Get to know the new Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Virology

Posted on April 6, 2020   by Microbiology Society

This month, Professor Alain Kohl was announced as the new Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Virology (JGV). We asked Alain some questions to find out a little more about his interests and his new role on the JGV Editorial Board.

My name is Alain Kohl. I’m based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. My main interest is arboviruses, particularly virus-host interactions, host responses, virus replication and vectors.

When did you first decide you wanted to do science (and why)?

As much as you can decide on these things when you’re a child… my interest grew from when I got a microscope set as a present for my first communion — I remember looking at the slides very well, and checking all the equipment that morning. I had already spent much of my time exploring life in ponds and rivers. I think when I was 11 or 12, I decided I wanted to study biology and that never changed.

What is your biggest professional achievement?

Still being able to do something that I genuinely love and I’m passionate about, and hopefully having helped others to achieve the same.

What would you be doing in your career if you weren't a scientist? 

It’s probably more wishful thinking than a realistic career option, but I love football and skateboarding. I was never good enough at either to make a career of it, sadly.

What motivated you to become part of the JGV’s Editorial Board? What does it mean to you to be the Deputy Editor-in-Chief?

Journals fulfil a very important function in science — that’s no secret. There have been many debates over publishing processes in the last few years, much of it justified if we want to advance science, as well as improve access to research findings. Active scientists must stay closely involved so that the voices and opinions of the community are heard. JGV, as one of the established virology journals, takes a leading role in how we want to develop the evaluation and communication of results and data.

As members of the Editorial Board and Editors, we have a role in ensuring quality and overview of these processes. I aim to play my part in ensuring the journal serves the needs of virologists and continuously develops, while keeping the best possible standards. It’s an enormous honour to have been chosen to play my part, having served as Editor and on the Advisory Board of JGV. It gives me the opportunity to bring my experience to a new role, where I hope to influence how publishing develops for the benefit of scientists and those who rely on high-quality science.

What do you find most interesting about academic publishing?

Academic publishing in the life sciences is at a crossroads; factors including open access publishing, preprint servers, data availability and peer review are passionately discussed within the scientific community. It has always been great to be involved, but we are now in a period where important decisions must be taken in how we ensure journals remain useful and efficient for authors and readers. It’s not just interesting, it’s critically important for the journal and how publishing develops.

At a time like this, virology research is receiving a lot of attention. What is JGV doing to support the virology community during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic?

With our experienced Advisory Board and Operations team, we are well placed to review and publish articles as quickly as possible. The step by the Microbiology Society to make articles accessible and free of charge to all is, I believe, also a very important one as many virologists and those with an interest in virology will read up on coronaviruses, or topics that relate to these viruses. I have been there myself recently – sitting at home on a Saturday night reading up on viruses I really needed to know a lot more about – and quickly! You see a paper and you want to read it. That’s how people acquire knowledge, and this is an exceptional situation where we need to move fast.

Why are Society journals important?

Society journals are by the community, for the community. Our Society journals reflect this ethos and they have the interests of science, scientists and readers at heart before any commercial considerations or profit-driven decisions. As such, they hold a special place in academic publishing and reflect these values. Hence why the participation and support of scientists who may have been members of the Microbiology Society since they were students all the way through their careers is so important.

What do you think the future holds for microbiology?
The challenges for microbiology in general are enormous — from antibiotic resistance to pandemics, the potential consequences of climate change to enteric infections and food security, vaccine development and many more issues are out there keeping us busy every day. There are important questions for us and the next generations of scientists, in microbiology and fields that have links to microbiology. We have to keep working on getting the message out so that funding and career opportunities grow. Technological progress – including molecular biological methods, imaging and bioinformatics – makes an already interesting field even more interesting.

Follow Alain on Twitter.