Jan-Feb 2014 ASCB Newsletter - page 4-5

The conversations
I had each
year at the
Annual Meeting
influenced what
questions I was
addressing, the
approaches I
took to study
them, and how I
interpreted and
President’s Column this month, I want to focus
on these new faces at ASCB and how we can
serve them and our membership to promote the
vitality of our Society.
Let me begin by sharing my own bias (and
I say this not only because my daughter is a
physicist) that the thinking and methodologies
of the physical sciences are playing an
increasingly important role in the understanding
of biological systems. The evidence is all around
us in the form of technological innovations in
multi-scale microscopy, image analysis, and
computational modeling. This is enabling the
physical principles of cell activity to be studied
in ways previously deemed impossible. For
this reason, just as an increasing number of
physical scientists are attracted to problems
of biology, a growing number of biologists
are seeking ways to use the tools and thinking
from computation, physics, chemistry, and
engineering. Our colleagues from the physical
sciences who are now coming to our Annual
Meeting are not finding it easy, however. They
must deal with daunting terminology and with
the messy complexity of biological data. They
also face cultural challenges, since the biologists
they interact with sometimes have difficulty
understanding how the quantitative tools of
physics can advance their science. This rift
separates two areas of science
that are naturally trying to
How is the ASCB trying
to rectify this rift? One
strategy, spearheaded by
Ron Vale in his presidency
and continued by Don
Cleveland in his, has been
the introduction of specially
designed sessions at the
Annual Meeting for learning
about the intersection of cell
biology and physical sciences.
These packed sessions have
included the special Saturday
workshop Open Problems
in Biology Requiring the Physical Sciences
and Minisymposia and poster sessions on how
the physical and computational sciences are
being applied to biology. This strategy has
paid off with more scientists—both beginning
researchers and senior scientists—thinking
of new strategies to integrate physical science
principles into their work.
Publishing at the Intersection of
Two Disciplines
There is an important element still lacking for
scientists working at this interface, however. I
believe we need a robust publishing platform
to draw them together and nurture this new
field. In my experience, journal editorial
boards are understandably skewed either to
traditional areas of cell biology or to the physical
sciences, making it difficult to find a home for
“intersectional” papers. Also problematic is the
difficulty in publishing the type of data typical
of these crossover studies. Most journals today
are unable to publish and archive, let alone
integrate, the large datasets that are increasingly
typical of imaging and systems analysis/modeling
research. As far as I am aware, there are no
journals with a capacity to handle large-scale data
(including storing and archiving huge data files
and enhancing functionalities of data viewing,
such as linking 3D videos to pictures online).
How then can we effectively disseminate this type
of scientific information and allow researchers
to build on primary data and extend research
I don’t have an easy answer. However, as
one forward step, at ASCB we
are planning a special issue of
Molecular Biology of the Cell
) devoted to topics at the
interface between cell biology
and the physical/computational
sciences. Publication of the issue
will coincide with the Annual
Meeting in Philadelphia in
December 2014. The centerpiece
of the special issue will be a
series of Perspectives on key
developments in this emerging
field. And we strongly encourage
researchers who work at the
intersection of cell biology and the
physical/computational sciences to
submit their original research articles, including
methods papers, for this (or subsequent) issues
We welcome ideas for this volume,
including new ideas for how to disseminate
intersectional knowledge through innovative
[T]he thinking and
of the physical
sciences are playing
an increasingly
important role in the
understanding of
biological systems.
Authors of original
research articles
at the intersection
of cell biology
and the physical/
sciences will find
very receptive to
such articles….
s commitment
to this new field extends
beyond the special issue.
The hope is to use this
publishing effort as a jumping
off point for publishing more
intersectional papers. Authors
of such papers will find that
is very receptive to
such articles and will take
steps to ensure that such
submissions are appropriately
and constructively reviewed.
I encourage anyone who is
interested in contributing
to the special issue or in
submitting intersectional
research articles to contact
David Drubin, the Editor-in-Chief of
The dissemination of
research at the intersection of
cell biology and the physical/
computational sciences is open
territory at this point, so we
welcome suggestions from the
membership on how to develop
this publishing forum for
crosstalk between the physical
and computational sciences
and cell biology. And I look
forward to working with the
ASCB membership on these
and other ideas for furthering
the tradition of a Society that
supports its members in cutting-
edge research while explaining to
the wider scientific community
and the public at large why cell biology matters,
and why it is fun.
Recognizing the profound influence that concepts and technologies from the physical and computational
sciences are having on cell biology,
Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC)
welcomes research articles, including
methods papers, in:
Quantitative imaging
Superresolution imaging techniques and their applications
Biophysical properties of cells and cell structures
Computational and mathematical modeling
Systems studies of cell signaling and complex physiological processes
Innovative physical or computational approaches to cell biological problems
Results of your research will be highly visible to cell biologists, including more than 10,000 recipients of
s electronic tables of contents. Leaders in the field know that
presents conceptual advances of
broad interest and high quality.
Welcomes Papers at the Intersection of Cell Biology
and the Physical/Computational Sciences
Visit www.
or contact
Editor-in-Chief David Drubin at
Look for the MBoC Special Issue on
Quantitative Biology in November 2014
Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Guest Editor
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