Q&As with our Editors-in-Chief

A Q&A with our new EiC Xiaogang Li

A Q&A with our EiCs Nick Birbilis and Stéphane Gin

Xiaogang Li appointed to Editor-in-Chief of npj Materials Degradation

It is no surprise that the patterns of international collaboration have shifted in the COVID-19 era. In COVID-related and some other subjects, international collaborations have been intensified while for most subjects, we observed reduction in the international collaborations because of increased coordination costs and unpredictable disruptions. To tackle such challenges, Xiaogang was promoted as our third EiC, who is determined to further strengthen the journal's position as an international forum and to improve the diversity of the community's research output.

Xiaogang Li

Xiaogang Li, PhD

Xiaogang is a Professor at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Technology of University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB) and also at the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Materials Genome Engineering. He is Director of National Materials Corrosion and Protection Data Center of China and Deputy President of Chinese Society for Corrosion and Protection (CSCP). His research interests include atmospheric/soil/marine corrosion, corrosion-resistant steels, and corrosion monitoring and modeling. He is a Fellow of CSCP, EFC and NACE and received the W.R. Whitney Award and the Technical Achievement Award from NACE and two National Science and Technology Progress Awards.

1: How have you seen the journal evolve in the past few years?

Being the first journal to cover degradation of materials of all types (metals, glass & ceramics, polymers, etc.), npj Materials Degradation has a big ambition to be a leading publishing platform in this very large community. With the great effort from the editorial team led by Nick and Stéphane and the support from our authors, the journal publishes solid and cutting-edge research findings and is now serving a vast number of researchers and has been well recognized by the community. Within 4 years, it has been indexed in SCI-E and received an impressive impact factor of 5.9! Most importantly, it proves to be an open and collaborative platform to enhance the communication between researchers from different countries and diverse backgrounds and effectively distribute the latest breakthroughs globally. For example, npj Materials Degradation has published a few seminal papers on the corrosion interactions between metals and glasses, a topic that has profound implications in nuclear waste disposal and has brought wide interest from two very different groups of researchers together. The journal is also paying special attention on emergent topics such as corrosion machine learning and materials biodegradation. Note that we have an ongoing topical collection on materials biodegradation: https://www.nature.com/collections/hbjghbcdba.

2: How will you promote the journal and make it a better collaborative platform for researchers?

The No. 1 mission for me and for all editors is to keep on publishing the most significant and interesting works in npj Materials Degradation. While continuing to deepen the journal’s root among corrosion scientific community, we are dedicated to raise awareness of the journal among the broad materials communities. We will further engage researchers who are interested in the degradation of novel functional materials. npj Materials Degradation is a premier stage for global materials degradation community and I will make my full effort to make sure top performers are making their best performance on this stage.

3: What are your fields of interest that differ from the other two EiCs? 

I’m interested in a range of topics in fundamental and applied corrosion research, such as atmospheric/soil/marine corrosion, corrosion-resistant steels, and corrosion monitoring and modeling.

4: How do you see the advantages of CSCP and USTB as partners of npj Materials Degradation, in terms of promoting international collaboration?

As a national organization consisting of 7 working committees and 24 professional committees, CSCP is serving as the central network for communications and collaborations among Chinese corrosion scientists and engineers. Every year, CSCP organizes various series of conferences such as National Corrosion Conference, Marine Corrosion Conference and Electrochemical Corrosion Conference, which have greatly boosted the development of this field. As an active member of several international corrosion organizations, CSCP are working closely with Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP), European Federation of Corrosion (EFC) and sister organizations in Asia and Pacific region to promote international collaboration, raise corrosion awareness among public and foster young generations of corrosion workforce.

USTB is reputed as “the Cradle of Iron and Steel Engineers” in China and has been a main driving force to promote the global development of materials degradation research. Over the past half century, together with hundreds of researchers from other institutions in China, USTB has led to establish a nationwide research infrastructure, consisting of a network of field-testing stations to understand long-term materials degradation in diverse natural environments, and a national data center to collect, process, utilize and share corrosion data. USTB has also been leading the community to revolutionize our ways of evaluating materials degradation and designing materials that are better resistant to degradation, making use of high-efficiency computation, high-throughput/automated/intelligent experiments and big data technology, the integration of which is termed Materials Genome Engineering. To achieve this goal, USTB has established the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Materials Genome Engineering, which is now a key player for international collaboration and research innovation in this field.

5: Can you briefly introduce the Chinese materials degradation community to a global audience?

China has a very large materials degradation community, with researchers from hundreds of universities/institutes working on pretty much all topics of materials degradation. Some of the particularly popular topics include corrosion-resistant steels and alloys, corrosion in natural environments, high-temperature oxidation, and coatings and surface technology. Now with the increasing demand from industries to use stronger, more economical and sustainable materials in severer environments, Chinese materials degradation community has been developing rapidly not only in its size and diversity but also in the way that Chinese researchers to push forward the scientific frontiers of this ‘long-lived’ research field. For example, with the unique data infrastructure, Chinese corrosion scientists are making pioneering contributions in the development of data-driven approaches to facilitate the unveiling of complicated corrosion mechanisms and to accelerate the design and insertion of advanced materials against corrosion. Chinese materials degradation community has been an active and important member in the global family. Chinese researchers are keen to communicate more with worldwide experts via platforms like npj Materials Degradation.

6: Would you suggest some interesting directions/topics that npj Materials Degradation can take the lead?

In the past, much attention was paid on the corrosion of traditional materials such as metal, glass and ceramics. In fact, the degradation of advanced energy, electronics, and medical materials has been largely unexplored. As such, I would say materials degradation is still a very young field and there’s still ‘plenty of room’ to explore. The development of more localized analytical techniques and more powerful computational tools is therefore highly expected to precisely predict corrosion process kinetically in complex and dynamic environment. We are not yet able to freely design corrosion-resistant materials according to the specific requirements from service environments.

