Exploring Innovations and Future Directions: An Insightful Conversation with Prof. YongAn Huang, New Editor-in-Chief of Soft Science

Published on: 11 Jun 2024 Viewed: 46

On May 31, 2024, the Editorial Office of Soft Science had the privilege of interviewing our new Editor-in-Chief, Professor YongAn Huang. In this insightful conversation, Professor Huang shared his vision for the journal's future and his strategic plans for enhancing its academic standards and international influence. He also offered valuable advice for authors and shared how he balances his research work with academic activities. Join us as we delve into this enlightening discussion to uncover the future directions and strategies for Soft Science.


Q1: First, congratulations on your appointment as the new Editor-in-Chief of Soft Science. Could you please briefly share with us your academic background, the main research focus of your group, and some key achievements you have accomplished?

I'm truly honored to be taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief for Soft Science. I want to take a moment to thank the previous Editor-in-Chief, Professor Zhifeng Ren, and his team for their outstanding work.

I'm currently working at the School of Mechanical Science and Engineering, as well as the State Key Laboratory of Intelligent Manufacturing Equipment and Technology at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. I've had the opportunity to set up our 'Flexible Electronics Manufacturing Team' here, and we're really excited about our work on flexible electronics. We're looking at things like wearable electronics and electronic skins for robots and aircraft, as well as the manufacturing technologies, such as inkjet printing, laser transfer printing, and conformal manufacturing.

Our team has been making great progress in the field of flexible electronics. We've published about 200 papers in well-respected journals like PNAS, Science Advances, Nature Communications, and, of course, Soft Science. We've also written four books and hold more than 100 invention patents. Additionally, we've managed to bring our research to the industry level.

Moving forward, we're committed to pushing the envelope in flexible electronics. We're looking forward to exploring new scientific horizons and backing significant applications. We're also very open to collaborating with excellent scholars to advance soft sciences and develop robust technologies.

Q2: As the new Editor-in-Chief, what is your vision for Soft Science? Additionally, what are your expectations and requirements for manuscripts submitted to Soft Science?

As the new Editor-in-Chief of Soft Science, I've got a clear vision for where I'd like to take our journal.

First off, I'd love for Soft Science to keep being the go-to place for the latest and greatest in scientific research. I see us not just as a place to publish papers, but as a full-on community hub with journals, conferences, lectures, and interviews. This 'our-platform for your-thoughts' concept is all about giving scholars around the globe a space to share and bounce around those game-changing ideas.

Next, I'm really keen on Soft Science being a place where different fields come together and talk shop. The way I see it, the most exciting research these days is where different disciplines overlap and blend. By getting experts and their findings from all over under one roof, we can really push the envelope on scientific progress and the next wave of tech.

Finally, we're going to keep our standards high and aim for a quick turnaround on reviews. I believe Soft Science can grow its academic clout, attract top-notch papers, and be that link between the lab and the real world, all while helping to move science and tech forward.

When it comes to the articles we publish in Soft Science, here's what I'm looking for:

First off, Innovation: I want research that's fresh, that hasn't been done before, and that really moves the needle in its field.

Next, Scientific Rigor: The work needs to be rock-solid in terms of how it's designed, the data it uses, and the conclusions it draws. The data have to be spot-on, and the results have to hold water.

Finally, Practical Application: I'm a big fan of research that has real-world applications. It's not just about adding to the academic conversation; it's about making a difference in tech and industry and improving the way we live.

Q3: In recent years, the number of journals related to flexible and wearable electronics has been increasing. As the Editor-in-Chief, what unique advantages do you believe Soft Science has? How do you plan to lead Soft Science to become a top-tier journal?

It is a clear sign that this field is booming. It's exciting to see this kind of growth—it's like a green light for us to team up and push forward together within the soft science community. It's also a nudge for Soft Science to keep raising the bar on our publishing standards, especially in such a bustling field. When you compare us to the rest, we're not just keeping up—we're diving deeper into topics, aiming higher in our ambitions, and covering a wider array of subjects. It lets us spotlight groundbreaking work and pioneer new areas.

