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Having now completed the maximum six years as Editor, as is the tradition of The Royal Society, in this my last editorial, I would like both to reflect on my time as the first editor of Journal of the Royal Society Interface and look forward to its future development. I have been extremely pleased with the Journal's progress since its launch back in May 2004. The reason for introducing a cross-disciplinary publication was the perceived lack of a forum for the numerous newly emerging fields that combine elements from both the physical and life sciences. However, we did not realize quite how great this need was and have been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reception from authors and readers alike. From my own perspective, with a background in biomaterials, I am especially pleased with the quality of submissions in this area. We have published articles by some of the subject leaders, beginning with authoritative reviews by Yannas (2005) on induced organ regeneration and Ikada (2006) on the challenges facing tissue engineering and with recent insightful papers by Revell (2008) concerning the loosening of total joint prostheses and by Navarro et al. (2008) on biomaterials in orthopaedics. Yet biomaterials is just one field covered by the journal and we have published excellent articles in subjects as diverse as systems biology (Doyle & Stelling 2006) and adhesive devices based on geckos' feet (Parness et al. 2009). This broad subject range certainly contributes to the popularity of the journal. During my time as Editor, I have been told frequently that new avenues of research have been opened up by readers serendipitously coming across articles that are not directly related to their specific discipline. It is this cross-fertilization and lateral translation of ideas that are empowered through a publication with such a broad remit.
One very welcome external recognition of our interdisciplinary progress has been the establishment this year of a major Engineering and Physical Sciences Reseach Council (EPSRC) Award for the best research paper published in the Journal, which will be announced when the judging process is completed. The success of the Journal can also be measured by the steady increase in submissions and the impact factor, the latter now being a satisfactory 3.6 (and rising!). Another aspect of the Journal that I am pleased with is the introduction of themed supplements, which have become a regular feature as Interface Focus. Starting in August 2008, with an issue dedicated to biological switches and clocks, we are now publishing these peer-reviewed collections every two months. The year 2009 has seen topics covered ranging from quantitative fluorescence microscopy to biological physics at large facilities. With this development, together with the increasing number and excellent quality of the submissions we receive, I am confident that the Journal will continue to flourish as a distinctive outlet for leading-edge cross-disciplinary research.
I would like to thank especially Tim Holt for his sterling and dedicated work as Publishing Editor, Phil Hurst and Stuart Taylor of Publishing for providing the essential support and backing for a new venture, Debbie Vaughan for her marketing skills and all my colleagues on the Editorial Board for their wise advice and exemplary support. It is a pleasure to welcome Leslie Dutton as the new Editor and I wish him every success.
There has long been the need for a forum for advanced research that crosses the biology–physics divide. Introduced just six years ago, Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows all the signs of providing that forum. The early conceptions that set the intellectual scope of J. R. Soc. Interface have been brought to vigorous life through the astute editorial guidance of Prof. William Bonfield and his Editorial Board, and the thoughtful and energetic actions of publishing editor Dr Tim Holt.
Research in my laboratory naturally spans the biology and physics–chemistry boundary. For instance, we cross from the biology of the large family of oxidoreductase enzymes to the physics of quantum mechanical electron and nuclear tunnelling that is intrinsic to their function. And we cross back to biology in our quantification of the degree to which each tunnelling parameter has been naturally selected in the classical Darwinian sense to engineer and assemble all oxidoreductases. Our investigations also take us to the tangible interface constructed between protein molecules and planar or nanoporous surfaces and electrodes as we learn how to create and assemble artificial protein materials for catalytic functions. In this regard we are endeavouring to capture and couple solar energy to chemical transformations for renewable fuels, a process that biology does so well and from which we have so much to learn.
Thus, it is not surprising that I am looking forward to assuming the position of Chair of the Editorial Board. I am also looking forward to establishing a creative and productive partnership with Tim Holt that will continue the job of raising J. R. Soc. Interface to a position of research publishing prominence. Over the next couple of years, as opportunities arise we shall endeavour to enhance areas already established in J. R. Soc. Interface and to broaden the spectrum of original and review papers submitted. It will be a mark of our success to see J. R. Soc. Interface become increasingly the journal of choice for the work of leading researchers at the biology–physical sciences boundary.