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Editor in the Spotlight - Michel Tibayrenc

February 10, 2016

two standing lamps with blue green background

Working on the evolution of infectious diseases for 35 years

Michel Tibayrenc, MD, PhD, was born in France and has worked on the evolution of infectious diseases for 35 years. A Director of Research at the French Institut de recherche pour le developpement (IRD), he has spent a total of 12 years in Southern countries (Algeria, French Guiana, Bolivia, Thailand) and four years in the US (University of California and Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta). He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, and the founder and principal organizer of the international congress MEEGID (stands for molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genetics of infectious disease). Michel Tibayrenc is passionate about research in developing countries.

Michel Tibayrenc

Published eight times per year, Infection, Genetics and Evolution has an Impact Factor of 3.128 and receives between 450-500 papers each year, of which around 50% are eventually published.

Infection-Genetics-and-Evolution front cover

Q. What does being a journal Editor mean to you and what do you find most rewarding about this role? A. Being an Editor-in-Chief gives privileged access to up-to-date scientific information in my field. Given the very specific topic of the journal, designed by me, it gives me the possibility to contribute towards shaping a new, integrated field of research (evolution of hosts, pathogens and vectors involved in the transmission and severity of infectious diseases). From a professional point of view, this role gives me an important prestige. Since 1977, I have worked for the French governmental organization IRD, which specializes in collaboration with Southern/developing countries. My activity as an Editor-in-Chief allows me to support the scientific communities in those regions of the world and to emphasize research specifically relevant to them (infectious diseases raging in the Southern world: malaria, Chagas disease, leishmanioses, tuberculosis, AIDS, dengue, among others). The companion congress MEEGID reinforces this action.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as Editor of Infection, Genetics and Evolution? How do you overcome these challenges and what extra support can Elsevier provide? A. The biggest challenge has been to operate the take-off of a new journal. It launched in 2001 and Thompson Reuters refused for more than eight years to give it an Impact Factor, while for the PLOS journals, the IF was given the first year of publication. A journal with no IF is poorly attractive. Elsevier helps with a very professional editing.

Q. In many areas of research, the growth of paper submissions is outpacing the growth of qualified reviewers and resulting in pressure on the peer-review system. What do you think the solution to this problem is and how do you see the peer-review process changing in the future? A. I see no solution for this: the present peer-review system is, to my eyes, the only satisfying one. Now every scientist is an author, and wants his/her articles peer-reviewed. Therefore it is in the interest of every scientist to act as a referee from time to time. The number of articles reviewed should be an important part of a CV and should be taken into account in the professional evaluation of a scientist. Editors should adequately target referees. Overbusy ‘stars’ will likely refuse to review papers. On the other hand, beginners lack expertise for it. A compromise should be targeted between these two extreme cases.

Q. We have observed that researchers are increasingly accessing journal content online at an article level, i.e. the researcher digests content more frequently on an article basis rather than a journal basis. How do you think this affects the visibility of your journal among authors? A. I think it does not affect it.

Q. The move from print to electronic publishing has stimulated a broad discussion around alternative publishing models. These models are often termed open access and include:

  • Author Pays Journal

  • Sponsored Articles

  • Free access to archives

  • Open-archiving

What is your opinion about the open access movement and how does it affect your journal? A. Open access is, to my eyes, a robbery. It is free access to the reader, but generally, publishing an article in such journals is extremely expensive.

Q. Researchers need to demonstrate their research impact, and they are increasingly under pressure to publish articles in journals with high Impact Factors. How important is a journal’s Impact Factor to you, and do you see any developments in your community regarding other research quality measurements? A. The IF is of course most important, and does reflect something. Now some Editors are presently playing an ugly game by trying to artificially increase their Impact Factors with unfair means (pressure on the authors to cite their journal). This should be denounced as scientific misconduct.*

Q. As online publishing techniques develop, the traditional format of the online scientific article will change. At Elsevier, we are experimenting with new online content features and functionality. Which improvements/changes would you, as an Editor, find most important A. I have no opinion on this. I find the classical format satisfying.

Q. Do you use social media or online professional networking in your role as an Editor or researcher? Has it helped you and, if so, how? A. I am on Facebook and LinkedIn. They are not useful to me as an Editor.

Q. How do you see your journal developing over the next 10 years? Do you see major shifts in the use of journals in the future? A. I have a reasonable hope that the journal will get a rather considerable audience and increased Impact Factor, due to its very specific design and scope.

Q. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow Editors about being a journal Editor? A. I have a very ‘home-made cooking’ strategy and very closely follow the publishing process with a personal database (Bento on mac), which permits me to check the status of all submitted articles at least once a week. I am very strict on the scientific rules dealing with Linnean terminology and I am struck by the fact that big journals like Nature are not. It is very frequent to see the title of an article as “C. elegans” instead of “Caenorhabditis elegans”. If an author does that, I remind him/her of these rules.

* Read our Editors’ Update Issue 36 article Impact Factor Ethics for Editors