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EID: Celebrating 20 Years of Publication

This February marks the 20th anniversary of the first issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID).

The mission of the monthly print and online, open access, peer-reviewed journal has remained the same over the past two decades. This mission is to examine “new infections resulting from changes or evolution of existing organisms, known infections spreading to new geographic areas or populations, previously unrecognized infections appearing in areas undergoing ecologic transformation, and old infections reemerging for various reasons, including the development of antimicrobial resistance.”

EID contributes substantially to the biomedical literature. Long listed in the Library of Medicine's Index Medicus and in Current Contents, EID has full content in PubMed Central and many other open databases. EID’s first impact factor was reported in 2002 as 4.7. For 2013 (the most recent available) it had risen to 7.3.

“It does not seem that 20 years have gone by since that day in 1995 when Joe McDade [founding EID editor-in-chief], then infectious diseases laboratories director, walked into my office on the sixth floor of Building 1 and asked, ‘How would you like to start a journal?’” recalls Polyxeni (Poly) Potter, the first managing editor of EID. Her response was “How exciting!” and that was how Potter began her 19-year tenure.

Making the Case for EID

Several infectious disease journals already existed, and the concept of disease emergence was not well understood. Some thought the new journal would be just another bureaucratic publication.

But McDade made his case for the value of EID. “We were serious from the start,” says Potter. “This would be a peer-reviewed publication. It would be indexed in Medline. It would be global and interdisciplinary. None of this was easy but it was very exciting.”

The existing publications program of the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) handled production of the new journal. No new staff was hired. Because many manuscripts arrived from authors whose native language was not English, substantive editing and rewriting were required After a year of preliminary preparations, the first issue was ready for printing: Volume 1, Number 1, 40 pages, and a glossy gray cover listing the table of contents.

“We were so proud,” says Potter. “We marched to MASO to negotiate a printing and mailing contract. We met with the director of printing services, who listened to us patiently; then, with a dramatic gesture, took our sample issue and threw it in the wastebasket. I knew then that we had to do better with the cover of the journal—make it more attractive and interesting so that readers would recognize it and pick it up.”

Potter successfully advocated for an illustrated color cover. So in 1997, the first issue of EID with its now signature color cover was printed. In addition to the timely, peer-reviewed scientific content of the journal, most observers would agree that the vivid, artistic covers of EID have helped distinguish it from other scientific journals. When Potter retired in December 2013, Art in Science, her collection of essays linking the art on the covers of EID with the science highlighted in each issue, was published, providing an exclamation point to her career. “Emerging infectious diseases is no longer an exotic concept,” says Potter, “thanks partly to a namesake journal that is still going strong.”  

Targeting a Broad and Diverse Audience

James (Jim) M. Hughes, currently professor of medicine and public health at Emory University, served as director of NCID (now NCEZID) and remembers that McDade’s proposal was part of the implementation of CDC’s Emerging Infections Plan issued in 1994. “The intent [of EID] was to reach a diverse audience of clinicians, epidemiologists, microbiologists, veterinarians, academic researchers, public health personnel, and policymakers in the United States and around the world,” says Hughes. “I don’t think we realized the potential at the time.”

Hughes says that he especially appreciates EID’s thematic issues on high profile topics such as antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and food safety, vectorborne diseases, and zoonotic infections. “The journal has also been very effective in highlighting the ongoing challenges that emerging microbial threats present to global health security, and the critical need to strengthen public health preparedness and response capacity nationally and globally,” states Hughes.

At this 20th anniversary of EID, Hughes says it is important to acknowledge the “outstanding efforts over the years” of co-founders McDade and Potter, current editor Peter Drotman, and the journal’s editorial, production, and communications staff. Others that Hughes would add to that list include the late Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg, who encouraged McDade to launch the journal (Lederberg’s Institute of Medicine report) and former CDC Director David Satcher, an early advocate and a contributor to the inaugural issue. “I think it is also important…to be aware of the hard working editorial board which includes many CDC leaders and scientists as well as a talented group of other domestic and international members, and other volunteers who provide rigorous peer review,” says Hughes.

Peer Review Is a Key Component of EID

EID Editor-in-Chief D. Peter Drotman says that the most challenging part of his work with the journal is—well, indicative in the name itself. “When the first word of the journal one edits is ‘Emerging,’ you need to be prepared to deal with any topic related to infectious diseases, including ones we do not know much about yet,” says Drotman. “Finding peer reviewers for topics that literally have no peers can be tough.” 

Drotman became editor-in-chief of EID in 2001 when McDade retired from CDC. “His were big shoes to fill,” says Drotman. “He got EID up and running in 1995 after a stellar record of laboratory work, including work with the late Charles Shepard. McDade found the cause of the Legionnaires disease outbreak in 1976 and later discovered several other intracellular pathogens.”

