EditorialScience Translational Medicine

A Rattle Bag of Science and the Art of Translation

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Oct 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 104, pp. 104ed3
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002131

Elazer R. Edelman is the Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at MIT, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, a coronary care unit cardiologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Director of the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center. E-mail: ere{at}mit.edu


A boy becomes an adult three years before his parents think he does, and about two years after he thinks he does.

—Lewis B. Hershey, four-star General, U.S. Army (1893–1977)

Two years ago, the American Association for the Advancement of Science founded Science Translational Medicine (STM) to disseminate interdisciplinary science integrating basic and clinical research that defines and fosters new therapeutics, devices, and diagnostics. Conceived and nourished under the creative vision of Elias Zerhouni and Katrina Kelner, the journal has attracted widespread attention (14). Now, as we assume the mantle of co-chief scientific advisors, we look back on the journal’s early accomplishments, restate our mission, and make clear the kinds of manuscripts we seek and accept for publication.

Garret A. FitzGerald is the McNeil Professor in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, and Director of the Institute for Translational Medicine & Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania. E-mail: garret{at}upenn.edu


STM’s mission, as articulated by Elias and Katrina, was to “promote human health by providing a forum for communication and cross-fertilization among basic, translational, and clinical research practitioners and trainees from all relevant established and emerging disciplines.” This statement remains relevant and accurate today. With this mission on our masthead, STM now receives ~25 manuscripts (full-length research articles) per week and publishes ~10% of them. Roughly half of the submissions are deemed inappropriate for the journal and are returned without review within 8 to 10 days of receipt. Of those papers that undergo full peer review, decisions to reject are made within 48 days and the mean time to acceptance (including the revision period) is 125 days. There is now an average wait of only 24 days between acceptance and publication.


In accord with the journal’s broad readership, the ideal manuscript meets five criteria: It (i) reports a discovery of translational relevance with high-impact potential; (ii) has a conceptual focus with interdisciplinary appeal; (iii) elucidates a biological mechanism; (iv) is innovative and novel; and (v) is presented in clear, broadly accessible language.

STM seeks to publish research that describes how innovative concepts drive the creative biomedical science that ultimately improves the quality of people’s lives—this is the broadest of our journal’s criteria but is the one that sets us apart as well. Translational relevance does not require demonstration of benefit in humans but does require the evident potential to advance clinical medicine, thus impacting the direction of our culture and the welfare of our communities. Our conceptual focus and mechanistic emphasis discriminate our papers from those that contain observational descriptions of technical findings for which value is restricted to a specific discipline. However, innovation and novelty may apply to a fundamental scientific discovery or to the nature of its application and relevance to the translational process. Thus, our criteria also enable the journal to consider versatile technological advances that apply new and creative thinking but may not necessarily offer fresh insights into biological mechanisms. Finally, while the subsequent additional efforts of the STM editorial staff are not to be discounted, the clarity of writing and coherence of argument presented within a submitted manuscript are likely to facilitate its progress through the challenge of peer review.

Aside from primary research papers, STM offers a variety of options to those wishing to engage in public discourse of relevance to the challenges and opportunities afforded by translational science. Recent examples are the cut and thrust of opinions over the mission, relevance, and importance of the proposed U.S. National Center for Translational Science (5, 6); the need to foster human capital in the burgeoning field of translational medicine and therapeutics (7) at a time of shifting approaches to drug development; and a series of commentaries on innovation from a variety of perspectives (8).

We have strived to create an intellectual legacy for each of our published papers—whether they be original research articles, opinion pieces, or reviews. Our readers should come away from each published piece with a new appreciation for a fundamental issue in biomedicine and be able to apply the concepts learned to other disciplines and dilemmas—providing in this respect yet another definition of translation.


To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.

—Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and poet (1854–1900)

What, then, are our goals for the future? In short, we will adhere to our mission, maintain our standards, enhance our international appeal, and expand and evaluate our coverage of the dynamic translational domain. Presently, our submitted research papers derive mostly from the United States and feature an abundance of studies on cancer mechanisms and therapeutics, human immunology, and vascular disease. Along with attracting papers from a wider range of medical disciplines—such as psychiatry, dermatology, and genomic medicine—we seek a greater set of offerings inclusive of bioengineering, materials science, computational biology, regenerative medicine, basic human physiology, and yet to be conceived interdisciplinary explorations. Through our outreach, and while maintaining selectivity, STM will enhance its relevance to a global audience and to a broader spectrum of biomedical science. In this effort, we welcome the suggestions of the readership as well as submission of your best work for publication.


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