Randy Schekman, a distinguished cell biologist and the 14th editor of ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, has been named the first editor of a new journal that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust aim to launch next year.
"It is my strong feeling that there is a need for a scientific journal at the very high end that is run by active practicing scientists embedded in an academic environment, individuals who experience both the frustrations and satisfactions of research," says Schekman. "The scientific journals that are now at the high end are doing some things right, but I think there is room at the top for an alternative approach."
Schekman will assume his new responsibilities in August. His first priorities will be recruiting a managing executive editor responsible for overseeing the journal's business functions and identifying the scientific editors, including two deputies, 10-12 senior editors, and a larger board of reviewing editors.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, says, "Randy Schekman is an outstanding cell biologist who has edited the PNAS with great distinction. We are delighted that he has agreed to lead the new journal that we are founding, which will provide a major new vehicle for publication of the world's best research in the life sciences. Randy and the new journal share the values of our three organizations - this journal will support the brightest minds in science."
Leaders of the three research organizations announced their intention to launch the new journal at a London press conference on June 27 and outlined their fundamental goals: publication of highly significant research; an independent editorial team comprised of active, practicing scientists; and a rapid and transparent peer review.
Professor Herbert Jäckle, vice president of the Max Planck Society, says, "Publishing top science requires the leadership of the best active scientists to reliably judge the quality of the submitted work and the reviewers' responses, and to take rapid and unbiased decisions that are transparent both for the authors and the scientific community. Randy's commitment as a founding editor of the new journal guarantees that these essentials become reality."
Expected to launch in about a year, the journal will be online and open access. Schekman says he does not expect the journal to hold the copyright to the literature but to utilize Creative Commons licenses so that the data can be widely shared.
Schekman has been a Hughes investigator at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1991. He will devote half of his time to the new journal, but will also help guide PNAS until the National Academy of Sciences identifies a successor.
For more than 30 years, Schekman's research has focused on the molecular machinery that enables proteins to be trafficked within cells. Working in yeast, he made fundamental discoveries about how vesicles bud off from the cell's endoplasmic reticulum - a membranous network inside the cell - and transport proteins for further processing for internal or external use. Schekman and his colleagues identified more than 50 genes involved in the process, methodically determining the order and role each played.
Schekman shared the 2002 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with James Rothman, now of Yale University, and has received other major awards including the Gairdner Foundation International Award and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize.
Robert Tjian, President of HHMI, says, "Randy is the ideal founding editor in chief; his scientific judgment is impeccable, he is broadly knowledgeable, widely regarded as fair minded, and highly respected internationally. Perhaps equally important is his extensive experience as an editor in chief and his obvious zeal and commitment to making the new journal the most successful in a generation."
Schekman has served as editor of PNAS since 2006, succeeding the late Nicholas R Cozzarelli. Like Cozzarelli, he focused on elevating the quality and visibility of the journal by increasing the number of direct submission articles that are subject to rigorous peer review. Under Schekman's leadership, PNAS earlier this year also launched an online-only option for direct submission articles. Called PNAS Plus, it provides for a longer digital article and a companion summary in the print journal.
"I have a track record of making independent decisions, but I think this journal also has an important founding principle: we will seek the best research papers from all over the world and will not favor scientists supported by the founding organizations," Schekman says.
Schekman reports that editors will be appropriately compensated, noting for example that senior editors will be expected to devote 20 per cent of their time to the journal and would be paid accordingly. He has already begun speaking with potential scientific editors.
For the first three to four years, to help establish the journal, no fees will be charged to authors. Once the journal is established, it is anticipated that authors will be charged an article processing fee to cover some of the ongoing costs of publication.
"My priority will be to launch the new journal promptly and with great visibility," says Schekman. "Open access is the future and we will build on the pioneering efforts of the Public Library of Science so that scientists will have access to this literature and the data anywhere they are."