Some journals divide their articles into a half dozen categories: reports, perspectives, notes, research, reviews, etc. JAWRA articles are largely in one category: Technical Papers. As we begin to deal with more complex and controversial topics such as climate change and stream restoration, we’re seeing an increasing number of articles which offer opinions from an expert and facts-based perspective. Opinion articles do not follow the common hypothesis-testing-results form, but they nevertheless are held to high standards of review. They serve a very important function in giving direction to research and applications. Journals, in turn, provide a moderated forum for open, on-the-record discussion of the ideas advocated.
I’ve had some discussions about using more categories to better identify these opinion papers, but am reluctant to do so for a number of reasons. First of all, the line of demarcation is not all that clear. All research involves interpretation of facts, and honest researchers make clear the uncertainties of their work. Opinion articles are just more upfront about this. Secondly, having multiple categories would complicate putting together featured collections: How would we organize the table of contents? Finally, formally classifying the articles as “opinion” might act as a chilling factor for some agencies.
For the present at least, JAWRA will be a “lumper,” and call almost everything at Technical Paper.
(For the record, JAWRA has two other categories. One is Technical Notes, for focused comments on a narrow topic. The other is, of course, our periodic Book Reports.)