Jeanne Harris, new editor-in-chief (EIC) of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI), looks forward to building on MPMI’s reputation as a leading journal by continuing to focus on key research questions while attracting new readership by expanding the scope to include more population genomics/comparative genomics. She envisions a series of review articles that examine the effects of climate change on plant-microbe interactions and wants MPMI to engage more with junior scientists, who can raise awareness of the journal and increase its position within the community. In addition to her duties as EIC, Harris serves as an associate professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Vermont, where her research interests include plant-microbe interactions, signaling networks, and developmental genetics. She holds a PhD in cell biology from the University of California, San Francisco.
What is your vision for the journal and your board over the next 3 years?
Jeanne Harris: I’d like to build on MPMI’s reputation as the leading journal for high-quality research in the MPMI field, helping us to identify and focus on the major research questions, expanding our scope to include more population/comparative genomics, and continuing the very successful Distinguished Review article series that John McDowell started.
The new MPMI board brings a geographic breadth and depth of expertise that will help us to attract, evaluate, and publish foundational research from colleagues around the world on key questions regarding the molecular interactions of plants and the many microbes, insects, and parasitic plants in their environment. Over the next 3 years, I’d like to have MPMI engage more with junior scientists, helping to increase awareness of the journal to maintain and strengthen its position in the research community, and to be a leader in the discussion of the big questions in our field.
What is the “Top 10 Questions in MPMI” campaign?
JH: The MPMI Editorial Board has planned a new interactive campaign to work with the scientific community on the “Top 10 Questions in MPMI.” The idea is to engage the community in a process of identifying the top 10 unanswered questions in MPMI. The result will be an editorial by the board reporting the results of this community discussion, followed by a series of Perspectives or Reviews on the questions over the course of a year. My goals are to engage the community in more of a dialogue with the journal and to draw the focus of the journal to the big research goals in the field. I also have plans to create a series of podcasts accompanying these perspectives to help showcase these unanswered questions: What is the background or context? Why are the questions so compelling? What do we know so far?
Why focus on these questions?
JH: As scientists, we focus on trying to answer the big unanswered questions in our field. Journals naturally publish what has been figured out. As we chip away at these big questions, we publish pieces of it. How do we make people aware of the big unanswered questions that motivate this work? The goal is to make the journal MPMI a central place for the community to discuss and focus our attention on the big unanswered questions that motivate us and drive our research.
I think a focus on the unanswered questions is especially important for students and younger scientists, who may find it hard to identify the big questions amid a proliferation of journal articles. The editorial, Perspectives, and Reviews that will result from this community discussion should provide an important resource for students, post-docs, and junior faculty while helping to strengthen their familiarity with the journal MPMI and increase their connection to it.
What about John’s stewardship has made your transition to EIC more approachable?
JH: John’s leadership at MPMI has put the journal in an excellent position, attracting attention with a series of timely and fascinating focus issues while fostering a culture of research excellence and high ethical standards, as well as improving the experience for our submitting authors. The Distinguished Review Article Series that John initiated, focusing on “Conceptual and Methodological Breakthroughs in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions,” started with a bang with an outstanding review by Dan Klessig and is a series I’m excited to continue. On a personal level, John’s mentorship has been hugely helpful as I take on the EIC role at MPMI, and I know I will continue to draw on his expertise and intuition.