Introduction and plans for the future

Published in volume 17, issue 2, June 2007

This is my first editorial after taking over the journal in October of last year. Assuming the responsibility for a successful major journal like STVR is both exhilarating and daunting. It seems just a few weeks ago I was a student, wondering if I could ever get journals like TSE or CACM to publish my papers, but it has actually been 20 years. One of the most exciting events in that time was the creation of STVR in 1991. Authors and readers of STVR owe a debt of gratitude to Derek Yates for founding the journal, to Lee White for serving as North American editor for 16 years, and Martin Woodward for serving as editor-in-chief for 15 years. They created and built an excellent journal that has greatly helped the field of software testing. At a more personal level, I am grateful for the confidence that both Martin and Lee showed in asking me to take over first as North American editor, then as editor-in-chief.

This is an exciting time. We are entering a golden age in software testing, verification and reliability. The amount of research has proliferated as the number of researchers has grown, testing techniques have matured, numerous conferences and workshops have been created, and high quality testing tools are being sold by vendors and used by practitioners. Most importantly, software companies are taking testing seriously. For much of my career, economics have meant that software did not need to work reliably. Users bought and used software, no matter how bad it was. Thankfully, the market is changing. Software has become more competitive, we are putting software into situations where large amounts of money and human lives are at risk, we are embedding software into devices that consumers expect to work perfectly, and e-commerce means that businesses succeed or fail based on the quality of the software. On top of all this is the crucial factor of security: most security vulnerabilities today arise from software faults. Taken together, this means that what researchers and educators are selling (how to build better software), has become essential to the success of most major software companies.

As testing, verification and reliability are more important to the software industry, the journal of Software Testing, Verification and Reliability has a greater responsibility than ever before to publish useful research in building better software. In that context, let me describe some of the changes I hope to bring to the journal. As evident from the journal's web site (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/softwaretesting), the editorial board now has 40 members, 25 of whom are new. Please join me in welcoming all new members. The editorial board is comprised of recognized leaders in software engineering, and is essential to the journal in many ways, including updating the aims and scope of the journal. I invite all readers to review the new version on the website.

We have many more plans for the future. One of my goals is to speed up response to authors. Authors deserve a response within 3 months, and a reviewing process of more than 6 months is a serious problem. The journal will be monitoring the responsiveness of reviewers and when reviewers are too slow, we will find alternative reviews. High quality and timely reviewing is essential to the success of any journal.

The most significant change will be in the way STVR processes papers. In the past, the editors have always solicited reviewers and made decisions. Members of the editorial board have contributed by writing reviews. We will soon be moving to the two-layer structure that is common among most successful journals. An editorial board member will be assigned to handle a paper, and will solicit reviews and make a recommendation to the editor, who will then make a final decision and inform the authors. This is a significant procedural change that will help distribute the load, increase the throughput, and allow more people to become stakeholders and contribute to the decision-making.

I hope to increase the number of reliability and verification papers. The journal has been dominated by testing and I hope to see more of a balance in the future. Several members of the editorial board have been brought in precisely for that reason.

I hope to attract more diversity in papers in other ways. Over the next few months I will make plans for special issues on new and exciting topics. I hope to regularly publish survey papers on various topics and to attract more papers that are directly relevant to industry.

The increased number of papers, more breadth in papers, and faster throughput should allow the journal to publish more issues per year. If the papers are there, the publisher supports having more than four issues.

One of my long-term concerns is the quality of reviewing in our field. Reviewing is crucial to the quality of research. I will use a variety of mechanisms to improve the quality of STVR's reviews. Reviewing papers, including specific guidelines, will be the topic of a future editorial.

Finally, I have made several commitments to the journal. The first is to ensure a fast turnaround for every paper. The second is to follow Martin and Lee's examples by providing unbiased judgments and making objective decisions based purely on scientific merit. Finally, I have decided not to submit new papers during my tenure as editor-in-chief. As STVR is the premier outlet for most of my research, this is a major concession and I hope my students will forgive me.

This is a terrific journal that the entire field can be proud of. I invite all readers and authors to help make STVR even greater!

Jeff Offutt
1 April 2007