Meet the Editor: Journal of Construction Engineering and Management

The Journal of Construction Engineering and Management is a multidisciplinary forum for research-based engineering and technical information related to building engineering design. This unique journal covers a broad range of topics and disciplines including building systems, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering; acoustics; environmental quality, lighting and sustainability.
Jesus M. de la Garza spoke with ASCE Publications about his tenure as editor and aspirations for the journal. de la Garza, Ph.D., Dist.M.ASCE, F.CMAA, NAC, F.PMCOS, is the Vecellio Professor of Construction Engineering and Management at Virginia Tech.
ASCE Publications: What separates this journal from others in the field?de la Garza: The Journal of Construction Engineering and Management (JECM) is the first construction-focused journal to require a Data Availability Statement (a statement about where data supporting the results reported in a published article can be found). There are five options available for authors to select the source of their data. We hope by making this information available that it will be easier for other researchers to access, that the potential for use across different fields will increase, and that there will be archival-quality repository systems.JCEM also requires authors to make explicit statements as to the contributions of the manuscript to the Body of Knowledge. Furthermore, JCEM has now implemented a practice that avoids technical papers that are region specific—simply put, our industry does not exist in just the relative microcosm of a specific city, geographic area, or country, and neither should our research.

ASCE Publications: What are the hot topics in your space?

de la Garza: Contemporaneous topics include manuscripts with a focus on: Public Private Partnerships (P3s), Building Information Modeling (BIM), Construction Safety, and Sustainable construction jobsites.

ASCE Publications: What changes in your field have you seen during your tenure as editor? And what critical topics need to be addressed?

de la Garza: The biggest change has been the switch to an online manuscript submittal and management process. While it is much easier to submit a manuscript, the quality isn’t always consistent. On the other hand, for those papers published, the time from submission to first and final decisions has decreased by several orders of magnitude.

ASCE Publications: What are the biggest challenges facing construction engineers and researchers today / in the coming years?

de la Garza: I think that there is an ever-growing expansion in the STEM-H disciplines that is creating vast amounts of data/information/knowledge, some of which may go unnoticed. Distilling understanding in this chaotic world is a significant challenge.

ASCE Publications: Why did you become a Civil Engineer? What drew you to being an editor?

de la Garza: I became a Civil Engineer because I was (and still am) obsessed with skyscrapers.  When I was in high school, my favorite one was the Torre Latinoamericana in Mexico City.  One of the key structural engineers who designed it was Dr. Nathan M. Newmark who attended graduate school at the University of Illinois and eventually became Head of the Civil Engineering Department.  Today, the Civil Engineering building carries his name. Of course I did not know any of this when I decided to become a Civil Engineer—I just loved that skyscraper.  When it was my time to decide to go to graduate school, I applied to Cal Tech, Stanford University and the University of Illinois.  Who would have guessed it, but destiny took me to the University of Illinois where I learned the story about Dr. Newmark and his role as designer in the Torre Latinoamericana.

My second favorite skyscraper now is Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  I met the structural engineer who designed it, Mr. Bill Baker from SOM, when he presented a distinguished lecture on our campus.  When I visited it, I felt like a kid in a candy store!! I then decided to go to the observation deck; it took the elevator exactly 1 minute to go from the lower floor to the observation deck (1,823 ft), which means that our everyday elevator speeches still need to be less than 1 minute long.

As for becoming an Editor, it all started when I was a Program Director at the National Science Foundation. In that role, I was funding research in construction, transportation, and other infrastructure topics. In a way, I was in the upstream phase of the knowledge creation process. I was drawn to becoming an editor when I realized that I would then be in the downstream phase of the knowledge creation process, i.e., knowledge dissemination. It has been a fascinating and humbling experience to have had an opportunity to serve the profession upstream, mid-stream (as a professor) and downstream.

ASCE Publications: What key features do you look for in an article submitted to your journal?

de la Garza: Manuscripts need to be technically sound with a deep coverage of the point of departure, which elevates the standing/credibility of the authors and also gives them a context within which to frame their contributions to the Body of Knowledge. The use of the English language needs to be outstanding.

ASCE Publications: What are your aspirations for future of the journal?

de la Garza: JCEM just turned 60 years old!!! We are in the process of creating on online collection to mark the occasion, and will include a link when available.

My aspiration is to continue making JCEM the leading outlet for disseminating construction engineering and construction management knowledge to the academic and industry constituencies so as to celebrate the 100th anniversary in an even stronger standing.

ASCE Publications: Any advice for new researchers starting out?

de la Garza: There is no shortcut to knowledge creation.

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