Plus, being an early player in this game has really paid off. We've got that first-mover advantage that's given us a head start. Over the last few years, we've managed to draw in some of the big names in the field, like Prof. Xiaodong Chen, Prof. Nanshu Lu, Prof. Xue Feng, and Prof. Yihui Zhang, along with many other brilliant minds. We've also been lucky enough to have some of the top experts in soft science, such as Prof. John A. Rogers, Prof. Xinge Yu, and Prof. Dae-Hyeong Kim, come on board for webinars and join our editorial team. These moves have really helped us build a strong academic foundation and reputation, which has earned us a lot of respect among scholars.

To keep Soft Science moving forward, we've taken some strategic moves. We've brought in some top-notch scholars to take on the role of Associate Editors, like Professor Jun Chen from UCLA, Professor Liqiang Mai from Wuhan University of Technology, Professor Junwei Gu from Northwestern Polytechnical University, and Professor Guoying Gu from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Their knowledge and experience are going to be a big help as we push the journal forward in areas of soft sciences.

Q4: What is your perspective on the increasing number of domestic journals with high impact factors (IF)?

With China's research capabilities really stepping up, it's no surprise that we're seeing more journals popping up here. This trend is not just a sign of the vibrant Chinese research community—it's also a clear call for top-notch platforms where academics can share and discuss their work. Even though our journals are getting better in numbers and quality, there's still some catching up to do with the leading international ones.

Now, the impact factor (IF) is a big deal when it comes to measuring a journal's reach, but it's not the whole story. A journal's reach should be looked at from all angles. The impact factor and the quality of the articles are like the 'face' and the 'heart' of a top journal—they're both crucial and need to be in sync. As the Editor-in-Chief of Soft Science, I'm aiming to boost our journal's overall influence, which, of course, includes working on that impact factor.

To wrap it up, our journal's main goal is to hit two birds with one stone: high-quality papers and a high impact factor. We're shooting for publishing research that's not just innovative but also goes deep. We want to team up more with the global research community and make sure our journal stands out, gets noticed, and is easy to access.

Q5: Apart from your own research work, what other academic and social activities have you been involved in? How do you manage and balance these various responsibilities?

Academic exchange is the lifeblood of research. It's not just about the spark of new ideas—it's also about building bridges for collaboration. Before taking the helm at Soft Science as Editor-in-Chief, I've had my hands full with some pretty exciting roles. I've chaired a few academic conferences on the frontier of flexible electronics and soft robotics, which have been quite a journey. Plus, I've been the Vice Chairman for a couple of branches at the Chinese Society of Micro-Nano Technology. And, of course, I've been part of the editorial board for journals like Sci. China-E and IJEM. These experiences have been a great springboard for my current role.

Juggling all these hats isn't easy, but I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. First off, I make sure that whatever I take on fits with where I want to go in my career and what really gets me excited. That's the secret sauce to staying motivated and fully engaged. And secondly, I'm a big fan of good old-time management. It's about making sure I carve out the right amount of time for each task, which, in turn, boosts my productivity. Good time management is the key to keeping everything in harmony—research, academic duties, and all the other hats I wear.

Q6: What advice do you have for authors who wish to publish their research in Soft Science?

For scholars who are interested in publishing their excellent work in Soft Science, I have several personal recommendations:

First up, let's put research innovation and quality at the top of our list, not just chasing whatever's hot at the moment. Take the time to really think about where you want your research to go, and stick with it. By doing so, you're adding your own unique insights to the advancement of science and engineering.

Next, let's give some love to the peer review process. Be open to the feedback you get from reviewers—it's there to help you make your paper the best it can be. And remember, it's crucial to keep a positive outlook. We all hit bumps in the road with experiments not going as planned or papers getting turned down. That's just part of the research journey. Stay healthy in mind and body.

Finally, we're excited to welcome all scholars who are looking to publish with Soft Science. We're confident that your research will be a major boost to the field of soft science.

We hope every scholar has a smooth ride in their research and makes some great strides. We're really looking forward to featuring your impressive work in Soft Science.

Editor: Inga Ren
Language Editor: Emma Chen
Production Editor: Yan Zhang
Respectfully Submitted by the Editorial Office of Soft Science

Soft Science
ISSN 2769-5441 (Online)
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