The year 2010 has gained special meaning to me, originally as the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Arabidopsis genome, which The Plant Journal will celebrate with a forthcoming special issue, but also as a time of change at the helm of the journal. Harry Klee, who has served as a wise and visionary steward of The Plant Journal for the past 8 years, transferred the honor of Editor-in-Chief to me on January 1, 2010. I am grateful for the trust given to me by Harry, the Editors, the Editorial Office and, not least, by the publisher, Wiley-Blackwell, and the Society for Experimental Biology. I am humbled by the thought of responsibility as I am beginning to serve the plant science community in my new role. While one may never be completely prepared for new levels of responsibility, I can assure The Plant Journal community, the readers, authors, and reviewers, that I was given sufficient time to ready myself for this new task. During the past year, Harry and Irene Hames, our outstanding Managing Editor, who provides steadiness, thoroughness, and balance to any decisions, have increasingly involved me in the daily business of editing The Plant Journal and making editorial decisions. In the process, the editorial staff members, Submissions Manager Sarah Threapleton, Manuscript Manager Andrea Reynolds, and Editorial Assistants Nicola Thomis and Stephanie Rathbone, have not spared any effort in providing me with support and information, helping me to be prepared. Indeed, the expertise, efficiency and dedication of these great colleagues in York played a decisive role for me in accepting the duties of Editor-in-Chief for The Plant Journal. I would like to express my gratitude for their continuing support and I know that the transition will be smooth and my workload manageable because of it.
Many of you may wonder what changes I might usher in at The Plant Journal during the coming year. You will be glad to know that Harry’s leadership has left the journal in excellent standing, with the second highest Impact Factor among all primary research journals in the plant sciences. Submission rates, readership and author satisfaction are high and ever increasing. Thus, I find myself asking, how can The Plant Journal possibly be improved? There is only one thing I am certain of – that there is no time to be complacent. It is the nature of science to be progressive, to push the envelope, and, thus, we will have to anticipate and embrace new trends in publishing as the field of plant science evolves. As such, we have to be nimble and recognize new avenues of plant science as they open up. One opportunity for adjustment has arisen because several long-serving Editors moved on at the beginning of this year. I would like to thank Thomas Altmann, Csaba Koncz, and Jane Langdale for their tireless and selfless efforts during many years of dedicated service on The Plant Journal Editorial Board. During the past months I have become increasingly involved in finding their successors, and I would like to welcome Xuemei Chen and Ian Small as new Editors. Xuemei will cover the area of small RNA metabolism and the role of small RNAs in the regulation of development, an area that has newly emerged during the past 10 years. Ian will focus on chloroplast development, the regulation of chloroplast gene expression, and high-throughput technologies. With the advancement of DNA sequencing technology, many non-model organisms have become amenable to molecular genetics and genomics and the functional analysis of genes. This is opening up the area of comparative genomics and the study of evolution at the genome level. As a consequence, I expect to see new basic discoveries being made in a wide range of plant species beyond traditional models, including moss, fern, and algal species. Combining this with advancements in metabolic profiling, proteomics and flux analysis, I expect that we will soon face new challenges in publishing large-scale data sets and their analysis. The expertise of newly appointed Editors will reflect these anticipated trends. Equally important for the appointment of new Editors remain gender and geographical balances reflecting The Plant Journal’s international community of readers, authors, and reviewers. Overall, the high caliber of the Editorial Board and the expertise and thoughtfulness of the Editors represents one of the greatest assets of The Plant Journal, and I am very grateful to my colleagues who join me in the daily task of editing manuscripts.
One way for me to feel the pulse of the scientific community and to become aware of concerns will be listening to the main intellectual stakeholders of The Plant Journal, the readers and authors. I am a patient listener and I will strive to quickly respond to, if not anticipate, new trends in the plant sciences and to address concerns as they may arise. Even though we might have to adjust for new content or procedures over time, what will not change is the commitment of The Plant Journal to publish discoveries in basic plant science that provide novel mechanistic insights into important problems relevant to plants. As the field of plant science matures and models such as Arabidopsis come of age, many in the field will be looking forward to seeing basic discoveries made in model plants applied to some of the most urgent issues society is faced with today. However, we at The Plant Journal draw a clear line between basic plant science and plant biotechnology, the latter of which often encompasses the painstaking but essential approach of incrementally increasing the efficacy of plant processes or scaling up the yield of a certain plant product. The Plant Journal ideally focuses on publishing discoveries that can be best described as leaps in scientific knowledge, or even paradigm shifts, as the result of basic research. Therefore, The Plant Journal will continue the strict policy of directing papers that fall in the area of plant biotechnology to more appropriate journals. Making the distinction between manuscripts covering basic plant science and plant biotechnology is often harder when considering the highly popular and successful category of articles published by The Plant Journal under Technical Advances. As a rule of thumb, successful submissions in this category provide not only a description of a new technique or tool, but also an example of discovery in basic plant research. Manuscripts in this category present technical advances that are broadly applicable to a wide audience and generally do not represent an incremental improvement of an existing technique.
We at The Plant Journal continue to be committed to excellence in publishing, using the highest ethical standards to provide a fair and unbiased reviewing process. We understand that publishing is essential to the dissemination of scientific discoveries and to the advancement of individual careers. It is our mission to help authors get their work published in a high-quality, widely recognized journal as expeditiously as possible. Sometimes this means the work will have to be published in a journal more specialized than The Plant Journal. Letting authors know this can cause pain and hardship, which may be lessened only if the decision process is fast and the explanation to the point. Our Editors understand this concept well, and sign their names under each decision to provide greatest possible transparency and assurance of a well-thought-out decision. To best serve The Plant Journal community, the Editors are always willing to listen to reason in support of authors, because we believe in a professional environment based on facts. However, authors also have to strive for the highest standards. In times when some authors receive monetary rewards for publishing depending on journal Impact Factor, or when young careers can be made or broken depending on publication record, or when established scientists may be in danger of losing long-standing funding because their rate of publication has slowed, pressure on individuals is high. This pressure cannot be allowed to interfere with the high ethical standards expected by the scientific community from The Plant Journal. We will continue to be vigilant and resourceful in maintaining these standards.
Understandably, the appearance of a new face at the helm of The Plant Journal may cause some buzz, anxiety, or temptation. I hope by reaffirming the basic principles above that have guided the success of the journal from its inception, its readers, authors, and reviewers can rest assured that The Plant Journal will continue to serve the plant science community to the best of our abilities.