The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology publishes three excellent journals: the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics and the Journal of Lipid Research. These journals exist to serve our members (and nonmembers) by providing a quality venue for presentation of their research. Discounted page charges are available as a benefit of membership in ASBMB. According to its new mission statement, “The Journal of Biological Chemistry publishes papers based on original research that are judged to make a novel and important contribution to understanding the molecular and cellular basis of biological processes.” Although this would not likely include a manuscript in the “least-publishable unit category,” the breadth of topics included in this description are likely to encompass the interests of all ASBMB members. As scientists, we hold the power to determine which journals have the opportunity to publish the best science— because we decide where to submit our best work. The ASBMB journals exist for our benefit, and we enhance our community when we publish papers in them.
"The sooner our students can experience the thrill of publication, the sooner they will be hooked."
What can all journals do on behalf of our students? During manuscript evaluation, editors and reviewers should try to use care to not ask for more than is needed to substantiate the authors’ conclusions. When drafting a review, referees should remember that a paper’s first author is likely to be a graduate student; they should temper their language and always include some positive comments in their reviews. We all find it easier to accept a review that acknowledges a paper’s strengths. Doctoral mentors also should teach their students how to review manuscripts— how to be constructive and how to evaluate overall significance. Reviewing papers teaches students a great deal about how to best write them. And, no matter how difficult some reviewer comments may be to digest, I have never seen a manuscript that was not improved upon revision.
Yes, there always is an element of luck in research. Some proteins form tight complexes and some enzymes seem to pop out of E. coli in milligram quantities. That is why we carry out experiments— the outcome is not guaranteed. But the pleasure of making a discovery— and working it out— is at the heart of why all of us chose science. It would be a travesty if tougher biomedical science publishing standards drive away talented individuals because of long doctoral tracks and years of feeling inadequate and/or discouraged. The sooner our students can experience the thrill of publication, the sooner they will be hooked.
P.S. We welcome all suggestions regarding how to improve your online journal experience!
1. Appropriate venues include PLoS ONE, a journal that presents primary scientific research not published elsewhere, performed to a high technical standard, described in sufficient detail and with conclusions supported by the data. BioMed Central also includes this category of paper.
ASBMB President Suzanne Pfeffer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a biochemistry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.