The History of SEB's Scientific Journals

The Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) currently owns five peer-reviewed scientific journals. This article will cover a brief history and overview of the journals. Table 1 summarises some essential information about them.

SEB Journals cover.jpg


Table 1. Key information about SEB’s journals.

Journal Title Journal Owner Journal Publisher Publishing Model Year of First Issue
Journal of Experimental Botany (JXB) SEB Oxford University Press Hybrid 1950
The Plant Journal (TPJ) SEB & Wiley Wiley Hybrid 1991
Plant Biotechnology Journal SEB, Wiley & Association of Applied Biologists Wiley Open access 2003
Conservation Physiology SEB & Oxford University Press Oxford University Press Open access 2013
Plant Direct SEB, American Society of Plant Biologists & Wiley Wiley Open access 2017

The formation of the Society in 1923 aimed to increase the influence of experimental biology in the UK while parallelly supporting the British Journal of Experimental Biology, now called the Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB). The JEB is also celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023. Although it features in SEB history, it is not owned by the Society but by the Company of Biologists (CoB), a long-time partner [1].

Journal of Experimental Botany (JXB), 1950

The creation of the Journal of Experimental Botany (JXB) was a response to the interest of many botanical members of the SEB to have a further publication in plant physiology, an interest identified by a sub-committee established by the Council in 1946. As agreed in the terms of conditions for Oxford University Press (OUP) to publish JXB, the SEB would exclusively appoint an editorial board for the Journal [2].

The first issue of JXB was published in March 1950. It comprised eight papers (Figure 1). The initial scope of the journal was to publish research in plant physiology, biochemistry and biophysics in three numbers – the equivalent of a volume – every four months. The price for one number was 14s. or 35s., including postage, for a volume.  

Cover of the first issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany.
Figure 1. The first issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany was published in 1950.


Thomas Archibald Bennet-Clark, a Professor of Botany at King's College London, assisted in founding JXB and was appointed as its first editor-in-chief. He stayed in the position for ten years, a key period for the journal's international establishment and reputation-building [2,3].  The other editorial committee members included Eric Ashby, Geoffrey Emett Blackman, K. Brown, Frederick Gugenheim Gregory, William Owen James, William Harold Pearsall, Reginald Dawson Preston and M. Thomas [2,4]. In 1960, William Thomas Williams became editor-in-chief of JXB, and by 1964, the editorial committee had two new members, Bennet-Clark and H.K. Porter, while F.G. Gregory stepped down [2].

Leslie John Audus assumed editor-in-chief responsibilities in 1965 and stayed in the position until 1974. The transition from an editorial committee to an editorial board happened in the same year Audus took charge. In this new format, Audus had three assistant editors, Porter and Preston, who were members of the editorial committee, and Francis John Richards. Other names that worked as assistant editors during Audus’ editorship included F.L. Milthorpe, W.W. Schwabe, L. Fowden, P.J. Peterson, and E. A. MacRobbie. During this period, JXB grew in influence and by 1973 was publishing six instead of four issues per year and increased the number of board members from three to five [2].

C.P. Whittingham took over as editor-in-chief in 1974, and the editorial board eventually grew to seven members by the end of his editorship. W.W. Schwabe succeeded him, and submissions to JXB continued to grow. In 1983 the journal moved to publishing 12 issues per year and responsibility for the editorial administration of the journal transferred from the publisher to Pam Rogers, an assistant editor working alongside the editor-in-chief at Wye College (Ashford, UK).

When John Hall became editor-in-chief in 1988, JXB’s editorial office moved to the University of Southampton, where Sarah Blackford took over managing the journal, with Pam Rogers assisting. JXB began publishing book reviews around this time and then in in 1994, JXB published it’s first special issue, ‘Growth in planta’. To provide continued support to the journal, Sarah Blackford moved to Lancaster (UK) in 1995 when Bill Davies became editor-in-chief. Bill Davies introduced JXB’s Editorial Advisory Board, partly in response to the journal’s increasingly international authorship [5]. Bill Davies also oversaw the modernisation of the journal; JXB transitioned away from the submission of multiple hard copies of manuscripts to the submission of manuscripts saved onto disc, and the journal also began copy-editing on screen [5]. Bill also introduced the ‘Perspectives in Experimental Botany’ series [5,6]. Mary Traynor was appointed as JXB’s managing editor in 1995 and, to cope with a significant increase in submissions, the editorial office expanded in 2001 when Raquel Gonzalez-Cuesta joined the office. Mary continued to nurture and drive the journal forward in her role until her retirement in 2020 [7], and Raquel continues to work in JXB’s editorial office to this day. The early 2000s also saw an increase in the number of special issues published by the journal, with an average of three per year, leading to greater integration of JXB in the research community.

