If we build it, they will come

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Science Immunology  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 3, Issue 25, eaau2566
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aau2566


Our author-centric approach to publishing your research.

Anand Balasubramani

When we launched Science Immunology, the goal was to establish a new home for high-impact immunology research within the Science family of journals. Early on, one of the most daunting tasks in this venture was getting immunologists to come to us with some of their exciting stories. Although lacking an impact factor was a handicap, the bigger problem was that we did not have a sufficient number of articles to use as benchmarks when inviting or even evaluating submissions. Authors and reviewers faced a similar conundrum. Two years in, Science Immunology has accepted a total of 125 primary research articles for publication, and authors, reviewers, advisory board members, and editors all have a much better sense of what Science Immunology is likely to publish today. I have chronicled here some of the strategies that have gone into building the journal to date.

In the spring and summer of 2016, there were days when Science Immunology simply did not receive a single submission. Although both Angela Colmone, then Editor, and I had anticipated that this would be the case, we felt that we could be doing more to bring in submissions. I do not recall either of us projecting a number of papers to publish within the first 2 years. Our thinking was more near term, and we were focused on building a steady publication pipeline. Both of us believed that the Science branding helped us build the journal, but we felt that we had to offer something more for authors to submit their exciting studies to us. From talking to our advisory board members, and on the basis of our own experiences as authors and editors, we decided that we would offer to work closely with authors on their revision plans after peer review.

With this strategy in hand, between May and December 2016, Angela and I visited scientists at more than 20 research institutions and attended 11 international conferences to interact with immunologists. Between the two of us, we had crisscrossed the United States and Canada and made multiple trips to Europe and Asia. Angela even went around the world to Australia to attend the International Congress of Immunology. Our author-centric approach to publishing resonated with both junior and senior investigators, and our efforts to build journal visibility started paying off in 2017. Of the 66 articles published in 2017, 10 of them were recruited by the editors in 2016. The first one of these to go online was a study led by Gabriel Nuñez, reporting a previously unappreciated function for interleukin-22 in limiting iron availability to pathogens (1). The last one of these to be published in 2017 was a study from Stephanie Eisenbarth’s laboratory that examined the role of dendritic cell subsets in priming the development of T follicular helper cells (2). I recruited and handled both of these papers, and both Nuñez and Eisenbarth were provided clear guidance on their revision plans after peer review. To this day, I continue to read and comment on point-by-point responses to the reviewers and routinely discuss with authors thorny issues over the phone.

Besides publishing primary Research Articles, Science Immunology also publishes Foci, Perspectives, and Reviews that are commissioned by the editors. Although we published a few commissioned contributions in 2016, we rolled out a strategic change in 2017 to increase the number of Science Immunology articles that were accompanied by Foci. Foci are typically written by one of the reviewers and are intended to place the study in context for readers, particularly our younger readers. In 2017, we also began laying the groundwork for publishing more Reviews. Although the results of the latter effort did not bear fruit in 2017, we are reaping the rewards this year. In 2018, we published our first set of paired reviews in February, focused on the changing landscape of microbiome research (3, 4). This special issue, commemorating our second anniversary, also includes a pair of Reviews. As we continue to build Science Immunology, we are constantly brainstorming for other ways in which the journal could evolve. What will not change is our author-centric approach to publishing. We will continue to work with authors on their revision plans, and we will continue to offer clear guidance after peer review. We have also extended our author-centric approach to Foci and Reviews, and our in-house scientific illustrators work with authors to craft first-rate illustrations for these pieces.

The mantra “If we build it, they will come” (5) appears to have worked so far. Being embraced by the immunology community has been integral to the journal’s growth and reach. We are incredibly grateful to authors who have chosen to publish their studies in Science Immunology and indebted to peer reviewers who have generously contributed their time and energy to help us build the journal. Within the immunology community, our chief scientific advisors, Abul Abbas and Federica Sallusto, and the members of our advisory board have been our staunchest allies from the very beginning. In addition to providing us timely advice, several of our advisory board members help us recruit papers, and an increasing number of advisory board members are choosing to publish seminal studies from their own laboratories in Science Immunology.

Not only has the journal grown, but the Science Immunology team has also grown and changed. The core launch team comprised Angela Colmone and I as editors and Trista Wagoner and Caitlyn Phillips working with authors after acceptance on manuscript production and publication. After Angela Colmone’s departure in 2017, we welcomed Ifor Wiliams as our new Editor in 2018. Today, the core team is much larger. Besides Ifor Williams and myself, Christiana Fogg works with us as a part-time editor. Alana Warnke handles most of the queries from authors and reviewers. Trista Wagoner and Caitlyn Phillips continue to ensure timely production and publication of accepted papers. The driving force behind the illustrations in our Foci and Reviews is an exceptionally talented illustrator, Alice Kitterman; these pieces are copyedited by Chris Filiatreau. Amanda Johnson, Juwon Song, and Colin O’Connor work with us and our authors to communicate studies published in Science Immunology to lay audiences. Several other individuals within AAAS contribute directly or indirectly to the journal. We continue to rely on guidance and support from senior members of the management team—in particular, Jeremy Berg and Monica Bradford. Last but not least, we benefit from regular interactions with our editorial colleagues at other Science journals. It continues to be a privilege to work with the immunology community and my colleagues here at AAAS to help shape Science Immunology.


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