Yun-Bo Shi is Editor-in-Chief of Cell & Bioscience, launched in 2011 as the official journal of the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA), with the aim of promoting research in the biosciences by publishing the latest advances in biological and medical knowledge. Here Shi discusses what led to the formation of the SCBA in the 1980s and how and why they went on to launch Cell & Bioscience.
What are the aims of the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA) and how did it come about?
The Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America was founded back in 1984. The first meeting took place in Berkeley, where I was a graduate student, almost 29 years ago.
At the time there were many Chinese bioscientists in the United States and many in Canada as well. The idea was that these scientists should be able to interact with each other through a more regular avenue so they could interact and collaborate.
Since then, the society has grown to over 1500 lifetime members plus several hundred annual renewal active members. So we have about 2000 members. Membership is not restricted to North America; we also have many members in the Greater China region – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, with a limited number of members in the rest of the world, such as Europe.
Can you describe some of the interactions, resulting from the establishment SCBA, between the American members and the Chinese community?
Many of the American members – both those originally from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or mainland China – over the years have interacted with their colleagues back in their respective home regions. As the society grew, we organised biannual meetings alternately in North America or in Asia; we have had meetings in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China and of course both in Canada and the US. At each one of those biannual meetings, there are sessions organised by scientists in different regions. Very often sessions had speakers from different regions that created a lot of very good avenues for interaction.
In addition, over the years many of the members have collaborated with scientists in their home region; for example US based scientists originally from Taiwan often collaborate with scientists in Taiwan and vice versa. Of course now, as time goes on, there are also more and more interactions between scientists originating from different countries, for example there may be scientists working in North America from Taiwan collaborating with people in mainland China.
The society serves as a platform for scientists of Chinese origin from different regions to interact and eventually collaborate among each other. That, I think, is the main avenue of interaction. I should point out that the SCBA is not actually restricted to Chinese. We do have a significant number of bioscientists who are not ethnic Chinese.
Predictions are that Chinese research output will be much bigger than the US output at some point. Is this going to have an effect on the society?
I think that the rapid growth and especially the increase in biomedical research funding in the greater China region started back in maybe the early 1990s. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore realised biomedical research was going to be very important in the 21st century, so they started to increase funding. Especially the last ten years in the greater China region, biomedical research funding has grown very fast and that has let a large number of Chinese bioscientists return back to their home origin, or maybe even a different region of the greater China region. Many of them are or were actually members of the society. So that growth has led to an increase in interaction among members in North America and members in the greater China region.
Why did the SCBA want to launch the journal Cell & Bioscience?
Most well established influential societies have one or more society journals and the journals provide a good service to the members. It represents a hallmark of the society; you see the Journal of Biological Chemistry and you associate it with the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. About eight years ago, there were discussions, questions and general comments from members of the society that, as an established society that was about 20 years old, we didn’t have a journal.
When the late Dr Kuan-Teh Jeang was elected president of the society, he set up a journal committee made up of prominent scientists. At the time the committee discussed whether we should have a journal. The conclusion was: yes we should.
How has the SCBA raised awareness of its journal to its members?
I think there are a few things both Biomed Central and SCBA have done. One is active communication with members of the society – through emails and conference exhibitions and interactions with members. In addition, with generous support from the Ming Jeang Foundation in Texas, USA, we also established an award for the articles published in the journal. This is the Ming Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience This was established in 2011, and each year we award two to three research papers published in the preceding year in this journal. [Find out about this year’s winning research articles here].
The other thing we have done is publish articles from the SCBA biannual meeting awardees. The society holds a meeting every two years and, at each meeting, there are two awards given to outstanding scientists. One, for a senior scientist, the Presidential Award; the second for an independent junior scientist, the Young Investigator Award. After the 2011 meeting, we invited the awardees to write an article based on their presentation at the meeting, which was published in 2012. We’re hoping to do so in the future as well.
Another way the journal and the society have interacted extensively is that all of our Editors are life members of the society, and the vast majority of our Editorial board members are also life members of the society.
Why did the SCBA choose the open access publishing model?
I think at the time we chose to be an open access journal for at least two reasons. Number one is that, as a new journal, having published work be accessible to the general public is very critical because new journals tend not to be well subscribed. Without open access, often the papers are not actually read broadly. I think open access encourages people to contribute to the journal. In our view, that’s a very important factor for insuring, or contributing to, the success we have had so far with the journal.
The second reason is more financial. Open access journals are based on a model where authors pay for the publication. As a society, we actually didn’t have a lot of financial support to start a new journal. The journal was started entirely from the volunteer work of the Editors, Editorial board members, and – in large part – because of the support of Biomed Central.
I believe, since its launch in January 2011, the journal has been quite successful and I think we owe a lot of gratitude to the founding Editor, the late Dr Teh Jeang. He was really instrumental in setting up the journal, the successful launch, and the acceptance of the journal by various indexing services. He also was also instrumental in obtaining the donation from the Ming Jeang Foundation to support this Cell & Bioscience Award for outstanding papers published in this field.
Read more about the Ming K Jeang Award for Excellence in Cell & Bioscience and this years winning research here.
More about the Editor(s)
Yun-Bo Shi is a senior investigator and Head of the Section of Molecular Morphogenesis at the Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development of the NIH National Institute Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). He obtained his PhD from the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and went on to pursue his postdoctoral training at the Carnegie Institution, USA. In 1992, Shi established his own research group within the intramural research program of the NIH NICHD, USA. His current research interests focus on the molecular basis of thyroid hormone regulation in vertebrate development by using Xenopus metamorphosis as a model system.