The president of the International Brain Research Organization shares how IBRO is modernizing its journals and editorial structure to grow its impact in an increasingly competitive space.
Academic organizations need to continually evolve their publications to meet their goals. This is especially important for IBRO, given the vital role the organization’s journals play in its ability to support the global neuroscience community.
Established in 1961, IBRO is the oldest neuroscience organization in the world. Unlike many other societies, IBRO does not have individual members. Instead, it acts as an umbrella organization for societies from all over the globe. With more than 90 member organizations, IBRO aims to promote inclusive, equitable neuroscience through training, education, research, outreach and engagement activities.
As well as promoting and coordinating research across the brain and nervous system research specialty, IBRO aims to foster international collaboration and exchange of scientific knowledge and assist scientists in their professional development. Underpinning this wide range of activities are IBRO’s two journals, published by Elsevier: Neuroscience and IBRO Neuroscience Reports.
“Publishing these journals is critically important to advancing knowledge in this vital field of research as well as maintaining the revenue for IBRO’s global activities,” explains Dr. Tracy Bale, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, who has served as IBRO President since 2020.
Impactful and inclusive research
The flagship hybrid subscription-based journal Neuroscience was established in 1976, while sister journal IBRO Neuroscience Reports was launched in 2016 with a gold open access model. Testimony to its growing importance and influence within the field, IBRO Neuroscience Reports recently received its first Impact Factor.
Both journals’ position in an increasingly competitive space is vital to the success of IBRO’s mission. Neuroscience is a hot topic right now given the stressful times we live in and the increased interest in mental health, both of which demonstrate the huge need for research in this area.
One of the biggest challenges for IBRO is the ever-increasing need for assistance in training early-stage investigators, especially with economic disparities continuing to grow across many parts of the world.
With crucial revenue from its two journals, IBRO provides substantial funding to support neuroscience across five global regions: Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the US and Canada, and Pan Europe. Since taking over as IBRO President, Dr Bale has ensured that the budget is split evenly across all five regions.
“Regional committees, comprising up to nine people each, then decide how to distribute the funding in a way that will elevate neuroscience research,” she explains. “This enables each team to make decisions about the priorities for their region, from the ground up.”
Among the unique opportunities IBRO provides is the ability for trainees or early-career faculty to travel to another region to spend time training. “We have fellowships that enable individuals to go to another region to learn a technique or set up a collaboration,” Dr Bale says. “It also enables them to find materials or resources and bring them back to the lower- and middle-income countries that often can’t afford them.”
Revamping the journals
Despite its decades-long heritage, IBRO recognizes the importance of continuing to modernize its offering, which is why the journals are being revamped. As well as new covers and fonts for a more modern, energized look, both now have a dedicated journal-branded website.
One of the key challenges for the journals is that neuroscience is such a broad specialty, with some competitors catering to more specialized areas. This can be a major hurdle to getting quality submissions. Dr Bale notes that IBRO Neuroscience Reports’ Editor-in-Chief Prof YS Chan has already done an incredible job of soliciting publications for the journal and bringing in early career researchers from lower- and middle-income countries to participate in reviews. Not only has this supported the journal in gaining its Impact Factor, it also helps IBRO’s members by ensuring that they have access to high-quality content, with input from a diverse range of authors.
As part of its modernization journey, Neuroscience recently underwent a change in editorial structure, shifting from having a single Editor-in-Chief to three geographically diverse editors. This also means that each member of the editorial team brings a different area of expertise to the table, helping to cover the publication’s broad scope even more effectively.
“I think this is the future of journal editing. It shares the workload and also brings in more inclusivity from different parts of the world. We’ll work together to solicit new ideas and new ways of ensuring that we’re increasing the rate of turnover for our processing of manuscripts.” – Dr. Tracy Bale
Appealing to early career researchers
A key goal of the revamp across both journals is to appeal to young researchers. Dr Bale explains: “One of the main aims of the relaunch is to get the journal back on the radar of early-career investigators because we all form allegiances to journals when we’re in our early career stages.”
And to support researchers in lower- and middle-income countries, IBRO Neuroscience Reports has options for reduced or no-cost submissions. And according to Dr Bale, for those authors publishing open access: “Elsevier does a good job of individualizing interactions with different countries and researchers to ensure that access is affordable for them,” Dr Bale says.
During her tenure as President, Dr Bale has found the publishing team at Elsevier to be very supportive of IBRO’s development plans for the journals: “The team that we’ve had working with us has been fantastic — they’re really helpful and super-responsive,” she says.
Ultimately, IBRO’s aim is to publish vital research that helps to further understanding in the field, while investing its revenue to support global neuroscience. “When you have an option to publish in journals in this area, there’s an extra reason to publish with our journals,” Dr Bale says: “It really does make a difference to what we at IBRO are able to do to support the global neuroscience community.”