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New Journal Editor Takes The Helm At The Annals Of Epidemiology

Seeks To Be First Choice For Authors Using Epidemiology As A Tool For Addressing Important Problems

Patrick Sullivan, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Emory University and former CDC epidemiologist in the HIV/AIDS Division, has been appointed the new editor of the Annals of Epidemiology effective January 2018. Sullivan served as an associate editor at the Annals for five years before assuming his new role.

Sullivan replaces Rich Rothenberg, an Emory colleague, who served as editor for many years. “I have great respect for Rich’s leadership at the Journal,” Sullivan told The Epidemiology Monitor, and “it is an honor to serve after him. He and the associate editors at the Annals have built an impressive organization.”

Broad Scope

Sullivan told the Monitor he conceives of epidemiology as a tool which can

address many areas of interest and he sees the Journal as reflecting such a broad use of epidemiology on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer as well as other topics such as social determinants of health and health equity issues. He emphasized the importance of foundational activities in epidemiology such as surveillance, and noted that good descriptive epidemiology can lead to many novel contributions.

ACE Connection

According to Sullivan, the journal’s connection with the American College of Epidemiology (ACE)  is important and many ideas for the Journal come from that partnership, including one last year which resulted in a special issue on geospatial epidemiology. He said it is an example of the journal’s interest in publishing broadly interesting applications to important problems.

Applied Focus

Sullivan told the Monitor that the Annals is interested in publishing epidemiologic work that influences health programs or innovative work that demonstrates the importance of epidemiologic methods in addressing real problems. While the journal is not primarily interested in epidemiologic methods, it is interested in practical and innovative applications of epidemiology to real world health problems.


Asked about the guidance he receives as editor from the American College of Epidemiology, Sullivan said the College has a publications committee and that this is the primary communication channel between the College and the journal. The discussions with the committee are very collegial and not very directive. It is clear to him, said Sullivan, that the College’s main interest is in serving the interests of the profession and College members. The journal also assists with the education functions of the College by producing “teaching papers” and making it easy to use them.

Elsevier Guidance

The guidance from Elsevier, the publisher of the Journal, is mostly on operational rather than editorial matters, according to Sullivan. There is no day-to-day or month-to-month guidance, but the publisher does seek to help the journal take advantage of opportunities to improve features. For example, the publisher can assist in creating innovative ways the journal can interact with authors and readers.

Editorial Guidance

The editorial content of the Annals is mostly driven by the associate editors who are very diverse and dedicated, said Sullivan. They prioritize topics for the Journal and represent its real editorial capacity. The associate editors look at papers and shape the scientific character of the journal.

Journal Statistics

The Annals receives approximately 6-700 papers per year and publishes approximately 100 of these or about 15%. The journal seeks to provide a timely response and helpful comments to all authors while achieving a high level of quality papers. The latest statistics show that the first response from the journal takes about 8 weeks and a final decision is rendered in 11 weeks. The timeliness of publication can be much shorter for online publication. The impact factor is 2.6 and has been rising since 2014. Other measures of impact should also be considered said Sullivan such as the high interest in special issues and the teaching contributions made for young investigators.


Sullivan took over the helm of the journal only in January 2018 and said his vision for the journal is still taking shape. He is interested in working to develop better metrics to assess the journal’s performance and producing more special issues. He wants to use the available data about the journal to get insights about how to improve it. He is interested in making the accepted papers available as soon as possible and increasing the opportunities to interact electronically with users of the journal. In short, he would like to make the journal more dynamic.


Asked about what message he might want to share with the epidemiology community, Sullivan said that in this era of big data, epidemiology is critical. He would like to see the Annals become the first choice for authors using epidemiology as a tool for addressing important problems. And he wants users to know that the journal seeks to consistently provide timely responses and helpful comments.

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