David Cushing, Founding Editor of the Journal of Plankton Research (JPR), died on 14 March 2008, on his 88th birthday (Fig. 1). David Cushing conceived and launched JPR, as it has come to be known, then steered it wisely over the 22 years of his editorship. For two decades, since the first issue in April 1979, he worked hard to establish JPR as a leading international journal for marine science that continues to flourish to this day. One of the great pioneers of marine ecology and fisheries science, as well as founder of JPR, Cushing published a great many influential research papers and books. The community owes him an immense debt of gratitude for this outstanding scientific contribution.
The main elements of the early history of JPR are outlined in an editorial published at the time of its 25th anniversary (Harris et al., 2004) and a longer account of David Cushing's life and work can be found in Fisheries Oceanography 2, 109–113, 1993.
Cushing first proposed the idea for a JPR to IRL Press in 1977 and the first issue appeared in 1979 with Tim Wyatt as Deputy Editor. Sifford Pearre, like Tim still a member of the Editorial Board in 2008, published a paper entitled “Problems in the detection and interpretation of vertical migration” in the first issue. The Editorial of that first issue is reproduced here (Fig. 2). It contains sound editorial guidance which is as relevant today as it was then. The writing style is typical of David Cushing, “The best papers are those written in simple language, illustrated with figures that tell their story at a glance. When mathematical expressions are used they should be intended for the broadest audience and not the smallest”. There is also wise advice on the role and value of models and experiments in plankton research. On models: “Model studies will be welcome, but we remind their makers that the best are really conceptual experiments which yield as much or as little information as the more traditional experiments in bottles” and on experimentation: “The reports of experimental work will be equally welcome because they not only provide good estimates of the constants needed in the models, but will also develop the crucial tests by which the conclusions from the models are affirmed or denied”. The quest to achieve an effective communication and collaboration in plankton research between modellers and experimentalists continues to this day.
The journal developed well and in an early letter to Carolyn Roberts, Production Editor at IRL, David Cushing wrote: “The Journal seems to be picking up rapidly with subscriptions continuing to come through”. However, he continued wryly,“… we find that some referees are really rather slow. But we shall soon be establishing a black list”. Some aspects of scientific publication have not changed since those early days. Similarly, we find on 20th March 1991 a letter where David Cushing remarks on an editorial issue which is of equal concern today, the length of papers, “The two papers … are much longer than we proposed. I have driven the authors to shorten them considerably. But they can't really do any more”. A burning issue in the early JPR correspondence was that of the position of the Contents page. In June 1979, a letter from Alan Longhurst included, “I just received my copy of Vol. 1 No. 1. Nice. But you must get them to put the contents on the outside back cover” and in August I980 Alain Sournia wrote: “The Contents of a given issue cannot be found readily, being printed on the seventh page inside…”. This was followed up by David Cushing in a letter to the Production Editor: “I thought that we had suggested that the Contents List might go on the back cover, where it might be seen”. The Contents List has remained on the back cover to this day.
By 1985, the journal had already exceeded its subscriptions target of 500, and in 1989 IRL Press was taken over by the Oxford University Press, which has published the journal ever since. David finally took a well-earned promotion from Editor to Founding Editor in June 2001, followed by some rather frequent changes of regime, which we hope has now settled down for the foreseeable future. First, Tim Wyatt and Ian Jenkinson took over the day-to-day running of the journal from David, with Kevin Flynn as Reviews Editor. Then, in 2002 Tim Wyatt stepped down as Editor, and Ian Jenkinson took over as Acting Editor-in-Chief, assisted predominantly by Gus Paffenhöfer and Thomas Weisse. In 2004, the journal was relaunched to celebrate 25 years of publication with Kevin Flynn as Executive Editor and Roger Harris, Ian Jenkinson and John Lehman, later joined by Paul Harrison, as Strategic Editors and finally, at the beginning of 2008, with the move to online submission, Kevin Flynn stepped down and Roger Harris took over as Editor-in-Chief, supported by Bill Li, John Dolan and Mark Gibbons as Associate Editors. We are all indebted to our Editorial Board, many of whom have continued loyally throughout all these changes and have provided essential continuity for the journal.
As Founding Editor, David Cushing influenced many scientists around the world with his clear, often direct, but always sympathetic comments on their papers. He was particularly supportive of scientists from less developed research communities and was always willing to help authors with the English language. He had a penetrating and decisive way of judging papers and their content and employed the category of “slight” for those difficult papers which, while essentially sound, were of lesser importance and lacked substance or significance—still very much a topical issue for editors and reviewers today.
