BSPP News 31 Autumn 1997 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 31, Autumn 1997

Molecular Plant Pathology On-Line

An international, peer-reviewed, internet journal, edited and publishedby the British Society for Plant Pathology

Submissions from all areas of molecular plant pathology are welcome,including papers on diseases caused by fungi, viruses, bacteria, nematodes,parasitic plants and other organisms

Choose MPPOL to publish your paper for:

SPEED: Our target is seven weeks from submission to publication

QUALITY: All papers are subject to rigorous peer review

ECONOMY: No subscription charges, No page charges

FEATURES: Colour illustrations are encouraged at no cost. Extensive sequence data can be published and extracted for further analysis using sequence analysis plug-ins

A selection of comments from MPPOL authors and users:

"I am particularly impressed by the speed of the whole process"

"I was impressed by the speed of the process . . . and with the qualityof the finished product"

"… is an attractive option for publishing certain kinds ofpaper"

"...the best on-line biological journal around"

Happy Birthday MPPOL!

Molecular Plant Pathology On-Line is one year old on 11th November thisyear

The "twinkle"

On 5 October 1995 I wrote to Peter Scott as the then BSPP President-Elect and a professional in the field of information dissemination, suggesting thatBSPP should consider publishing scientific papers in an internet journal. Therewould be no hard-copy and we should exploit the assets of on-line publication,particularly rapid publication in fast moving areas. Peter and I discussed thevarious options at length and presented the arguments to Council.


Council liked the ideas and appointed a small group to come up with some proposals, comprising Peter Scott, Roy Johnson, Debra Whitehead and me. We metat the Presidential meeting that year to debate the idea and canvassed theopinion of delegates on the formation of a peer reviewed, rapid publicationjournal of molecular plant pathology. We approached those we thought wereinternet literate and highly competent in their field and might considerhelping to such a journal. There was much enthusiasm amongst our admittedlybiassed "focus group", sufficient to recommend establishing such ajournal to BSPP Council. I drafted a prospectus for a journal called `MolecularPlant Pathology On-Line' which was discussed at Council on 27 Feb 1996 and theplan was approved.


The name and basic prospectus stuck through subsequent deliberations, and weset about establishing an editorial board of leading researchers in molecularplant pathology. To ensure they were at least semi-computer literate, weinvited them to become editors by e-mail! All but one accepted, so we were ontarget. The next phase was publicity. A simple leaflet was devised and mailedto people who had published recently in molecular plant pathology, members ofBSPP and APS, and placed as inserts in several journals. In addition wepublicised it at the APS meeting in Minneapolis and in newsgroups.


The first paper was received, sent to an editor, refereed and rejected - nota great start. However, the next paper was accepted and duly appeared on 11November, 1996: Gibbs et al., 1996. Carrot mottle mimic virus (CMoMV):A second umbravirus associated with carrot motley dwarf disease recognised bynucleic acid hybridisation.

Teething troubles

A lot has happened since November 1996, although maybe not as many submissions arrived as we would have liked. No matter what author instructions are specified, some will ignore them whilst others will find the loop-hole.Initially we were a little naive in our wide range of acceptable formats. Evenso, even the standard ones proved problematic sometimes with different editors' and referees'e-mail systems. These difficulties caused delays and frustration on severaloccasions whilst at other times everything went smoothly. Debra Whitehead didan excellent job administering all the submissions and editing process andcoping with all these problems. Unfortunately, Debra decided to leave her jobat RHS and pursue a new career. We hope MPPOL was not a contributory factor!Overall, we were pleased with the encouraging responses we got from authors andreaders, and we kept coming up with new ideas for the future. Our main worrywas, were we ahead of our time? Was plant pathology really ready for an on-line only journal? We strongly believed it was the way to go, but we didn't want toend up in the equivalent of the `phoney war' of 1939.

First Birthday presents

Well it was a bit early, but we decided to give MPPOL some birthday treats:a new format for the papers and a general `spruce-up'. John Antoniw was mostly responsible for the new look as he is far more capable than I at HTMLprogramming. You will find that mppol/1997/0612nadeem and subsequent papershave an improved `page' layout with the thumbnail graphics, major sectionheadings and navigation aids in a left margin. When you use either thethumbnail graphic or the text link to the figures, a new window opens displayingit at the same time as the text. You can size either window as you wish orswitch between full screen versions. Linking to a reference is also easier asit is now displayed in a frame at the bottom of the screen which you may alsoscroll.

Growing up

The other changes will not be so apparent in the final paper but should makethe road there easier. To avoid the e-mail transmission problems which haveslowed editing and refereeing we will convert all submitted scripts to HTML sothat editors and referees can access them from a confidential web location.Obviously all editors and referees will need a browser and preferably aprinter, but there should be no software compatibility or transmission encodingdifficulties.

To administer the new process we welcome Dr James Brown (editor of this Newsletter also), who will act as Coordinating Editor. He will get allsubmissions converted to HTML, transfer them to the web server and inform theEditor he has selected where the script can be accessed. The Editor will obtaintwo referees reports and make a recommendation to the Senior Editors. Adecision will then be made by the Co-ordinating Editor and one other SeniorEditor which will be conveyed to the author. All communication in this processwill be by e-mail whenever possible.

The future

To finish I'll steal a paragraph from the publicity leaflet we have justproduced:

"We recommend this journal to you as a first choice for publishingyour high quality molecular plant pathology papers. Access the web site today for more details on our international board of editors, links to existing papersand information on how to submit your manuscript."

So please encourage your colleagues to access the web site and submit theirscripts to MPPOL.

Adrian Newton