From the Chief Executive

Issue: Microbes and Food

07 August 2018 article

The launch of Access Microbiology marks a seminal moment in the Microbiology Society’s publishing activities. Ever since our founders decided that it was crucial for the Society to disseminate the best research as widely as possible, we have seen the development and growth of a thriving stable of scientific journals. Over the years, it is notable how many world-leading microbiologists have published important work in the Society’s journals, especially early on in their careers.

When Sir David Baulcombe won the Society’s Prize Medal in 2015 for his prestigious work on plant viruses, he was asked about the period in his life when he first started working in virology. What he said reveals how important our journals are: “We published some of our first papers in the Journal of General Virology,” he said, “and the Society meetings introduced me to the virology community. To get an award from a Society that has helped me so much means an awful lot”.

The governments of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland recently announced the names of the people who will sit on the panels for the next Research Excellence Framework. This exercise will decide the distribution of many billions of pounds of public money. So, it is vital that the individuals command the respect of the community and have rock-solid judgement about the immediate value and future potential of a wide range of research. The Society nominated and supported four of the individuals who were appointed: Hilary Lappin-Scott, Neil Gow, Mark Harris and Ian Henderson. Between them, these people have published at least 71 papers in the Society’s journals. Put simply, the people trusted to assess the quality of the UK’s research have over their careers chosen to submit important work to the journals published by the Microbiology Society.

And Geoff Smith, whose Marjory Stephenson Lecture at this year’s Annual Conference was a brilliant demonstration of the power and importance of his field of virology, has published even more papers in the Journal of General Virology.

For the Microbiology Society’s 70th birthday a couple of years ago, we asked leading researchers to choose some of the most interesting papers from our journals across the decades. Robin Weiss picked what he called “remarkable papers” from the Journal of General Virology, with over 2,000 citations each. He also highlighted just how relevant microbiology research can be to real lives, by selecting “the first thorough analysis of Ebola virus proteins”. Stephen Gordon, who had the unenviable job of selecting highlights from Microbiology, which has been publishing since 1947, opted for “seminal work”, acknowledging that there was not enough space to write about “many outstanding contributions” to the journals.

But as well as seeking to publish the best science, the staff and the editors of the Society’s journals work extremely hard to make sure that authors who submit their work to us have a positive experience. It’s nerve-wracking waiting for peer-reviewers’ comments; not just for early career researchers – even well-established professors check their email every few minutes when they’re waiting to hear from journal editors. So we pride ourselves on fast and rigorous review. And because we’re a Society, not a commercial company, we invest in supporting early-career researchers to navigate the publishing process – for example, by holding workshops during the Annual Conference. And the icing on the cake is that any financial surplus generated by our publishing activities is ploughed back into activities that support the careers of the Microbiology Society’s membership.

I was struck at a recent Editorial Board meeting of the Journal of Medical Microbiology how much energy and enthusiasm there was among the editors to attract the most interesting papers and make them as widely available as possible to the broadest possible community.

Please let me know which your favourite paper in any of our journals is: Microbiology, Journal of General Virology, Journal of Medical Microbiology, Microbial Genomics and the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. I look forward to hearing from you.

Peter Cotgreave

Chief Executive
p.cotgreave@microbiologysociety.org