After 11 years at the helm, Bill Davies retired the editorship in 2006, with Jerry Roberts from the University of Nottingham succeeding him [8]. Further modernisation of the journal occurred during 2006, with the launch of JXB’s electronic submission system. The publication of a special issue titled ‘Major Themes in Flowering Research’ in 2006 forged a close link between the journal and the community of researchers working on flowering research, and so the Flowering Newsletter was created, with its first issue published in 2007. The Flowering Newsletter, which is still published every year, aims to be an authoritative source of information on the latest developments concerning flowering and flowers [9]. To oversee this, the journal created a role on the editorial board for a Flowering Newsletter Editor, originally held by Nick Battey who was instrumental in starting the project, then Lars Hennig until his untimely death in 2018 [10]. Frank Wellmer agreed to take on the role until 2020, at which point the current incumbent Rainer Melzer from University College Dublin (Ireland) took charge.

In 2009, Jerry Roberts introduced JXB’s eXtra Botany section. This part of the journal houses various types of editorial material to allow the publication of discursive commentaries and opinions [11]. JXB also began publishing prestigious Darwin Reviews in the same year to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150-year anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. This led to the journal creating the role of Darwin Reviews Editor, a position filled first by Christine Foyer and then by the current Darwin Reviews Editor Don Ort from the University of Illinois (US).

By the end of Jerry Roberts term as editor-in-chief, the editorial board had expanded to 21 members, the editorial office had five members of staff, and the journal was publishing at least five special issues each year, generating more content for the journal and providing greater support for the community when organising scientific meetings. Christine Raines succeeded Jerry Roberts in 2012, becoming JXB’s first female editor-in-chief. Christine restructured the editorial board, introducing a two-step editorial review process whereby manuscripts would be evaluated first by Associate Editors and then by Handling Editors. Christine also introduced a new manuscript type, the Expert View. These short-format reviews aim to provide an update on recent developments in a specific field. Christine drove advances in the journal’s open data policies and integration with pre-print servers [12]. The board expanded again during the late 2010s and comprised over 40 members when Christine stepped down early in 2020.

Christine and Mary smiling in front of a JXB poster at the SEB Conference.
Figure 2. Christine Raines and Mary Traynor at the SEB Conference in Prague, 2015.


John Lunn from the Max Planck Institute (Potsdam, Germany) succeeded Christine in 2020, becoming JXB’s tenth editor-in-chief. John introduced Technical Innovation (methods) and Community Resource papers, the latter reinforcing the strong community ethos of the journal [13]. John has led a huge expansion and diversification of JXB’s editorial board, which now comprises over 75 Editors, to better represent the global community that JXB serves. After 70 years in print, the journal stopped printing hard copies at the end of 2020, partly reflecting the diminishing demand for printed copies and a desire to make issue publication more efficient, and partly as a response to changes enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic. John also introduced JXB’s Editorial Internships in 2023 [14]. These roles have been filled by six excellent young researchers who will gain invaluable experience of journal editing and publishing. When Mary Traynor retired in 2020, Mike Page was appointed as her successor to manage the editorial office in Lancaster. Mike now has an additional role as the SEB’s Publications Manager to oversee the running of the SEB’s other journals and their interaction with the Society.

JXB currently publishes plant biology research focusing on cell biology, crop molecular genetics, growth and development, metabolism, and plant-environment interactions. JXB now publishes up to 10 special issues a year on specific topics, and is the only journal of which the SEB has exclusive ownership. It continues to be published by Oxford University Press in a hybrid model, although the SEB is committed to transitioning JXB to an open-access model in the near future. The editorial office still resides on the campus of Lancaster University, where it continues to provide excellent support to the journal’s editors, authors, reviewers and readers.

The Plant Journal (TPJ), 1991

The SEB owns The Plant Journal (TPJ) in partnership with Wiley, who also publishes the journal. TPJ brings together original research, resources, methodologies, and reviews commissioned and curated by its editorial board about basic plant sciences while maintaining a forum for the community [15].

Dianna Bowles was key to the foundation and design of TPJ and worked as editor-in-chief for 11 years. Dianna was very ably assisted by Managing Editor Irene Hames, who carried out this role from the journal’s inception through to her retirement in 2010 [16]. The main idea of TPJ was to have a space where plant biologists and molecular biologists could meet, talk and exchange knowledge [17].

Harry Klee assumed the responsibilities of editor-in-chief in 2002, followed by Christoph Benning in 2010 [16,17]. In 2011, to celebrate TPJ’s 20th anniversary, an online collection of the most-cited scientific articles  from each year of its existence was published [16]. Also in this year, the editorial office moved from the University of York and became integrated into Wiley’s publishing house [16].

