​Scoping our scope

What does Nature Microbiology cover?
Published in Microbiology

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For this my first “From the editors” post, I thought I’d share with you some reactions I’ve had to the launch of Nature Microbiology and my part in it. After the (very welcome) congratulations and well wishes, often the conversation turned to scope. Several people who know me and my research background (for a very short summary, see below) immediately asked when there would be a Nature Virology, and other people seemed genuinely surprised that we would consider viruses within our remit. In this regard, we consider viruses and therefore virologists to fall firmly under the umbrella of microbiology, as has been the case on our sister journal Nature Reviews Microbiology for over a decade; thus, there will not be a Nature Virology. Some people, using yeast as a eukaryotic model system (and repeatedly stating in their papers how this informs mammalian cell biology) asked me if yeast was within our scope. Nobody generally brought up other fungi, or other eukaryotic microbes for that matter. Nobody asked me about bacteria; no surprise there! I therefore thought that maybe a brief discussion of our scope would be useful information for you as well, so here is my take on it.

I should first of all note that I primarily handle virology and eukaryotic microbiology, so if you are working on a non-bacterial microbe and your work is not environmental (Heidi is the editor for microbial ecology an evolution), chances are that I will be your editor if you choose to submit to Nature Microbiology (barring illness or holiday - we editors are known to sometimes suffer the first and enjoy the second). As such, I feel rather protective of “my” communities and their place in the microbial world (and the journal)!

At Nature Microbiology, we are interested in reporting compelling advances regarding all types of microorganisms -from the smallest virus to microscopic parasites- from every angle of study, provided that the objective is to further understand said microorganism and/or its interaction with the environment/host. The jury is still out on macroscopic parasites, and perhaps this is a good topic for your voice to be heard in the comments below! What I feel would fall outside of the above statement are for example studies that use yeast as a model system for higher eukaryotes, to understand cellular or molecular processes without exploring (or providing new insights into) the physiological relevance of said processes in wild yeast populations.

I remember the journal clubs during my PhD. They were a bit atypical; held once a month, every lab member had 2-3 journals to keep up to date with (in the library, imagine that!) and report back on the most salient articles one had found. I distinctly recall the more senior members of the lab covering Nature, Cell and Science, and then a slope in pecking order, such that the most junior colleagues ended up with rather specialized literature. I initially tried to innovate and incorporated some microbiology journals to our roster, only to discover -to my great dismay- that not a single virus ever made an appearance, even in a supporting role! I was (and still am!) generally interested in science and thus was happy when I became responsible for following Current Biology and could pass Virology on to a younger graduate student. However, having limited time resources, I also missed a journal that encompassed all the things that would interest our lab and where the rest of the articles were also relevant to us to some extent. At Nature Microbiology, we believe that there are a lot of parallel processes between, for example, how different microbes are recognized by their host, their peers or their competition. Not to mention the importance of polymicrobial communities wherever they happen to dwell, be it the environment or the human gut –and everything in between! We are thus proud to be a generalist microbiology journal in the broadest sense of the word.

Having had the honour of being in the launching team of a journal for and by microbiologists (which is a once-a-career opportunity!), I look to the future with excitement. I very much look forward to working with you for many years to come. Full steam ahead!

Image: Michelle Banks (@artologica)

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