Adaptation: Changing to Meet a Global Challenge

The COVID19 pandemic is accelerating the pace of change in science: as the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads around the world, scientists need to be able to collect, analyze, and share vast amounts of data quickly and easily. Journals and publications are reevaluating policies and trying to adjust rapidly, while minimizing the spread of incorrect and potentially harmful misinformation. New ways of tracking and mapping data are being developed or refined, and an example of this is shown on the cover of this Summer issue of Science Editor, which represents a genomic epidemiology of the novel coronavirus. The Nextstrain team has been mapping the evolutionary relationships of new genomes of SARS-CoV-2 viruses as they are made available and published from labs across the globe. The blue sections represent the initial emergence in Wuhan, China, while the tan tracks it spread to Europe, and red into North America. Tracking these data and how the virus is changing is essential to understanding how it can be stopped. The Nextstrain project has been in development for years but has gained a new, urgent relevance.

Likewise, although many of the articles in this issue were conceived prior to the COVID19 pandemic, they all reflect the current status quo and how we’re learning to adapt. Becky Rivard’s article “How to Communicate With Busy Authors” is a perfect example as it was proposed in the “before times,” but is perfectly suited for the present. All of us are stretched thin, but that can be especially true for authors who may be submitting articles in between their normal work, life, and parenting responsibilities while having sporadic, and changing, access to their labs and research. Her reminder to treat authors “as you would want to be treated” is an important one.

This issue kicks off a new series of interviews with CSE members and other science editors and professionals with our interview of current CSE President, Carissa Gilman, “Taking the Reins During Uncertain Times.” In addition to providing some interesting tidbits about her life outside of publishing, Carissa summarizes how she and the CSE Board are refocusing the organization to address the changing needs of our members.

The story Peter Olson recounts in his “Confessions of an Accidental Editor” is a common one as editing, in all its forms, tends to be one of those professions you back into. But it would be a mistake to think of it as a second choice or fall back profession. Instead, it’s one where an editor’s background, be it in English, science, communications, or something else entirely, can inform and strengthen their skills as an editor. If you or someone you know is thinking of becoming a STEM journal copyeditor, maybe because of the currently unstable job market, Peter provides a nice overview and set of points to consider.

Do you have a special place in your heart for the last in-person conference you were able to attend? As the target date for when we’ll be able to meet in person moves ever further into the horizon, Barbara Gastel and her team of reporters provide an overview from what was likely their last conference, “Envisioning Tomorrow’s Earth (during a Rather Different Yesterday): Some Highlights of the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting.” Their article provides useful recaps of the sessions of interest to science editors and communicators. Of note, at that meeting, CSE Past President Monica Bradford was inducted as an AAAS Fellow.

The CSE 2020 Annual Meeting was one of the first all-virtual meetings I attended after everything changed. The fact that program co-chairs, Peter Olson and Emilie Gunn, and the programing committee were able to pivot so adeptly and put out an excellent virtual meeting in a short time is a testament to the dedication of CSE members. The high quality of the program can be seen in the first batch of Annual Meeting Reports collected in this issue including Madeleine Sendek reporting on the Plenary session, “Storytelling for a More Equitable Open Science Enterprise”; Taryn Dollings on “Knowledge Exchange: Roundtable Discussions”; Samantha Bruno Fuller on “Improving Peer Review One Case Study at a Time”; and Becky Rivard on “Working with Multi-Language Authors”.

This issue also includes a trio of excellent additions to our regular columns. To start, Jennifer Regala puts the “social” back in “social media” in her new column on “Virtual Connections while Social Distancing” by highlighting some of the online communities that have developed when physical communing isn’t possible.

In her wonderful new “Style Bites” column, Stacy Christiansen takes a deep dive into those terms that take their names from people or places in “Are Eponyms Your Achilles Heel?” This column is delightfully esoteric in the best way and I hope you enjoy it as much as I.

As you read this, you’re very likely at home and possibly working from said home, so we wrap up this issue with Barbara Meyers Ford’s ever helpful “Gatherings of an Infovore” column covering “COVID-19–Relevant News, WFH Suggestions, Management Tips, and a Few Lighter Posts.”


Jonathan Schultz is Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor, and Director, Journal Operations, American Heart Association.