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Researchers Launch a New Journal to Focus on Microbiome Research

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Two researchers are launching a new journal this month to focus on microbiome studies. The journal, called Microbiome, is the brainchild of both the University of Maryland Medical School's Jacques Ravel and the University of Delaware's Eric Wommack. With this journal, they hope to provide a place to bring together both the environmental and medical microbiome communities.

"The expertise you find in the two communities are extremely complementary and they need to be reading the same journal, same methodology, that are published by one or the other," Ravel says.

The idea for the journal originated at a Keystone Symposium Ravel helped organize in early 2011 on microbial communities as drivers of ecosystem diversity. At the meeting, Ravel says, there was a realization that people studying the human microbiome hadn't been talking to people focused on environmental microbiomes.

Wommack adds that environmental microbiologists have long taken a community-level view of microorganisms, something that medical microbiologists have only recently begun to do. "The focus of the microbiome research is, of course, how entire communities of microorganisms may cause disease or prevent disease," Wommack says. "It's just a really new way of thinking for the medical establishment. However, the environmental microbiologists have been thinking this way for decades."

In addition to research articles and reviews, the new journal is to include a section called Microbiome Announcements where researchers can publish raw datasets. "A lot of people generate datasets and those things almost never end in publication," Ravel says. "I think there is a need for a citation, a journal, something that people can actually publish to show their data: the way they generated it, very detailed methodologies, very detailed metadata."

Wommack adds that methodology can influence comparative metagenomic studies and that traditional papers often have insufficient methods or supplemental methods sections for researchers to determine whether or not to include a dataset in a comparative study. "We're hoping that the microbiome report will … become a detailed record of how things were handled from sample through sequencing," he says.

Further, Ravel adds, the data will be held to high genomic standards.

Microbiome, which is being published by BioMed Central, is set to come out once a month, and will be an open-access journal. "That, to me, was a deal breaker, to not have open access to this, especially the announcements. If you have to pay for having access to the announcement, it is not of any use, I think," Ravel says.

The inaugural issue, he adds, is shaping up well. "We've got some actually really, really interesting papers coming out that deal with not just descriptive studies, but clinical studies using microbiome manipulation, for example," Ravel says.

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