According to a recent analysis of
Essential Science IndicatorsSM
Clarivate, the journal Autoimmunity
is having a growing impact in the field of
Immunology. Its current record in this field includes
731 papers cited a total of 4,600 times between January
1, 1998 and June 30, 2008.
Founded in 1988, Autoimmunity is currently
published by Informa Healthcare. Its Editor-in-Chief is
Dr. Paolo Casali, who is the Donald L. Bren Professor
of Medicine, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry in
the School of Medicine at the University of California,
Irvine. He is also the Director of the Center for
In the interview below,
ScienceWatch.com correspondent Gary Taubes talks with Dr.
Casali about Autoimmunity's history and citation
When did you become Editor-in-Chief of
I have been the Editor-in-Chief since 2002. In 2007, I was asked to serve
for another five years and I accepted.
What was the state of the journal when you took
When I took the journal in my hands, it was moribund. If I remember
correctly, the impact factor was less than 1—maybe 0.8. The founding
editor had drifted away from the journal in the two or three years prior to
that and the journal suffered enormously. The impact factor now (2007) is
2.89, and we’re doing very well. I expect the 2008 impact factor to
be well above 3.0, which would be remarkable for a "specialty" journal.
When was the journal founded initially and what factors led to its
"...we’ve become more
consistent in the mixture of experimental
papers and clinical research papers
The journal was founded in 1988. This is its 20th anniversary.
It was founded in England by Terrence Wilkin. Terry was an endocrinologist
by training, with a strong interest in diabetes, which is, as you probably
know, an autoimmune disease. When he founded the journal, the publisher was
Harwood. Then Harwood was bought out by another company and that was
followed by a number of acquisitions and consolidations. Eventually it was
purchased by Taylor & Francis, and then they were purchased by Informa,
which now publishes it. Meanwhile, Terry was getting near to retirement and
in many ways he significantly reduced his effort in the journal, which is
what I mean by "drifting away." For two, three, maybe even four years, the
journal didn’t do very well at all.
Had you been involved with the journal from the beginning?
Yes, I was one of the founding co-editors and I always did quite a lot of
work for the journal, which is why I was asked to take over.
What steps did you take to bring Autoimmunity back to
The first obvious step was to clear the backlog of submitted manuscripts.
The second step was making the journal known again—informing my
colleagues, clinicians, basic researchers, and clinician scientists that
the journal now had a new Editor-in-Chief and that I was very serious about
bringing it back to the original glory of the first days. That, I must say,
worked quite well.
Secondly, I found a very supportive publisher in London; that was when
Taylor & Francis got involved. They were very supportive when I went
there. What was needed was a broadening of the editorial board of the
journal, the authors, and the readers. I think their decision to go with an
American Editor-in-Chief for the journal was a good one. Up until then, the
journal had a strong British and European component, which did not provide
the strength the journal currently has with its American root. Finally, a
further boost to Autoimmunity came from the recent relocation of the
journal production to New York, at INFORMA USA.
Another thing I did was start a tradition of commissioning monographic
issues from leaders in the field. These issues, which typically account for
maybe two to four issues a year out of the eight we publish, are
commissioned by me to leaders in the field who then function as guest
editors for that particular issue. They then solicit eight to twelve
contributions that would be experimental, reviews, or rostrum
articles—a rostrum is a very up-to-date review with some opinion and
some experimental data as well. And this has worked out very well. This
year, for instance, we’ll have three monographic issues in total.
Finally, the journal went online, which has had a significant impact.
Submission is online, the editing process is online, and this has further
boosted the number of contributions. It is helping to broaden the scope of
the journal. And this is how we got to where we are today.
Was it difficult in the beginning to get good people to submit
quality articles to a journal that had been floundering?
I would not say it was difficult, but it took considerable work in my part.
The only tool I really had at first was my familiarity with a lot of good
people, a lot of good scientists. I had these connections and I would
simply call them up personally and request that they contribute, and many
of them did.
Have there been specific developments in the fields served by your
journal that may have contributed to the increase in citations?
"Many of our papers are published
10-12 weeks from the date of first
Not one particular subject, no. I think the biggest change since I took
over has been more of an internal one: we’ve become more consistent
in the mixture of experimental papers and clinical research papers
we’ve been publishing. We have been trying to publish more of the
former than we did in the past. The journal has always been quite broad in
the range of manuscripts, the scope of manuscripts published.
How much has the editorial board changed since you took over the
I completely reshuffled the editorial board. It is now a panel of six
senior editors: one Australian, one from Brazil, two Europeans, and two
North Americans. That goes with a panel of 25 associate editors. I would
say the editorial board at this point doesn’t have more than one or
two members, at most, who had been there before 2002.
Were you looking for a diverse international board to broaden
submissions and readership?
Yes, but I was also looking, first and foremost, for scientific quality.
What would you like to do with the journal in the next few years
before your term as Editor-in-Chief is up?
What I would like to do—what I will do—is further strengthen
the basic-science component of the journal—meaning molecular biology,
cell biology, immunology, molecular genetics, etc. That is my primary
purpose and I’m already doing that. We just published a monographic
issue on the epigenetics of autoimmunity, which I think is quite novel and
very well done. I’d also like to make sure we cover those fields and
subfields that have been neglected in the last few years.
Another thing I would do is be very selective and make sure we publish only
the highest quality clinical/experimental papers. We will continue to
emphasize research in systemic autoimmunity—for instance, lupus,
rheumatoid arthritis, polyendocrinopathies (autoimmune endocrine system
disorders)—but we will also continue our interest in diabetes.
We’ve published quite a lot on diabetes. That was the main focus of
the journal at the very beginning, 20 years ago.
Has the turnaround time for publishing articles decreased now that
the journal is online?
Yes, the turnaround time is now very short. The average turnaround from
first submission to acceptance is about a month or six weeks. And this is
continuing to improve. Many of our papers are published 10-12 weeks from
the date of first submission. That’s much, much faster than it was
six years ago.
Are there significant controversies in autoimmunity that help drive
citations and might be playing a factor in how well the journal is
No, not really. Occasionally I have a letter to the editor regarding a
paper that was just published, expressing a different perspective or
opinion. I welcome those and we publish them, but that’s about
Autoimmunity Paolo Casali, M.D.,
Informa Healthcare, publishers