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Looking back at the last two years: Coming home to JBC

Open AccessPublished:July 13, 2018DOI:https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.E118.004624
      When I was approached about putting my name in the hat for the Editor-in-Chief position at JBC, a mini-tsunami of thoughts splashed through my brain. First and foremost: Why in heck would I do that? Mulling that question over led to some clarity about why I might take this position and a growing sense of anticipated pleasure at the prospect of making some small contribution to the future vigor of a society journal that I valued in the deepest part of my core. Mind you, I had not been publishing frequently in JBC in the years prior to this introspective moment. In fact, this was presented to me as a key question by the Search Committee. In answering this question, I gained insight into the challenges that journals like JBC face in the current scientific publishing climate, and what considerations come into play as prospective authors decide where to publish. PIs see a staggering array of choices before them when they prepare a submission. The junior colleagues whose careers we are fostering believe, right or wrong, that their future may be determined by their record of publishing in “high impact” journals, especially the three big single-word journals. Truth be told, most senior scientists also live under the threat, real or not, of success or failure based on “high impact” publications.
      But, there are other factors that weigh into the choice of journal to submit to. And, believe it or not, we do not urge anyone to submit ALL of their papers to JBC. Naturally, we'd love it if people did, but the realistic and appropriate goal we have is that JBC be in the group of journals that are considered when PIs and their junior co-authors decide where to submit. For some papers, it will be the best choice; for other papers, perhaps not. And, realistically, one often has to make a second choice once the first try fails. After all, the “highest impact” journals turn away 90% of submitted manuscripts. We certainly recommend that you come to JBC after you try one of those journals and turn out to be part of that 90%. We also point out that you might have a more pleasant experience if you skip the first step and go straight to JBC!
      What I came to believe during my introspection was that JBC was “hiding its light under a bushel” and, as a consequence, had fallen out of the circle of go-to journals for many authors. It seemed that JBC, and other venerable, long-standing publications, had such a legacy and large loyal authorship it should go without saying what their advantages and strengths were. When I decided to take the Editorship, I put as an early goal to get the word out about the reasons JBC is a great journal choice. Thus, we set about telling the world about JBC's bragging rights (
      • Gierasch L.M.
      The Journal of Biological Chemistry: 2016 Onward.
      ,
      • Gierasch L.M.
      JBC is on a mission to facilitate scientific discovery.
      ,
      • Gierasch L.M.
      JBC's New Year's resolutions: Check them off!.
      ,
      • Gierasch L.M.
      A new journal from ASBMB.
      ). I hope we have done this effectively and widely.
      Next, I realized that there were some things that could be done differently at JBC in order to make the journal work better for authors and make content more discoverable. It wasn't that JBC had made a conscious decision not to change; au contraire: JBC has been at the forefront of some critical changes in scientific publishing, such as the move to go online and, later, to be totally digital. But, the idea of more holistic change, paying attention to authors' and readers' needs in order to advance their science, seizing opportunities presented by new technologies, and overall being willing to abandon or adjust past practices to further our journal's goals was not front-and-center at JBC when I took the Editorship. We now have at JBC a culture that is author- and reader-centric and, to the best of our abilities, nimble.
      Bottom line: I recognized that I, like others, had perhaps taken JBC a bit for granted. Introspection reminded me how important JBC has been to me and many of my colleagues who work in several fields I have held dear throughout my career. I also recognized that it pleases me no end to see a society journal thrive in an era when publishing our science is leading to profits for many publishers and not to rewards that feed back into the scientific community. The synergy between ASBMB and JBC is deep (
      • Gierasch L.M.
      ASBMB and JBC: A truly synergistic relationship.
      ), and we're continuing to strengthen that relationship. See, for example, our new ASBMB Award Articles ().
      So, I took the job and set about cheerleading for the terrific qualities JBC has to offer its authors and readers, and brainstorming with the dedicated and capable JBC team (from Associate Editors and Editorial Board Members to Review Coordinators in the Rockville office) about how to make JBC better. I hope that I've catalyzed a re-energizing of JBC and helped JBC remember that it is operating in a world where authors have many, many choices and readers are inundated with information. This is indeed the world in which science is done. The JBC leadership team must remain committed to helping scientists, the JBC team must be able to justify to authors its selection as the best place to publish a given paper, and, above all, JBC leadership must be responsive to changing landscapes, opportunities, and needs.
      I think we are on our way to doing this, and when I sit with my research group and decide where to submit our papers, JBC is prominent among the journals we consider, including some with much higher impact factors. Furthermore, we are back to choosing JBC for many of our submissions—not all, but many! And, we can articulate why: We know that our papers will be well-served by publication in this rigorous journal that publishes full stories about science, that values publications that stand the test of time, and that helps readers to discover these reports. I've come home to JBC, and I'm so pleased about this! I cannot wait to welcome you (back?) to JBC!

      References

        • Gierasch L.M.
        The Journal of Biological Chemistry: 2016 Onward.
        J. Biol. Chem. 2016; 291 (27371571): 15406-15407
        • Gierasch L.M.
        JBC is on a mission to facilitate scientific discovery.
        J. Biol. Chem. 2017; 292 (28432178): 6853-6854
        • Gierasch L.M.
        JBC's New Year's resolutions: Check them off!.
        J. Biol. Chem. 2017; 292 (29288242): 21705-21706
        • Gierasch L.M.
        A new journal from ASBMB.
        J. Biol. Chem. 2018; 293 (29678890): 6212-6213
        • Gierasch L.M.
        ASBMB and JBC: A truly synergistic relationship.
        J. Biol. Chem. 2017; 292 (28600308): 9857
      1. http://www.jbc.org/site/vi/awards2018/