, or a dataset or software is being deposited with the manuscript paper as part of the Data Science section.


We ask authors to choose IOVS if the study is on a clinical or normative population AND advances fundamental understanding of visual system structure and/or function, the study provides insight into disease mechanism (including characterizing structure-function relationships), the study elucidates genotype-phenotype correlations or identifies novel genetic causes of eye disease, the study uses an animal or tissue or cell model to gain insight on normal ocular physiology, biochemical processes, disease mechanism, etc. If authors have questions about whether their manuscript is within the scope of IOVS, they can email me at with a pre-submission enquiry.


ARVONews: What do you view as IOVS' strengths? Any plans for improvement?


Thanks to my predecessor (Donald Hood, PhD, FARVO), IOVS is in a good place, with numerous strengths. As such, there isn’t much that needs to be changed! I think the biggest strength is the quality of the editorial board. I am very fortunate that 83% of the entire editorial board has agreed to continue serving the journal. In addition, I have welcomed seven new Associate Editors and 42 new Editorial Board Members. The number of Associate Editors has increased from nine to 15, now representing six different countries (compared to three previously). The Editorial Board Members have also increased from 90 to 114. Their combined scientific expertise and commitment to service is truly remarkable.


Another strength that most people do not see is the outstanding ARVO staff that supports the journal. This is an impressive group of individuals who work tirelessly to ensure that IOVS (and TVST and JOV) remain in good shape. I have enjoyed working with them as an author, reviewer, Editorial Board Member and Associate Editor, and very much look forward to their support as I take on the Editor-in-Chief role.


ARVONews: There are some publications that report very quick peer-review times. What are your thoughts on speed vs. quality? In other words, how fast can the peer review process be streamlined without affecting quality?


I firmly believe the peer review process can and should be streamlined significantly without compromising quality. Using LEAN methodology, IOVS staff and I have identified numerous areas within our system that add time to the process without any real benefit to the peer review itself. This is what we call “non-value added” time, and this has been my initial focus as EIC. The “value added” portion of peer review (actual review by reviewers and editors) will largely remain unchanged. However, I think this is a good thing – our average reviewer turn-around (i.e., time from accepting the assignment to submitting their review) was 14 days in 2021 and 2022. This is better than many of the journals promoting themselves as “express,” and suggests that any delays in the IOVS peer review system reside largely in the time before and after the actual peer review.


For example, efforts are underway to improve the algorithms used to “match” reviewers with manuscripts, which will assist our EBMs in identifying appropriate reviewers for a given manuscript. We also are working to expand and diversify our reviewer database. These and other efforts will help reduce the time to first decision without affecting the overall quality of the peer review itself.


Speaking of quality, our Editorial Board Members and Associate Editors grade the quality of every review we receive. Many reviewers have received a commendation of having provided an “Exceptionally Good Review”, our highest ranking. I’d like to share that IOVS received over 4,000 peer reviews in 2021 and 2022. Of these, over 75% were graded as “Good” or “Exceptionally Good” — evidence that the quality of peer review is a real strength of IOVS.