Journals that address dynamic areas in science and engineering are expected to evolve, making changes in scope inevitable and even desirable. Optics Express has been receiving an increasingly large number of papers in the area of digital image processing. Whereas some of these papers are appropriate for our journal, some appear to be better suited to alternative publications. We believe that it is in the best interest of both the authors and readers of Optics Express to ensure each paper is directed to the most appropriate journal, and that all papers accepted for publication in Optics Express match the ethos of our journal and expectations of our readers.

Accordingly, members of the Optics Express editorial board have participated in a vigorous discussion dating back more than one year seeking to define the scope of our journal in the area of digital image processing. We have also compared perspectives with the Editors-in-Chief of other OSA journals. The results of our discussion are summarized below. Our intent is to clarify the scope of Optics Express going forward with respect to digital image processing and to inform authors and editorial board members alike.

The scope of Optics Express

The advertised scope of Optics Express is “Peer-reviewed articles that emphasize scientific and technology innovations in all aspects of optics and photonics.” We believe that the present scope statement is appropriate, as it indicates the journal’s openness to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering. It is incumbent upon the editors, however, to interpret this broad statement to set specific limits on scope.

We recognize that digital systems have revolutionized the world in general and optical systems in particular. Optics Express embraces the incorporation of digital technology into the field of traditional optics. Computational imaging, hybrid optical/digital systems, data fusion of advanced sensors, phase retrieval algorithms for image recovery, etc. are all central to optics and are well within our scope. However, we also recognize that a journal devoted to optics requires its papers to contain sufficient optics content.

In order to clarify what defines “sufficient optics content,” we have devised a decision rubric, enumerated below, which attempts to frame the pertinent questions for determining scope. Editors will be encouraged to use this rubric to assess the content of each paper when determining its appropriateness for publication in Optics Express. The questions are intended only as an aid to determine scope, and the editorial decision is expected to be based on a weighted combination of these (and other) factors. Our hope is that by publicizing these guidelines, we will provide useful instruction to current and prospective authors.

General decision rubric for determining scope – applicable to all topics

  • 1. Is the innovation of the paper strongly connected to optics and photonics, where we interpret “optics” to mean involving light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation?
  • 2. Would I search for this topic in Optics Express, or would I start with other journals?
  • 3. Has this topic traditionally had a home in Optics Express or other journals with similar scope?
  • 4. Are the important bibliographic references connected to the optics literature?
  • 5. Can I find appropriate reviewers for the article within the optics community?

Specific criteria related to digital image processing

The following questions are directed towards papers that contain significant amounts of digital image processing:

  • 1. Does the opticsdescribed in the paper represent a new and innovative approach to imaging or measurement? (Even though a paper may be devoted primarily to digital image processing, the application of these techniques to innovative imaging systems can place it in our scope. For example, sensor fusion papers often fall into this category, as would image correction of the Hubble Space Telescope.)
  • 2. Is the image processing method “application agnostic”, meaning that the method doesn’t know or need to know the source of the data? (This is an indication that the paper may not be in our scope, as the image processing innovation is not central to an optical system.)
  • 3. Would the conclusions of the paper change significantly if a different optical system were used? (This question addresses the importance of optics to the central innovation of the paper. For example, if the optical system is “generic” and changing it makes little difference, the paper may be out of scope.)
  • 4. Does the main originality of the paper consist of applying traditional optics and image processing methods to a new application? (Some applications centered papers may indeed be within our scope - for example, applying optical measurement techniques to a new area of science of engineering. However, others are clearly better suited to alternative journals – such as applying standard optics and digital image processing methods to a biomedical problem.)


We recognize that in the past, Optics Express has published several papers that would no longer be in the scope as defined above. Some authors of such papers may want their new work to appear in the same journal for continuity. We will have to handle these cases carefully and on an individual basis. However, our general policy, as of the date of this editorial, will be to adopt and apply the new scope rules uniformly. Although this may inconvenience a few authors for a limited time, we believe that in the long run, having a clear and uniformly applied procedure will prove beneficial to all.

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