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What to know when launching a journal: An interview with Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Dr. Laurencin will be the Kavli Distinguished Lecturer and Plenary Speaker at The Materials Research Society (MRS) Spring 2016 meeting (28-March through 1-April, 2016) in Phoenix, AZ. Additionally, he will be receiving the Society for Biomaterials Founder’s Award at the World Biomaterials Congress (17-22 May, 2016) in Montreal, QC, where the first Cato T. Laurencin Travelling Fellows will also be presented. 

Q:  You’ve launched two very different journals over the last few years very close together in time but quite different in scope (Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine and Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, respectively). What motivated you?

A: In both cases I think that we are in a transformational period for both areas of scientific inquiry. For health disparities, there really isn’t an international publisher of scholarly articles on racial and ethnic health disparities like Springer and health disparities I think will define medicine in the 21st century. For Regenerative Engineering, we feel we are at the dawn of a new field. We anticipate great things.

Q:  What would you say are the most important steps for setting up a journal for launch?

A: First it is setting up a team. Managing editors and other supporting staff are important. Second is a dedicated group of editorial board members who can review papers, and also spread the word about the journal. Third is aggressive advertising by the publisher at meetings and other venues that are important for the journal.

Q:  What are the most common setbacks someone launching a new journal might need to look out for, and how did you manage these in your own experience?

A: I think having the response level that one wishes early on can be an area of setback. There has to be vigilance in promoting the journal by the editor, the staff, and the publisher. At the start of a new journal, one can’t be too comfortable.

Q:  Do you find there are general pros and cons in organizing and launching a new journal?

A: Very few cons except that you have to find a publisher that shares your passion for the subject. We actually turned down other publishers before working with Springer on both journals. We felt that they shared our commitment and passion.

Q:  Going back to your own journals: Was launching a social sciences journal such as Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities very different from the care and launching of a materials science publication such as Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine)? Or were they essentially similar experiences regardless of their core discipline?

A: They are very similar except with a social sciences journal there are early decisions to be made in terms of how quantitative/qualitative the data can be, and how broadly one defines the area.

Q:  How did you attract or acquire content in the early days?

A: We had a lot of discussion with people before the launch, and really directed people to the website at the earliest possible time. The process of promotion of the journal is a continuing one.

Q:  Which milestones would you say each journal has reached, and which milestones are you planning to achieve next?

A: Our first journal (Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities) has just been accepted for listing on Medline. Only 15 percent of journals are accepted on first application. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. We now have a backlog of about two issues in publishing which reflects tremendous interest. We are hoping for the same for our newest journal.

Q:  What factors went into your process of assembling an editorial team of associate editors and advisors?

 A: I picked very smart, dedicated and hard-working people. That is the key to success in any venture.

Q:  Finally, if you could give just one piece of advice to other Editors-in-Chief wishing to launch new journals-what would it be?

 A: Just Do It!


More about Dr. Laurencin: Cato T.  Laurencin, MD, PhD is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and  Professor of Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, as well as Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut.  In addition, UConn named him a University Professor, the 8th in its 130-year history.  He is the founder and director of  the Institute for Regenerative Engineering and the Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at UConn Health.

Dr. Laurencin earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University, his medical degree magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Laurencin is the first orthopaedic surgeon elected to membership in both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest award for technological innovation.


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