Rebrands can leave a lasting scar on the psyche, of individuals and indeed entire nations. Few British people over a certain age will ever be able to forget (or forgive) having to say farewell to Opal Fruits (which became Starburst), Marathon bars (Snickers) or the cleaning product Jif (Cif) in the face of consistent global branding and the associated economies it brings. Every country will surely have their own examples. Few people will have thought that deeply, or cared significantly, about what the actual name was on the packaging of a product that they regularly saw on the supermarket shelf. I doubt that anyone made a decision on whether or not to buy a Marathon bar based solely on the strength of the name [“I do love caramel and peanuts, but loathe athletic endurance events, so no thank you very much” or conversely “sure my peanut allergy isn’t going to like it, but my love for ancient Greek battlefields means that there can be only one option, I’ll take a Marathon bar please, and the number for the paramedics”]. And yet even if a product was only rarely consumed, the change from one name to another as part of a rebranding sticks in the memory (and for some, in the craw).
So why are we rebranding this community site and risking the unbridled fury of contributors-to and readers-of the site formerly known as the Nature Microbiology Community? [Okay, perhaps that is a little strong, maybe ‘risking the occasional raised eyebrow among those few contributors and readers who even notice’ would be a more level headed assessment].
This site was initially launched as a space that encouraged greater discourse and engagement among the microbiology research community, including us editors, and it has always been something of an experiment. Some things that we have tried out have worked and continue to prove very successful (Behind the Paper posts and World Day/Anniversary channels for example), some things worked but for various reasons never took off in the longer term (like our Micro-Interviews) and some things just never quite really worked out (regular posting to our Journal club, In the News and Under the Microscope channels for example). But with 1831 members and more than 600 posts from a diverse array of authors, many one-time contributors but also with a notable and growing number of returnees, the community is continuing to grow and, at the very least, is an interesting place to spend a bit of time hanging out each week. Indeed the experiment has been successful enough to spawn sister communities elsewhere at Nature for ecology and evolution, biomedical engineering, chemistry and sustainability, while also seeing a flattering (but brief) imitation in the ASM’s now defunct Micronow.
However, our original plan for the community site was not for it to be linked to just Nature Microbiology, but instead for it to be a venue through which the research community could interact with content (and editors) relating to microbiology from across all of the Nature journals. Alas tying the launch of the community site to the launch of our journal two (and a bit) years ago, made sense for a number of reasons. And yet, microbiology is a growth field and exciting advances are being made daily, and published across a range of journals at Nature Research (and elsewhere). We’ve actually come to a point where the thinking of this community as one serving mainly Nature Microbiology risks limiting the range of contributors sharing their thoughts and entering into discussions, and potentially puts off people posting about research and ideas published in other journals. So, while the editors of Nature Microbiology remain committed to further cultivating this community site, and will continue to play a leading role in its on-going development, it is time to change its name, and broaden the horizons for who the community serves and what it can be used for.
Some things never change…
Fear not. You will continue to find all the same kinds of interesting content, hopefully just more of it and from an ever greater diversity of contributors. We will continue to encourage all microbiologists to share the stories behind their papers, whether in Nature journals or published elsewhere. We will continue to encourage, support and share (through our various Twitter accounts) interesting and thought-provoking blog posts from contributors to the community. You will also still hear from us editors, hopefully a little more frequently in fact, and not only from the Nature Microbiology team (all being well). Unfortunately for you the reader, I will also still be inflicting upon you my semi-regular musings in DIARY posts and other such blogs, so please accept my apologies in advance for your continued participation in this catharsis. Where else could I rework classic operetta to a science audience, and write homage poetry [see below]?
…and some things do change.
Unless you are really looking, you may not actually spot the changes to the community, especially if you never browse around the homepage. But if you do you will see that the Nature Microbiology logo has been dropped, and just to make it clear we have inserted in its place the word MICROBIOLOGY in as blocky and bold a type face as we could find [this community member is hoping that we can find a slightly less shouty font in due course].
Another thing that you might spot are the badges that will now be added to each post, so that you can easily distinguish between content posted by contributors and editors, and in the latter case which journal that editor belongs to.
Finally many of you may also have been members of or contributed to the community site associated with another Nature Research journal, npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. With the move away from journal-centred community sites in favour of topic-focused communities, maintaining two separate communities is no longer appropriate and as such we will be incorporating here all historical content from the npj Biofilms and Microbiomes community and encouraging members and contributors from that community to join the newly rebranded Microbiology Community from Nature Research.
Opal Fruit anyone?
* The title of this post is inspired by the unrivalled poetic obituarising of E.J. Thribb (17 ½), whose satirical musings inspire for their poignancy and idiosyncratic style. Please indulge me a brief homage then;
In Memorium Nature Microbiology Community
Nature Microbiology Community
Blog site and
You got behind
our weekly reading,
As a spore
to a bacterium,
rebranded not disbanded.
Even Claudio would admit,
a new title
will diminish your value
A.J. Jermy (39 ¼)
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It is the end of an era, but also the beginning of great new things. I therefore think now is the right time to propose a regular column of poetry and verse from you, Andy. Give the people what they want!
Ha! I could rip off a famous poetry style each week.
"There was a microbial ecologist of note,
who sailed every year on a boat,
but when asked to expand
her research on to land
she said that the idea wouldnt float."