David Cushing published a number of papers in JPR. His first contribution in 1983 combined his interests in fisheries recruitment and plankton ecology with “Are fish larvae too dilute to affect the density of their food organisms?” (Cushing, 1983). This paper built on earlier work in which he and his colleagues at Lowestoft tracked and studied a Calanus patch in the North Sea (Cushing and Vúcetic, 1963). The paper is characteristically clear and concise: only eight pages, with six equations and five tables. His interest in the relationships between climate and production was developed in his 1988 JPR paper “North winds and production in the eastern North Atlantic” (Dickson et. al., 1988). Here he collaborated with colleagues from Lowestoft, University of East Anglia, Plymouth and the University of Washington in a synthesis characteristic of his broad scientific vision. The work noted that a long-term increase in the northerly wind component over the eastern North Atlantic and European Seaboard between 1950 and 1980 was associated with a decline in phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass in sea-areas around the British Isles, and with an increase in upwelling intensity along the Iberian west coast. The implications for certain pelagic fish stocks in the area were then considered. The paper concluded that “… it is clear that relationships do exist but these show little sign of operating via a simple common control mechanism”. The theme of relations between hydrography and ecosystem structure and production was followed up in the 1989 paper “A difference in the structure between ecosystems in strongly stratified waters and those that are only weakly stratified” (Cushing, 1989). This paper dealt with the succession of algal species and production cycles. It revealed David Cushing's interest in and ability to keep up with a wide range of developments in the field of plankton research, including, latterly, the discovery of picoplankton and the microbial loop. In 1994 a paper, “The growth and death of fish larvae” (Cushing and Horwood, 1994) began with a characteristically simple and direct introduction: “The Stock and Recruitment Relationship remains the most difficult problem in fisheries research. As data have accumulated, the pattern of the relationship has become more fully described, but its nature remains obscure”. As with all his papers in JPR, this contribution was concise, consisting of 10 pages, and relied on the development of a simple model through a series of equations. A similar modelling approach was adopted in the paper with Joe Horwood on “Experiments on nutrient limitation in bottles” (Cushing and Horwood, 1998). This work focussed interests in nutrient limitation, grazing and algal production on the microcosm of an experimental incubation bottle, “The following brief model represents an attempt to caricature the effects of grazing and regeneration”. While the units were expressed in terms of nitrate, “the prime nutrient of the Redfield series” the work also recognized wider advances in the field noting that the nutrient series “of course, includes iron”. His final paper in JPR was a Short Communication, just four pages, published in 2000 with his colleagues Joe Horwood and Tim Wyatt: “Planktonic determination of variability and sustainability of fisheries” (Horwood et al., 2000). This paper concluded by emphasizing David Cushing's continuing recognition of the importance of plankton, “It is concluded that the main source of regulation is in the planktonic phase, and that this is where the research needs to be”.
In addition to research papers, David Cushing also contributed three Book Reviews for JPR, in 1998 of Vegetation Processes in the Pelagic a Model for Ecosystem Theory, by C.S. Reynolds and in 2000 of South Atlantic Zooplankton edited by D. Boltovskoy, and Planktologia Latino-Americana edited by E.Suares-Morales (Cushing, 1998, 2000a, 2000b). Each of these reviews is written in his characteristically clear and concise style. The review of the Suares-Morales volume ends with an encouraging sentence so typical of David Cushing's support of scientific colleagues internationally: “If this is a sample of the work in progress in Mexico, we shall look forward to seeing more good work in future”.
The world of scientific publishing has been transformed since those early days, and expectations about accessibility of the literature and speed of publication have changed with it. JPR is continuing to develop in the tradition established by David Cushing, seeking to publish the highest quality scientific papers internationally, with rapid publication and high standards of technical presentation. With the move to online submission, JPR has been able to achieve new standards of service to the plankton research community, authors, reviewers and readership.
When David Cushing founded the journal manuscript submission involved hard copies, organization of papers in filing cabinets and folders, and an often protracted correspondence by mail. Accepted papers were printed in the journal, new issues were displayed in libraries and keeping up with the current literature of plankton research involved scientists spending many hours in the library scanning current journals. This system ran very well and was the early foundation of the success of the journal. This was also the world in which David Cushing maintained such an impressive knowledge of the current literature over such a wide range of topics. Often he read papers submitted to JPR on the morning of their submission. Both authors and reviewers benefited from his wide interests and wide reading. He knew good work from bad and was not afraid to say so.
Following David Cushing's lively interest in new ideas and debate, the journal has started a new article type that we have called “Horizons”. Based on a concise review of the current issues in a particular field of plankton research, these papers set out to be somewhat provocative, to introduce hypotheses and to suggest methods for testing them. The intention is to stimulate and to indicate new directions for research. For an example, see “Some ideas about the role of lipids in the life cycle of Calanus finmarchicus” (Irigoien, 2004). It is hoped that these articles will help shape the future of plankton research.
The Journal of Plankton Research now publishes “Clusters” of papers on appropriate topical themes. These may be based on submissions at special sessions at scientific meetings or workshops. A recent example is the group of papers on “The role of zooplankton predator–prey interactions in structuring plankton communities” (Harris, 2005). These groups of papers provide an opportunity for facets of current topics to be reported on in a collaborative way, an approach that David Cushing very much favoured.
To honour the memory of David Cushing, from the end of 2008, the Journal of Plankton Research will award an annual David Cushing Prize, whose value in 2008 will be £250/$500. This will be awarded for the best paper by an early career stage scientist published in the journal during the previous year where the first author is aged 35 or younger. The name of the award winner will be announced in the journal and on the web-site, and the paper will be made freely available online. Self-nomination is available as part of the online submission procedure. It is hoped that this prize will help to foster the submission of interesting and high-quality papers by young scientists that David Cushing so actively supported and that it will be a lasting legacy to the enormous contribution of the Founding Editor.