The New Phytologist Tansley Medal


  • F. Ian Woodward,

  • Alistair M. Hetherington

New Phytologist was founded by Sir Arthur Tansley and was first published in 1902. The long and independent history of the journal has allowed a positive inflow of revenue that is managed by the New Phytologist Trust and which is ploughed back into the scientific community to foster plant science (for a brief history of New Phytologist see Lewis & Ingram, 2002). The Trust currently finances two scientific meetings a year (e.g. Bruns & Kennedy, 2009;Harvey & Strauss, 2009) in addition to providing support for other meetings and activities (see A new innovation from the Trust is an annual competition for the New Phytologist Tansley Medal, specifically aimed at plant scientists in the early stages of their career. The plant scientists are required to submit their best research, either as a research article or as a small review, in a global competition for the award of a £2000 prize, in addition to publication of the work and an editorial comment in New Phytologist. Details of the practicalities can be found on the New Phytologist Trust website at

The New Phytologist Tansley Medal competition is a two-round process. In the first round, candidates submit an extended abstract of their work, together with their curriculum vitae and a reference from a scientist who has agreed to support the application. The number of applications at this stage is large and they are sifted by two Editors to produce a short list of candidates (seven candidates for the 2009 medal) who progress to the second round. Those who make it to this stage are requested to submit a complete manuscript, which is then peer-reviewed in the usual way. In addition, the Referees and Editors are asked for their assessments of the suitability of the manuscript for the Tansley Medal. Two Editors then make the final choice of the medal award.

This year we are delighted to award the first Tansley Medal to Steven Spoel from the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, UK, for his paper on Post-translational protein modification as a tool for transcription reprogramming (this issue, pp. 333–339). As the title suggests, the manuscript deals with the control of transcriptional reprogramming. This process contributes to, for example, the co-ordinated changes in gene expression that occur during development or during adaptation to environmental stress. Spoel and his co-authors focus on the contribution that protein modification makes to the control of transcriptional reprogramming. In a lucid and highly accessible account they discuss how the activation and repression of genes can be achieved by phosphorylation, ubiquitinylation, S-nitrosylation and disulphide-bonding of transcriptional activators, co-activators and repressor proteins. The Minireview provides examples of how these processes operate and their significance in relatively well-understood systems such as yeast. However, the main focus is on the plant immune response and especially on how modification of the immune co-activator protein NPR1 can control its localization and abundance in plant cells. The result is a highly authoritative review of an emerging topic of fundamental importance to our understanding of plant cell biology.

New Phytologist also publishes papers of candidates in the final short list, following successful review. Congratulations are due to these candidates who have provided manuscripts on a wide range of topics in plant sciences and which can be read in this issue.

  • Ward Capoen, Sesbania rostrata: a case study of natural variation in legume nodulation (pp. 340–345)
  • Colleen Iversen, Digging deeper: fine-root responses to rising atmospheric CO2concentration in forested ecosystems (pp. 346–357)
  • Katherine McCulloh, Moving water well: comparing hydraulic efficiency in twigs and trunks of coniferous, ring-porous, and diffuse-porous saplings from temperate and tropical forests (pp. 439–450)
  • Rebecca Mosher, Maternal control of Pol IV-dependent siRNAs in Arabidopsis endosperm (pp. 358–364)
  • Nicholas Rouhier, Plant glutaredoxins: pivotal players in redox biology and iron–sulfur center assembly (pp. 365–372)

Thank you to the many applicants who submitted extended abstracts and also to those Editors and Referees who contributed in full to this first enterprise for the New Phytologist Tansley Medal.