A Retrospective on the Environmental Chemistry journal with Kevin Francesconi

June 23rd, 2020

In 2020, Professor Kevin Francesconi is stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Chemistry. We spoke to him about his long history with the journal and what he hopes for its future.
Kevin Francesconi in a room onboard the RV Knorr sampling microalgae during a scientific cruise from Woods Hole to Bermuda

Kevin Francesconi sampling microalgae onboard the RV Knorr during a scientific cruise from Woods Hole to Bermuda (photo: author supplied)

Professor Kevin Francesconi is an environmental chemist whose research has focused on the development and application of analytical and experimental systems for studying environmental and biological aspects of metals and metalloids, particularly those aspects of relevance to human health. In 2004 he joined the Editorial Board of Environmental Chemistry at its inception and has been the Editor-in-Chief since 2010. His work has taken him around Australia, to Denmark and Austria until his retirement in 2018. 

In 2020 he is stepping down from the role of Editor-in-Chief. To celebrate his time with the journal, we spoke to him about the journal’s origins, the changes he has seen throughout his time and his hopes for the future.


You’ve been with the journal from the very beginning. Why do you think a journal like Environmental Chemistry was needed?

The need for a journal such as Environmental Chemistry was identified by Dr Alison Green, the founding Editor and driver of the journal for the first six years. I was pleased to be invited to join the Editorial Advisory Board because at that time there were no journals covering environmental issues from a chemistry perspective. Together with the growing importance of environmental issues, I saw the urgent need for a good chemical understanding of the processes bringing about changes to our environment.  This understanding can only come from careful research producing reliable data, and thus Environmental Chemistry from the outset placed emphasis on clear descriptions of methods, and on measures of the quality and limitations of the data.


Cover of Environmental Chemistry, volume 4, issue 1, featuring a microscopic image and a background image of soil

An early cover design of Environmental Chemistry from Volume 4, Issue 1.

What stands out as the main highlight of your time with the journal?

Seeing various Environmental Chemistry Research Fronts come together has been very rewarding. We have a terrific team of editors, all excellent and very active scientists collectively covering the broad spectrum of environmental chemistry, and it has been great working with them as they proposed and discussed their ideas for Research Front themes topical in their particular field. The result has been several very fine collections of papers by leading researchers on diverse environmental topics, which over the years have included polyfluorinated compounds, nanoparticles, synchrotron use in biogeochemistry, mineral-organic interactions, atmospheric aerosols, and microplastics.


What significant changes have you seen impact the journal throughout your time there?

The changing scene of scientific publishing over the last 10-15 years has impacted many journals, not just Environmental Chemistry. In that period we moved from being a printed subscription-based journal to an online hybrid journal with the option for open access. Authors increasingly want their published results to be widely available, and they are thus looking more favourably towards open access publishers and to the use of social media. Another significant change has been the large increase in submissions from China reflecting the growing status of science in China and, in particular, interest in the environmental sciences. Over the last ten years we have expanded our editorial team from 5 to 11 editors so that we can better cover the range of topics of relevance to environmental chemists. The new editors have brought fresh ideas and fruitful Research Front topics to Environmental Chemistry.


What advice would you give future Associate Editors or Editor-in-Chief?

An editor should have a strong and broad interest in science – being an editor is rewarding because it can provide a window into various interesting aspects of their discipline that they would not otherwise experience. Editors should stay abreast of current developments in their own fields, as well as in adjacent areas. Interacting with people at conferences is one of the best ways to do this. Ultimately, the editorial direction of the journal should reflect the latest developments in the field. Editors should be able to see the novel aspects of submitted research, and be able to select the best reviewers to assess the scientific detail. Editors should evaluate reviewer comments and authors’ responses fairly, and deliver clear decisions together with compelling reasons. Editors should always bear in mind the large amount of effort and time that authors have invested in their research and in preparing the manuscript, and take pride in the fact that the authors have entrusted their journal to publish the research results.


What do you hope for the future of the journal?

The journal has a bright future in the hands of the new Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Lead. Jamie has a long association with the journal, both as an author of impactful papers and, from 2010 to 2015, as an enthusiastic editor where he promoted Environmental Chemistry at a number of conferences in his areas of expertise. Since then, Jamie has garnered further editorial experience at NanoImpact, and now that Jamie is back, I am sure that Environmental Chemistry will thrive under his leadership. I would like Environmental Chemistry to maintain its core research focus of understanding the chemistry underlying the natural and fundamental processes that shape our environment. Only with this knowledge can we assess the extent of the environmental changes that humans are making to our planet. The editing and production at Environmental Chemistry is excellent; although it comes at a cost, authors and readers appreciate the professional assistance provided at Environmental Chemistry, assistance that is no longer available at most competitor journals.


Current cover of Environmental Chemistry, featuring illustrations of molecules on a blue and white gradient background.

Environmental Chemistry journal

From everyone at CSIRO Publishing we want to thank Kevin for his hard work and commitment to the journal over the last 16 years. We wish him all the best for the future.

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