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As Academic Societies Launch Proteomics Journals, Editors Attempt to Define Their Focus

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In the past year and a half, for-profit scientific publishers have launched two new research journals devoted to proteomics: Proteomics and Proteome. The latter lasted about four months before Springer — under new Bertelsmann managers — pulled the plug.

With a nominal 50 percent success rate thus far, introducing additional versions of proteomics research journals seems a risky endeavor. But that is exactly what two non-profit academic societies, the American Chemical Society and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have decided to do. ASBMB began publishing Molecular and Cellular Proteomics (MCP) in September, and ACS will launch the Journal of Proteome Research (JPR) in January.

The academic societies will most likely face the same competitive pressures as their for-profit colleagues, not to mention internal competition among related journals sponsored by their parent societies. But the editors of the most recent entries to the field told ProteoMonitor they have plans for distinguishing themselves in what they admit to be a challenging assignment.

“The good news is that it’s an exciting new area, and of course the bad news is that there are three or four new journals [ready to serve that market],” said Bill Hancock, editor of ACS’ JPR, and vice president and general manager of proteomics at Thermo Finnigan.

But Hancock and his counterpart at ASBMB’s MCP, Ralph Bradshaw, a protein chemist at the University of California, Irvine, see several potential advantages to launching a proteomics journal out of the embrace of their respective academic societies. In short, a journal published by a non-profit tends to be less expensive, the society’s commitment to the journal might extend beyond short-term profit margins, and the society’s membership might serve to provide the journal with a niche within proteomics, they said.

Only time will tell if these assertions hold true, but the former editor of the now-defunct journal Proteome acknowledged that Springer’s approach was strictly motivated by profit. “Springer does not see making money in journals nowadays,” said Jasminka Godovac-Zimmermann, the former editor and a cell biologist at University College London. “It was certainly not the quality or quantity of papers.” Competition from free online publications such as BioMed Central also contributed to Springer’s decision to stop publishing Proteome in January 2001, Godovac-Zimmermann said.

 

WILL MCP BE ALL MASS SPEC?

 

MCP’s genesis occurred at an ASBMB retreat in May of 1999, as part of a larger facelift to update the society’s focus and attract new members, Bradshaw said. By virtue of MCP’s sister publication, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, ASBMB had built a strong foundation in electronic publishing, and the society wanted to use that “to do some new things,” he said. “Proteomics represented an area we hadn’t had much dealings with.”

The journal’s current core constituency resides in mass spectrometry, Bradshaw said, largely because the ASBMB first publicized the journal at a mass spec-focused proteomics conference held last August in San Francisco. The subsequent first round of submissions was “heavily weighted” in that area, although Bradshaw said he hopes that won’t always be the case.

To broaden MCP’s appeal, Bradshaw said the new journal will “paint [proteomics] with a very broad brush” and err on the side of inclusiveness, by accepting papers from researchers involved in protein bioinformatics and array technologies — including nucleic acid arrays — in addition to more conventional approaches to proteome-wide studies. Bradshaw also hopes that MCP will attract non-hypothesis driven papers, such as reports with data on protein networks, that wouldn’t appeal to JBC.

 

PROTEOMICS FOR CHEMISTS

 

ACS’s JPR, for its part, starts out with a fairly obvious bias towards chemistry. The society launched the journal because it recognized that a significant number of chemists would be involved in proteomics, and that as the field developed “having a specialized journal was inevitable,” Hancock said. Before an academic search committee recommended Hancock for the top job at JPR earlier this summer, he spent almost 10 years as an associate editor for ACS’ Analytical Chemistry.

To distinguish JPR from his previous editorial project, Hancock said he would try to emphasize the application of particular analytical chemistry techniques, and ensure that accepted submissions demonstrate how a novel chemistry technique could be used in “getting a quality measurement of biolgical significance.” Analytical Chemistry tends to focus on new methods of measurement, but “the point of the proteomics journal would be to have an analytical and structural focus that actually produces results [in the field].”

Despite concerns that initial submissions to JPR would be “too chemistry in focus,” Hancock said the papers he’s received so far have included substantial biological content, including new algorithms for handling protein informatics and methods for preparing samples from biological specimens.

As for competing with each other, both Hancock and Bradshaw said that the potential for using proteomics to advance both basic and applied biology should help generate enough research reports to supply at least two specialized journals.

“With the importance of the field, the amount of money going in, and the number of new scientists entering the field, I’m pretty comfortable there will be enough good papers for two journals,” Hancock said.

— JSM

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