Access Microbiology open research platform’s first Version of Record: an interview with the authors

Posted on November 30, 2022   by Stephen Garrett and Tracy Palmer

Access Microbiology is an innovative sound science, open-research platform by the Microbiology Society. Today marks a major milestone for the platform with the first Version of Record published since the platform's launch in 2022.

Two of the paper’s authors, Stephen Garrett and Professor Tracy Palmer, share their thoughts on the new open platform and the process of publishing with Access Microbiology.


How does open science help the Microbiology Society serve its community?


From an early career researcher’s point of view, it’s really good to see the whole process of publishing. A lot of the time when you’re at the start of your career, you might not appreciate all of the past work that has gone into getting a paper to where it is in the final published version. Open science allows you to see the different versions of the paper and how it has developed over time. You can also see the reviewer comments and how these have then been incorporated into the final version to make it the best paper possible. For an early career researcher, that’s a really nice addition.


Microbiology, the oldest journal in the Microbiology Society’s stable, is flipping to become fully open access next year. I think that’s a really important thing, because it means that every paper we publish will be fully available to anyone around the world – whether they’re at home, at work or even on the train. You can read about science straight away, rather than it being paywalled or waiting for it to be released.

In terms of our science, we want people to read it from day one. We want it out there in an open access journal – preferably in a journal that will support the next generation, which is what publishing in society journals does. So, for us it was really important to publish with the Microbiology Society. Then it was just a case of deciding which journal we wanted to publish with.


Why did you choose to submit your paper to Access Microbiology?


We were working on another project and we ended up sequencing a strain of Staphylococcus aureus. We found that there were some differences to this strain compared with another strain that had previously been sequenced. This didn’t fit in with the story that we were writing in the other paper, but we still wanted to get this data out there, because it’s a strain used by many other people in the microbiology community and we thought it was important that they had the most up to date information.

Access Microbiology was a great platform for this, because while it didn’t necessarily make for a big story, we still thought this was important information to get out to our community.


The sequencing had also been in a previous version of a manuscript that we submitted to Microbial Genomics, but it was suggested that we remove it. It would be a real shame for the data not to be available, so that’s why Access Microbiology was such a good venue for the work. We knew it was sound science, but reviewers of other journals might point out that it wasn’t saying very much of importance. But to us, it was still important to get it published and out into the world.


How did you find the submission and peer review process for this paper?


It was actually the first paper submission process that I’ve really been involved in. It was quite painless and everything was laid out on the website, so it was quite easy to follow and logical. For the review process, it was great to get the feedback and for that feedback to be available to everyone. It meant that the reviewers weren’t potentially being biased based on their own work, or being unnecessarily harsh. So it’s nice to have that side of things open for everyone to see. It makes for a friendlier community with more constructive feedback. It also puts the onus on the reviewer to do their best possible work in reviewing the project.


I think if you know you’re putting a name to your review and that the whole world can see it, you’re going to think a lot more carefully about the way you word things than you might if it was just between yourself and the authors.

We all know that first authors aren’t the principal investigators (PIs), they’re students and postdocs – possibly submitting their first piece of work. To get horrible, personal criticism, that you do sometimes get in private peer review, is really hard. So I think it’s a nice thing to have open reviews as well.


Would you submit to Access Microbiology again?


Yes, definitely.