What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for The Company of Biologists?

The Company of Biologists' office

9 April 2020

On Monday 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister of the UK addressed the nation in what is thought to be the most-watched moment in British television history. The speech outlined new restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as we were all told: “You must stay home”.

Monday 23 March 2020 was also the first day that The Company of Biologists became a fully remote office. In a regular working week, a number of staff members work at home but only for one or two days. Never before has the company been a fully remote office, so how are we doing it?

Supporting our readers, authors and reviewers

We exist to support and inspire the biological community, but we are primarily a publishing company. Our priority is to ensure the continuous publication of quality research in the life sciences throughout this time.

In these turbulent times, where many of us are in a state of limbo, we understand that priorities have shifted. The Editors of all five of our journals have agreed on a set of new policies to support everyone in the community. Ultimately, we remain flexible and understanding.

Specifically, the actions agreed by the Editors include:

  • Any reviewer or author unable to meet deadlines set by the journal should contact the relevant Editorial Office as these can be extended. Our Editors may also face delays in handling papers – we hope that all parties will recognise the importance of flexibility during this period.
  • Our scoop protection policy means you don’t need to worry about being scooped once you’ve submitted your manuscript – even if revisions take longer than expected. In addition, we will not necessarily reject a new submission if a competing paper has just been published.
  • We recognise authors are unlikely to be able to conduct experimental revisions of a paper and are therefore asking reviewers to limit their requests to those they deem essential for publication.

We hope these policies will help to support authors during these difficult times; we will continue to review the situation going forwards.

Supporting our staff

Publishing five journals across the life sciences requires collaboration across the entire office at the best of times. From home, this is even more critical.

Everyone at the company carried out an initial practice day working from home to assess their ability to work effectively. The original plan was to stagger remote working over a period of weeks. Changing government advice meant this was shortened to just three days.

The sheer amount of technology available means we’ve implemented a number of new communication channels. Instant messaging platforms, such as Slack, allow everyone to discuss both formal and informal topics easily. By sharing photos and insights throughout the days, our community remains strong and supportive. Skype, Zoom and GoToMeeting have allowed us to connect visually for meetings, virtual coffee breaks and talks, reinforcing that we are all in this together.

Head over to The Company of Biologists’ Twitter channel, where we are sharing home working news and views from across the company.

Visit our journal websites

Development Journal of Cell Science The Journal of Experimental Biology Disease Models & Mechanisms Biology Open

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