David's New Book

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy - Vindicated!

Today’s blog is a lesson in history recalling an era of journal elitism among universities, scientists and funding agencies that, I am sure, still exists to some extent today. During my years as a young assistant professor, as I was starting to apply for grants, I was told that publishing in “important, high impact” journals was as important as the publication itself. I was even given a list of journals preferred by the university promotions committee and by funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health in the US.  Does this sound familiar to anyone out there?

My chosen field of research, however, was antimicrobial resistance.  That was a very poor choice in the 1970s and 80s since the NIH believed that such research should be funded by the pharmaceutical industry (what were they thinking?). Complicating my choice was the dearth of journals available to publish my research. One of the best and most appropriate journals for this research was Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy published by the American Society for Microbiology. When I looked down the list of “important” journals provided by my university – AAC was nowhere to be found. 

I admit that when I first began my career, I didn’t even know about this priority list of journals.  I was more interested in my research and getting my data published. But as I began to apply for more grant funding and for promotion in the university, the journal list suddenly loomed before me. I had been publishing in a variety of journals including those for clinical medicine, epidemiology, clinical microbiology and later, more and more, in AAC.  None of those journals were on “the list.” My department chairman approached me about this. Publishing in the “higher priority” journals would be more likely to convince funding and promotions committees.

I listened.  I began to try and publish in Journal of Biological Chemistry, J Biochem, Biochim Biophys Acta, J Bacteriol, J Med Chem, Chemistry, etc.  These were on the list. I guess it worked since I was promoted and was able to obtain grant funding. But I still published a fair number of papers in AAC since it was, for much of my work, the most appropriate journal. Not only that, but I felt that for the microbiology of resistance, there really was no better journal out there.  For the discovery of new antimicrobial agents, again, AAC was an important outlet since, unlike the chemistry journals, AAC insisted on key, relevant biological information. 

Yesterday, through my AAC editorial duties, I learned that two of the three papers cited by the Nobel Committee in awarding the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year were AAC papers (http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.15.3.361, http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AAC.15.3.372).  So much for academic elitism!