Monday, May 2, 2016

Editing the Journal of Tomorrow

This month I have a unique interview lined up for you all. A few weeks ago I was able to connect with Dr. Marian C. Horzinek, editor-in-chief of Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow, an online, refereed journal that provides reviews and opinion papers (in contrast to experimental data) on the most current research in biological sciences. The journal's noble mission statement captures very well its intent and scope: "Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow is an electronic current awareness journal that aims to encourage and support the worldwide veterinary research community; it also wishes to give the community a sense of identity and appreciation of quality." Perusing the site, you will quickly find yourself immersed in a spectrum of topics as diverse as animal night vision to the genetics of autoimmune disease to a bit of paleontology. And that's just from the past few weeks. Check back again and you'll find updated information, links, and editorials, illustrating just how deep the well is in biological research. How fun to be the editor-in-chief, right? Let's see what Marian has to say about it.

Rewind to 2001. Marian was spending the last decade of his professional career in research administration, founding the Utrecht Graduate School of Animal Health and the Institute of Veterinary Research in the Netherlands. "I had interviewed many of the approximately 80 PhD students and found them focused on their research topic without looking left or right," Marian says. "My students knew everything about every amino acid in every glycoprotein of a corona virus, but nothing about a disease caused by it."

So he started to think.

"A web-based biomedical journal with a current awareness perspective seemed the right thing to do," he says. With moral and financial support from the Dean of the Veterinary Faculty at Utretch along with assistance from a professional web design office, Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow (also known by its web handle VetScite) was born.

At the start, the publication electronically published four issues a year and since 2002, Marian says, this has been continuous with biomedical news updates appearing at twice weekly intervals. The staff for this publication is small but mighty. Dr. Anjop Venker-van Haagen is the editor who works on the majority of the publication with current part-time help from a vet student. Marian notes there are no external funds. "We have never considered sponsoring," he says. "Because of the independence issue, there are always strings attached." The staff also has a cartoonist, Miroslav Pavlicek, whose drawings on the site are crafted from stories the site features and offer a visual component that is creatively exceptional.

"My favorite part of the job is to look at the material Anjop collects, to tweak some details, to suggest topics and discard others and to communicate with the authors, contributors, and students," Marian says. "Several have been or have become personal friends. Anjop is one of them." Anjop herself is a leading expert in ear, nose, and throat diseases of companion animals and author of the textbook on such conditions: Ear, Nose, Throat and Tracheobronchial Diseases in Dogs and Cats.

Perhaps it's important to take a minute to explain the unique niche that Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow fills. "The content of VetScite is not primarily laid out for the veterinarian practitioner," Marian explains. "Neither is VetScite a journal for publishing primary scientific work. This journal intends to fill another niche: it is aimed at the graduate student, the PhD supervisor, the postdoctoral fellow, and academic teacher, the veterinary scholar, the science journalist, the government researcher, the scientist." VetScite instead addresses the forward-looking academic teaching and pathophysiology/animal well-being/veterinary public health research scene, says Marian.

Given this broad brush (and to me, intimidating) approach, just how, then, do Marian and Anjop select content? Interestingly, Marian says he and Anjop look for what they think is funny. "We publish what may lead to new avenues of research, what is novel in the true sense of the word, what raises expectations," Marian says. "After all, the journal is about tomorrow."

"The journal is about tomorrow."

This blog has featured a few cartoonists in the past so it should be no surprise that I was taken by the cartoons published on VetScite, by the above-mentioned Dr. Miroslav Pavlicek. I had to find out more about the man behind these drawings and asked Marian to elaborate. "Miroslav is my cartoonist and a successful companion animal practitioner in a vet hospital in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic," says Marian. "This is a rare combination and you can tell from his drawings that he knows the scene well. He has illustrated a number of books, advertising material for a vaccine company, and reliably provides new drawings for VetScite about once a month."
Cartoon appearing in VetScite, by Miroslav Pavlicek

You may notice that the cartoons on VetScite aren't there for the laughs, per say. Instead, they provide comment on a current article referenced on the site. "As most persons with a sense of humor, he is not funny, but rather considerate and thoughtful," Marian says of Miroslav. "His way of lateral thinking finds humorous aspects in any scientific discovery, which he portrays in his characteristic style."
Cartoon appearing in VetScite, by Miroslav Pavlicek

Moving forward, Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow continues to utilize multimedia technology and explore new and exciting topics as they relate to OneHealth. (The OneHealth concept is a large focus of Marian's work.) Since he and his staff are looking at the very edge of new biomedical research, I asked Marian about trend spotting. "Quite generally, any new technique or method that enters the biomedical scene initiates a trend," he says. "Cancer and immunology, ageing and neurology, genomics and behavior have been our focus, among others." Visit the tags in the News articles on the site to get the latest and greatest. To stay in-the-know, subscribe to their newsletter.

Until next month, dear readers!

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