7: What is the best advice you would give to the authors who are considering submitting to npj Materials Degradation?

We are committed to bring new ideas to this field and put a high priority on the novelty of the works. Keeping thinking outside of the box!


A Q&A with our EiCs Nick Birbilis and Stéphane Gin

First launched in 2017, the journal npj Materials Degradation is embarking on its 5th year and now receives more than 100 diverse submissions per year. Being the first fully open access journal in the field of “materials degradation” and successfully indexed by Web of Science and Scopus last year, it is a good time for the Editors-in-Chief (Nick Birbilis and Stéphane Gin) to share their unique experience and perspectives.

Nick BirbilisNick Birbilis, PhD

Nick is a Professor and the Deputy Dean of College of Engineering and Computer Science at Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.



Stephane GinStéphane Gin, PhD

Stéphane is a Senior Scientist at French Atomic Energies and Alternatives Energy Commission (CEA), Waste Treatment Department, Marcoule site, France.



1. In the journey of the journal to date, what are some of the highlights achieved from your perspective?

Stéphane Gin (SG): To have demonstrated to the glass and metal corrosion communities (our first fields of interest) that a new journal can become a reference for the domain in a few years only.

  • To have built a great editorial team
  • To grow rapidly maintaining a top quality service (increased submission rate, and widening the readership and the scope of the journal to other type of materials or scientific issues).
  • To have several highly cited papers (one with more than 40 per year)

Nick Birbilis (NB): There are many:

  • Diverse editorial team from around the world
  • On becoming an outlet for the communication of work regarding degradation of a range of materials, including non-metals
  • An already positive impact in the field – globally and without a paywall - as the first ‘fully open access’ journal regarding materials degradation.
  • Accepting works in a diverse range of formats, styles or lengths

2. How have you seen the journal evolve in the past few years?

SG: The journal began with the contribution of solicited authors who were convinced about the potential of the journal and provided the best of their research. I’m amazed by how exciting it was to prepare the first collection of papers on International Simple Glass. I do think the new collections in preparation will be a success and expand the readership of our journal.

NB: The evolution has taken us from a standing start to healthy momentum. The evolution – like the word implies – continues. We have many more goals and ambitions we would like to achieve with the journal. This includes generating a larger forum for the degradation of polymeric materials, and a strong forum for computational science and materials design, to combat deterioration. Therefore, the evolution continues.

3. What makes npj Materials Degradation special compared to other journals in the field?

SG and NB: npj Materials Degradation is still at an emerging stage, and indeed it is yet to scale to the point of having the major impact it has the potential for. Whilst its recent listing by Web of Science and Scopus is a transition point, the ongoing growth will be our focus as we have a commitment to be more visible and recognized within the scientific community of materials.

We are an open access journal, which means that we are free to all readers across the globe. We are very flexible with the content types and we welcome voices from other sectors such as government and industry.

4. What is most exciting about being Editor-in-Chief?

SG: For me, it is a new experience, I was a former Associate Editor for the Journal of Nuclear Materials but I had limited responsibilities. Here, the most exciting feeling is to be at the central place where authors, editors, managers and readers converge. Our responsibility is to ensure that the articles we publish are of the highest possible quality and that authors are happy to have their work read and cited by others. To be here since the beginning of the adventure is also a great satisfaction and a source of motivation for the future. Listening and responsiveness are two great qualities of our team. These human aspects are also extremely important for me.

NB: The freshness of the science and research that comes to the journal provides a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that is hard to describe. It is a privilege to be a custodian of exceptional works, from exceptional researchers. It is even more humbling that our diverse authors hail from many different background, many outside of academia or the ‘lab bench’. Those in industry and policy have a strong voice in our journal, also aided by the flexibility in the format of our journal.

5. What trends do you observe in the way that research is being produced and published in this field post Covid?

NB: Whilst it is very early to tell, the pandemic has provided an opportunity for scientists to reflect and also, evaluate values and priorities. Aspects that relate to materials degradation include a renewed focus on sustainability (of materials) and on preservation of materials. The latter is a reflection of a realization that our world (in every sense) is fragile. Science, more generally, has played a dual role in allowing a community fabric to persist in challenging times.

6. What does the topic of “materials degradation” mean to you for the coming decade?

SG: The journal will continue to publish science on degradation processes of materials to help find solutions for industrial, and environmental issues, and to develop new materials for emerging needs. With the ever increasing use of new materials in industry and daily lives, we are also interested to receive more submissions on degradation of new functional materials such as energy materials, electronics materials, nano-materials etc. Needs are limitless, as are the challenges for a better life on Earth.

7. What are the priorities and focuses in the development of the journal in the near future?

NB: We are committed to creating a forum that allows organic submissions of a diverse set of contributions. These could be commentaries, perspectives, or research papers. They could also be fundamental, applied, theoretical, or even simply topical. Our journal’s unique aspect, is it is inclusive and holistic. The authors choose their format, and they also are free to make contributions on any material (even naturally occurring) – with no prerequisite to require any specific content (such as electrochemistry, or corrosion).

SG: One objective is to attract more submissions, especially those in vibrant research directions. Another goal is to broaden the scope of the journal to accommodate articles on other materials of everyday life such as polymers and cements. To meet this objective, we will be actively looking for new editor(s). We will regularly refresh the editorial board and keep it active and engaged.

8. What is the best advice you can give to the authors who are considering submitting to npj Materials Degradation?

NB and SG: Submit the best of your research, perspectives, reviews, or thoughts, we will ensure high-level service giving high visibility of your work. Interact with us, we are listening to you.