The first issue of EID that carried Drotman’s name as editor-in-chief was devoted to the recognition of West Nile virus in North America. The fall of 2001 saw the deliberate anthrax attacks in several US cities. “The rapid peer review and publication of the first 10 inhalational anthrax cases in the Nov–Dec 2001 issue helped establish EID as a major source of peer-reviewed information with immediate and practical utility for public health practitioners,” says Drotman. 

Initially published quarterly, by 2002 EID was operating on its current monthly publication cycle that includes early online access to many articles following completion of the peer review process.  Drotman points out that EID’s impact factor (in 2013, ranked #3 of 70 infectious diseases journals), prominence in the infectious disease and public health fields, and online circulation (more than 81,000 subscribers to the table of contents and 148,500 unique subscribers to various EID content ) have significantly increased over the past 20 years.

Drotman states that EID continues to serve the CDC mission because of the support of CDC scientists and their like-minded colleagues around the world. “As an open access journal with no charges of any kind for submitting authors, we attract submissions from the very places where infectious diseases are more likely to emerge,” says Drotman. “The copyediting staff works closely with authors whose first language is not English, which in turn attracts more international submissions.”

Dedicated, Tight-Knit Staff Contribute to EID’s Success

EID’s associate editors perform much of the work overseeing the peer review of submitted manuscripts. “They deserve the lion’s share of the credit for whatever success EID has enjoyed,” states Drotman. Editors are divided between CDC and non-CDC affiliations; their names are on the journal’s website and on the inside front cover of the print issues.

EID staff members tend to stay with the journal. Longtime copyeditor Carol Snarey worked on the journal off and on for 19 years until her retirement at the end of 2014. And production manager Reginald Tucker has been with EID for 14 years, during which time he has seen many changes. “I remember when we were worried if we had enough approvable submissions to fill out a complete issue. We needed at least 120 pages to be able to bind it, and I would have to stretch an issue just to make the minimum page count. That problem went away quickly. As the journal became more prominent, submissions flooded in. It’s a case of going from famine to feast.”

The staff has also grown, although Tucker says in some ways it still feels like the small tight-knit group that he joined in 2001, when a full staff meeting could be held by pulling an extra chair or two into someone’s office. “I’ve watched the faces change, but the mission has remained the same— putting out a publication of the highest caliber.” And EID still has a small, tight staff of only 15 people.

Undergoing Updates and Enhancements, but Keeping Iconic Cover

Last year Byron Breedlove came on board as managing editor during what he calls “a dynamic point.” Founding Managing Editor Poly Potter had recently retired, and EID, a pioneer of open access publishing, was among the first sites at CDC to go through the process of converting its website to CDC’s new responsive design template. “Our conversion improves page performance and allows our content to automatically adapt to the device a reader is using,” says Breedlove. “We also reorganized the site’s contents and its navigation during this process. Everyone on our staff had some role in this redesign, and we had superb support from NCEZID’s web developers.”

Updating the online version inspired Breedlove to take a look at the printed version. A small work group studied and then implemented changes in the layout and typography to improve the readability. “We changed the fonts for headings and subheading, altered the layout of the section for letters, and eliminated justified text for the captions and references,” says Breedlove. He instituted the first EID intranet site to consolidate information about the journal’s important metrics, including its impact factor; information about subscribers and web traffic; and reports on continuing medical education credits earned by readers.

“Of course, we kept the journal’s iconic cover design featuring original artwork,” says Breedlove, “and we also continued the production and distribution of the popular EID calendar, which is sent to more than 1,500 peer reviewers.”

Breedlove considers EID the model for how an open access journal should operate. “Our team will be tackling a number of projects aimed to enhance an already effective publication process. For instance, we are starting the involved process of revising and simplifying EID’s instructions for authors. Because EID is a robust journal with a talented, hard-working staff, I see more success and innovation in its future. You can follow the progress of the journal over the last 20 years on our new anniversary timeline.”

No doubt, there will be many more anniversaries for EID in the future. According to Drotman, “The recognition of new agents, routes of transmission, and at-risk populations means there will always be a need for the kind of information EID publishes.”

For more on the history of Emerging Infectious Diseases, see the following:

A Journal for Our Times

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal:  A Time of Transition

Communicating the Threat of Emerging Infections to the Public

Emerging Infectious Diseases: 10 Years Running

This Inside Story by Faye McDonald Smith and Sarah Logan Gregory

Page created: February 23, 2015
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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Emerging Infectious Diseases will no longer print copies of the journal after Volume 25. Printable PDF versions of issues, and articles, will still be available online. Visit EID Subscriptions to sign up for monthly email notifications for the table of contents, and for specific article types and disease topics.

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