Journal of Clinical Microbiology EIC Alexander McAdam Talks JCM Past, Present and Future

Aug. 14, 2017

Established in 1975, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology is a great resource for all who work in the field of infectious disease and clinical microbiology, but especially for those who treat patients. JCM publishes everything clinical, from applications of new diagnostic technologies to studies of disease transmission, and from educational case studies to global epidemiological reports. We spoke with JCM Editor-in-Chief Alexander McAdam about the journal format and the topics it covers.

Alexander McAdamASM: The Journal of Clinical Microbiology has been publishing clinical microbiology and infectious disease research for over 40 years! Tell us about your involvement with JCM.

Alexander McAdam: I've been the Editor-in-Chief for just over two years. Before that, I was one of the editors for ten years. JCM has had six editors-in-chief in 42 years, and I had the opportunity to work closely with two of my predecessors, Andy Onderdonk and Gary Doern. I learned a lot from each of them.

ASM: How has the journal changed in the years since you've been the EIC?

AM: Each year at the Editors Meeting, we have had long, thoughtful and sometimes hard conversations about the direction of JCM and the result is that the journal has changed quite a bit in the past few years.

First, we have raised the standards for accepting research papers. Along with the Editorial Board members, we are asking whether each paper is directly relevant to diagnostic testing for infectious disease or epidemiology, whether it is significant or novel, and whether the data and statistical analysis are of high quality. As a result, we have reduced the acceptance rate of research papers by about a third in the past two years. I am really pleased with the consistent quality of papers we publish.

Second, we asked whether all the categories of papers we were publishing met these same standards and decided that some did not. We have stopped publishing short-form papers and conventional case-reports for this reason. We will still publish great short papers, but they are no longer subject to the restrictions and shortcomings of the short-form format we'd used in the past.

Third, we have introduced the open-access "Brief Case" feature. These were created to address the loss of the educational value of the case reports when we stopped publishing those. The Brief Case articles are written for clinical microbiologists in all roles, but the target audience is technologists and fellows in training. The emphasis is on educational value, so the cases can be uncommon infections, but not once-in-a-lifetime rarities. The articles include take-home points and self-assessment questions. Carey-Ann Burnham is the editor taking care of these and, with her leadership, these are regularly among the most-accessed articles in JCM each month.

Fourth, we have greatly increased the number of minireviews in JCM, from about one a month to about three a month. When Colleen Kraft came on-board to run the minireviews, we agreed that there was a lot of opportunity to expand them, since there are so many interesting and important things happening in clinical microbiology. The minireviews are very popular and I think that's because they are so useful and well written. For example, we published a timely minireview on Zika virus diagnostics that has been downloaded over 10,000 times.           

Fifth, we have put the commentary articles to a new use. We now feature commentaries about specific research articles published in the same issue. The commentaries put the research articles in the context of the literature, pointing out why they are significant, how we might apply the findings in our clinical work and research, and what further research is needed. We also continue to publish commentaries that represent opinions about general issues in clinical microbiology as well.

ASM: The "Point-Counterpoint" feature allows scientists with different opinions on a controversial issue to make their case using the latest research, such as the best way to diagnose Clostridium difficile, featured in the March 2017 issue. Do you get much feedback from readers based on these potentially inflammatory features? 

AM: I do, mainly in person at meetings like Microbe and the Clinical Virology Symposium. Sometimes the differences of opinion in the Point-Counterpoint articles are really strong, like in the one about C. difficile testing, and that gets people fired up. I'm always glad to get the feedback and to see that people are engaging with the Point-Counterpoint articles.

ASM: Do you notice trending topics that get a lot of traction, for instance when a new disease is in the news or a widely publicized foodborne illness outbreak is occurring?

AM: Absolutely. Emerging causes of infectious diseases like Zika virus and Candida auris get a lot of interest, as they certainly should. Antimicrobial resistance always gets a lot of attention and we get a lot of great studies about antibiotic and antifungal susceptibility testing methods, including many from colleagues involved with the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). Applications of new methods also get a lot of interest, such as next-generation sequencing and syndromic panels.

ASM: What should we look for from JCM in the future?

AM: Our mission is to publish excellent and significant articles in clinical microbiology and epidemiology, so you'll continue to find those in JCM. I'll continue to work with the Editors and leadership of ASM Journals to improve the quality of both the research articles and the non-research features, so the content of the journal will certainly continue to evolve. ASM is a leader in scientific journals and there is a great spirit of innovation and experimentation in the leadership of ASM, including the leadership of the journals, so I think we'll see changes to maintain and even improve the experiences of authors and readers of all the ASM journals.

ASM: Any final thoughts to share regarding Journal of Clinical Microbiology?

AM: If I may speak personally for a moment, being Editor-in-Chief of JCM is wonderful. It is among the most exciting and challenging things that I've done professionally. The leaders at ASM Journals, the JCM editors and editorial board members are great people who care very much about JCM, and it's a pleasure to work with them. JCM has an important place in clinical microbiology and I really enjoy maintaining the high quality of the journal, while continuing to work with others to innovate and, we hope, make the journal even better. 

A longer version of this interview is available in the Summer 2017 issue of Microcosm, the magazine for ASM members. You can find more JCM articles at the journal website and by following both @ASMicrobiology and @JClinMicro on Twitter.

Author: ASM Communications

ASM Communications
ASM Communications staff.