The Uncertain Future of a Magazine
Why Biomedical Computation Review matters
Ten years ago, when Scott Delp, PhD, and Russ Altman, MD, PhD, decided to write a grant for a National Center for Biomedical Computing (NCBC), their brainstorming sessions with then-postdoc David Paik, PhD, sprouted an audacious idea: using part of the grant’s dissemination core to create a magazine for the field of computational biology. When the award came through—creating Simbios, the National Center for Physics-Based Simulation of Biological Structures, located at Stanford University—that inspiration became this magazine, Biomedical Computation Review (BCR).
Under the steady hand of Paik, who is now assistant professor of radiology at Stanford University, the magazine launched in the summer of 2005 with the tagline: Diverse disciplines, one community. The ambitious goal: to be a unifying force for a field that takes a computational slice through the entire realm of biomedicine.
Since that time, Simbios has published an issue of BCR every three or four months, covering every conceivable computational topic. Articles have included stories on such computation-heavy fields as genomics, epigenomics, structural biology, computational biomechanics, agent-based modeling, data mining, the physiome, integrative analysis, big data analytics, imaging and connectomics. In addition, there have been health-focused stories about the use of computation to study cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza, tuberculosis, cardiovascular diseases, and HIV/AIDS. BCR has also covered what I would call the business of computational biology, from educational programs, to funding for the field, computational startups, and the nature of interdisciplinary collaboration. There have also been profiles of women in the field and of computer scientists who made the leap into computational biology and biomedicine. And several of the most read feature stories addressed the field’s key challenges: dealing with skeptics and validating models.
In other words, the magazine has delivered on its tag line—providing a sense of identity for a dispersed and diverse community.
Now, with Simbios facing the end of funding for the NCBC program this summer, BCR’s future is uncertain, which makes this a great time to reflect on the magazine’s value.
BCR has covered a breadth of topics far beyond the scope of the Simbios center, and has kindled many discussions and collaborations. It has been used in the high school classroom to introduce computational topics, has provided an opportunity for students and researchers to both read about interesting topics as well as showcase their work in a less formal context than a traditional journal. It has been a travel companion, providing interesting stories, and has offered a convenient way for funding agencies to show some of the value of their centers of excellence. It has been a pleasure to see it on the magazine racks of companies as well as those of the National Institutes of Health.
I hope that BCR will continue in some form. It has been a wonderful addition to the field, has provided educational and fun reading and I would hate to refer to it in past tense.