Every five years The Journal of Immunology sees a change in leadership. It is my distinct privilege to assume the important role of Editor-in-Chief on January 1, 2003, and continue the legacy of excellence established by my predecessors.

It has become customary that a redesign of the cover accompany these transitions—and I am carrying on this tradition. While possibly disconcerting at first, I hope the new cover will soon seem right and hope you look forward to finding it in your mail (or on your computer screen) twice a month. You can also expect the cover illustration to be changed more frequently; instead of seeing the same illustrative figure for three months, each issue (published every two weeks) will now have a new figure on its cover. Figures will be selected from articles published within each issue or will be relevant to a published article.

While cover art should be eye-catching and enjoyable, there are also more substantive changes that are listed inside the cover. Besides a new Editor-in-Chief, you will find a new group of Deputy Editors. I thank these outstanding immunologists for agreeing to join me in this venture. I also note with gratitude that Frank Fitch and the previous Deputy Editors agreed to serve six months beyond their five-year terms. This allowed me to complete my term as FASEB President and facilitate a smooth transition.

In any relay, the quality of the baton “hand-off” is critically important. Frank Fitch and his team ran 51/2 laps with exceptional grace—The JI has never been in better shape. Editorial standards both for content quality and publication processes are very high. The JI continues to attract a large proportion of the best papers in our field. It takes pride in both the rigor and fairness of its three-tiered review process in which, with rare exception, all papers can expect a full and thorough evaluation. The time from manuscript submission to publication has fallen significantly and—not unimportantly—The JI certainly remains a “best buy” for subscribers. You simply cannot beat the cost per page of the important immunology that is printed in this journal.

So what new things might you expect to find? In response to comments from the readership, several new features will be added to the front of the journal. We are excited to start a feature called “In This Issue.” Here a small number of papers regarded by reviewers and editors as particularly noteworthy will be highlighted. These articles will be chosen from those considered by reviewers and Section Editors to be among the top 10% reviewed in their field.

We will also add “Letters to the Editor”, in which correspondence relating to papers appearing in previous issues and considered of general interest to the readership will be selected by the editors for publication. In all cases, authors of papers addressed will be afforded an opportunity to reply, and both letter and response will be published together. Please visit “Information for Authors” (www.jimmunol.org) if you are interested in commenting upon a published paper.

Finally, publishing mini-reviews on subjects of unusual interest was endorsed by 82% of the respondents in the readership survey. We will be periodically inviting these reviews to round out the list of additions to the content of The JI.

Each of these additions is to be regarded as an experiment. They reflect expressed interests of a random sample of subscribers responding to a reader’s survey last spring. They will be continued as long as they are valuable to the readers—and other features may be added. Let me know if you have other ideas for additions or changes that might enhance the usefulness (or your enjoyment) of the journal.

Together with a new appearance and additions to content, you can also anticipate a major change in our process for manuscript submission and review. We will be evolving from “hard-copy” handling to on-line processing. The JI staff has worked with Frank Fitch over the past two years to develop a web-based system for manuscript submission, review, and tracking. While I expect some initial “speed bumps” in the beginning, I am optimistic that once we are “cruising” we’ll move faster and with fewer accidents than with the present system.

Elsewhere in this issue you will find the official announcement regarding these changes. Particularly important will be the requirement for manuscript submission as a PDF file, which is regarded as the best currently available mechanism for assuring fidelity in electronic submission. The necessary software for creating PDFs is relatively simple and inexpensive. Advance notice of the implementation date will be published and authors with questions or problems during the transition to on-line submission are advised to check the The JI web site for assistance.

A journal as large as The Journal of Immunology, by necessity, involves a great deal of delegation of authority. With the assistance of journal staff and a large expertise database, Section Editors choose reviewers which include Associate Editors and ad hoc reviewers. These reviewers provide a first level of critique and suggestions for improvement (the manuscript accepted with no changes at all is about as rare as snowfall in Atlanta!). Reviews are then sent to the Section Editor. The Section Editor makes a preliminary recommendation to a Deputy Editor regarding acceptance, who then makes the decision. As Editor-in-Chief, I will sign all letters of decision and will receive any inquires regarding those decisions (I have yet to see a letter praising the Editors for their good judgment in accepting a paper—but such would also be gratefully received). Letters to me regarding editorial matters are welcome as hard copy to the journal office or, preferably, as e-mail at eic@ji.faseb.org.

Ad hoc reviewers who are interested in participating more “officially” in journal editorial processes as Associate Editors are advised to pay attention to the following criteria for appointment: 1) frequency of invitation to review and, especially, frequency with which the invitation is accepted; 2) timeliness of review completion; and 3) perceived fairness and quality of review.

While I have described several new things that will mark this passing of the baton, more important are the things that will not change. The new group of Deputy Editors and I are committed to maintaining and building upon those qualities that we believe characterize The JI—outstanding scientific content, fairness of review, and excellence of publication processes.

It is appropriate to close with an acknowledgement of those with whom the success of The JI lies. Most important are the contributors and readers who do the science and provide the peer review. Also important are the outstanding professionals who actually produce The JI from its Bethesda office. Although editors also have an important role, it’s a supporting one.

I am grateful to the Publications Committee and the Council of the American Association of Immunologists for the honor and opportunities that have been accorded to me as your new Editor-in-Chief. With the support of you, the members of the worldwide immunology community, I’ll do my best to fulfill your expectations. I have the baton in hand and I am eager to serve you.

Robert R. Rich Editor-in-Chief