A Picture Is Worth a … Million Dollar Grant

Communicating the importance, impact, and relevance of science to the public is a challenge and opportunity for all scientists. You do not have to be an astrophysicist to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of images from the Hubble telescope or to be excited about forthcoming images from the Mars rover. Images of the world around us, nanometer-size proteins to the vast universe, provide a simple, clear way to convey science.

Since July 2010, the Journal of Food Science has had an image on the cover. When I started reading the Journal of Food Science in the mid-1970s, the cover consisted of a nice title, logo, and list of research articles. It made for easy perusal of the articles … but no real advantage over seeing the same thing on the inside cover. A cover image has several advantages. First, it serves to perk the interest of our readers. That looks interesting … let's take a look at that article. Second, if done correctly, it should also convey the findings to the general public. Our current cover images are picked to be informative and also show the beauty of Food Science. However, in our current publication process, the authors are not really motivated to spend much time in constructing an image with “cover quality” in mind. In essence, we are looking through the manuscript figures and hoping to find one that has “cover data quality.” With this editorial, I am asking our authors to think about “cover quality” when they construct figures for their manuscript. Cover quality figures are those that, as a stand-alone figure, convey a key finding to scientists and non-scientists. While our editorial office can make minor edits to images to make them just right for the cover, we need high-quality original images with a minimum pixel dimension of 2500 × 2500. Full color is preferred and costs nothing to the authors (unlike including color images in the print edition of your article), so consider creating your original images in full color and high-resolution. The journal office can always downsize and convert to greyscale the images that appear as figures in your published paper.

Why is this an important topic? If we use the example of federally-funded research, the investigators have an assumed responsibility to convey their findings to the scientific community and also to let the funding agencies know their allocation of tax dollars were well spent to benefit society. Towards that end, an informative “cover story” is a tried and true method of communication.

Some of you may remember Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's song about being on “the cover of the Rolling Stone” … and “gonna buy five copies for his mother.” I beg forgiveness from Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, but “Gonna see my data on the cover, gonna send 10 copies to my funder” … should be a tune we all consider humming.

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E. Allen Foegeding


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Amanda Ferguson

Associate Director,

IFT Scientific Journals