Setting a Course for 2020: The Search for the Next Blood Editor-in-Chief

Linda J. Burns, MD
National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match Donor Medical Services and the Medical Director at Health Services Research and the Senior Scientific Director at the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and president of the American Society of Hematology

On January 1, 2020, a new Editor-in-Chief will take the helm of Blood, the flagship journal of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). The search for this individual is underway and, given the prestige of Blood as the most-cited peer-reviewed publication in the field of hematology, this is no small feat.

William Dameshek, MD, the researcher credited with describing the concept of myeloproliferative diseases and participating in the first studies of nitrogen mustard in various blood malignancies, founded the publication in 1946. Since then, Blood has become an essential part of hematologists’ lives. During the 70th anniversary celebration of the journal, Editor-in-Chief Bob Löwenberg, MD, PhD, reflected on the significance of the publication; much like the blood that courses through our bodies, “The journal has truly been a messenger of all of the significant developments in our field. We can look at Blood as a stable and faithful partner for successive generations of hematologists.”

Building on this legacy and maintaining Blood’s distinguished research and publication record are the core responsibilities of the next Editor-in-Chief. Linda Burns, MD, vice president and medical director of health services research for the National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match and former ASH president, is chair of the search committee charged with selecting top candidates. ASH Clinical News spoke with Dr. Burns to get a sense of what the committee is looking for and how the search will unfold over the next two years.

What was your experience as a member of the 2010 search committee and how did it prepare you for your role as this search committee’s chair?

Being a member of the 2010 search committee caused me to do some hard thinking about how my colleagues and I perceived Blood, the direction our readers might like to see the journal move toward, and what qualifications the next editor needs to possess.

Interacting with the committee chair and other members was invaluable – we all worked well together and were ably led by Jim George, MD. He’s always a hard act to follow!

What are your main responsibilities as chair?

I work closely with ASH staff on preparing materials for the search committee to approve, such as the position description and the call for applications. I’m also responsible for assuring that our search committee adheres to timelines, carefully reviews qualified candidates, and conducts the subsequent interview process fairly to select finalists for the Executive Committee to interview.

“We are looking for a highly-regarded scientist able to span both the basic and clinical science communities who has significant editorial and reviewer experience.”

What qualities is the search committee looking for in the next Editor-in-Chief of Blood?

We are looking for a highly-regarded scientist able to span both the basic and clinical science communities who has significant editorial and reviewer experience. The Editor-in-Chief should have a vision for the journal that will maintain its quality and position as the premier hematology journal in the world. In addition, a detailed understanding of the publishing landscape, knowledge of computer programs, and a high level of organization skills with an ability to meet tight timelines are required.

What are the most challenging aspects of the search?

There are so many highly qualified hematologists in the world that selecting finalists may be hard!

What is the committee’s strategy for attracting a wide pool of qualified candidates?

We’ve already started to get the word out. We’ll be advertising the search through a variety of means, including ASH publications, the website, the annual meeting, and certainly by word of mouth.

In what ways will this search be different from previous searches?

During the last search, ASH leadership considered if it was time to include candidates from any country in the world. As our readers know, the answer was a resounding “yes,” and Dr. Löwenberg, from the Netherlands, was ultimately selected. Dr. Löwenberg also represented an interest in opening the Editor-in-Chief search to clinical investigators as well as basic scientists. Therefore, I think the goal of this search will be similar to that of the last: The next Editor-in-Chief of Blood must have the qualities to continue the time-honored tradition of overseeing the publication of the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field of hematology.

What role do current and past Editors-in-Chief play in the search?

Previous editors-in-chief know the responsibilities and time commitment needed for this position better than anyone else. We appreciate their input in developing the call for applications and position description, and their willingness to speak with potentially interested candidates and share their experiences. We also hope that they’ll reach out to colleagues and encourage them to apply.

Can you share any surprising details about the search?

The timeline is probably most surprising to ASH Clinical News readers, as the next Blood Editor-in-Chief will serve for five years beginning January 1, 2020. While 2020 seems far in the future, it’s important to allow sufficient time for the committee to identify and vet candidates, and then provide the Editor-in-Chief sufficient time to prepare to serve.