Lee Sweetlove has been editor-in-chief of TPJ since 2017. He has introduced several excellent community-focussed initiatives. Lee introduced the TPJ Outstanding Paper Awards, first awarded in 2018, which celebrate outstanding papers in each TPJ manuscript category [18], as well as installing a Research Highlights Editor to promote impactful research papers in the journal [19]. Another initiative is the TPJ Features Website [20], featuring free-to-read interviews and commentaries with people at the forefront of plant science. The journal started the TPJ Fellowship Scheme in 2020 [21], which provides support and mentorship for researchers in the formative years in which they establish themselves as independent group leaders.

TPJ is currently run on a hybrid model (subscription-based with an open-access option), although as with JXB, the SEB is committed to transitioning the journal to open-access publishing in the future.

Plant Biotechnology Journal (PBJ), 2003

The idea of creating a journal focused on applied plant science was pitched by Martin Parry, the Association of Applied Biologists Publications Officer, to Blackwell (now Wiley) at the beginning of the 21st century.  The concept was shared with and supported by the SEB. The journal is jointly owned by the SEB, the Association of Applied Biologists and Wiley, its publisher [22].

With Keith Edwards as editor-in-chief from its inception in 2003 until 2011, the PBJ gained a reputation and stability within the community, publishing scientific papers focusing on molecular plant biology and its applications within plant biotechnology [22,23]. The number of issues per year increased from six to nine in 2008 as a result of the number of submissions to the journal rising steadily [24]. PBJ commenced the publication of special issues in 2009 with an issue on SNP discovery and high-throughput genotyping [25].

Henry Daniell took over as editor-in-chief in 2012, having been an associate editor on PBJ since the journal started. During Henry’s editorship, PBJ again increased the number of articles published per year and the journal’s reputation in the plant sciences grew considerably. PBJ ceased to print hard copies of the journal in 2013 [26], and in 2016 PBJ transitioned to a fully open-access journal, meaning that the authors pay an open-access fee, but all articles can be freely accessed by readers. This new publishing model proved effective and favourable to the journal’s continued growth [23].

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of PBJ, an article summarising key figures and names of contributors to the journal was published in 2021 [23]. Changes to increase the visibility and promotion of articles included launching a PBJ WeChat account in China and requesting a Twitter post from manuscript authors as part of their submission [23].

Johnathan Napier from Rothamsted Research (UK) was announced as the new PBJ editor-in-chief at the start of 2023 [22].

Conservation Physiology (Con Phys), 2013

Conservation Physiology (Con Phys) is an open-access, online-only journal owned by the SEB in partnership with Oxford University Press, the journal’s publisher [27]. The first paper in Con Phys was published in March 2013, but the journal’s official launch took place in July 2013 during the SEB’s Annual Conference in Valencia, Spain [28].

The journal was conceived by the SEB’s leaders Craig Franklin, Paul Hutchinson and Tony Farrell, with the aim to engage both plant and animal scientists while giving a platform to support and disseminate the then-recent discipline named “conservation physiology”. Steven J. Cooke was recruited as the editor-in-chief to help shape the journal’s scope, with Lindsay Haddon supporting the journal through her role at the SEB up until her retirement in 2022.

Steven Cooke and Martin Wikelski were the first to conceive the term “conservation physiology” in 2006. However, many scientists have been discussing how physiology, in its broader sense, could be applied to conservation problems understanding [28]. The definition of conservation physiology has evolved over the years and is defined as:

“an integrative scientific discipline applying physiological concepts, tools, and knowledge to characterizing biological diversity and its ecological implications; understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, and ecosystems respond to environmental change and stressors; and solving conservation problems across the broad range of taxa, including microbes, plants, and animals.  Physiology is considered in the broadest possible terms to include functional and mechanistic responses at all scales, and conservation includes the development and refinement of strategies to rebuild populations, restore ecosystems, inform conservation policy, generate decision-support tools, and manage natural resources” [29].

The journal has built up a strong reputation in its field since its inception, as well as an experienced and dynamic editorial board. Editorial support to Con Phys is now provided by the SEB’s Lancaster editorial office and Steven Cooke continues to serve as the journal’s editor-in-chief. Today the journal not only acts as a platform for research relevant to solving conservation problems, but it also publishes guidelines for shaping the conservation physiology discipline and aims to create an inclusive community of researchers [30]. Con Phys is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, and will host a special session at the SEB Conference in Edinburgh titled ‘Looking backwards and forwards after a decade of Conservation Physiology’ [31].

Plant Direct (PD), 2017

Plant Direct is the latest addition to the SEB’s journal portfolio, in partnership with the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and Wiley, the latter also its publisher. It is an open-access and sound science journal for the plant sciences [32]. This means that manuscripts are published if scientifically sound – or technically correct – leaving the impact and importance to be evaluated after publication by the number of downloads, citations and comments. In this approach, it is the scientific community, rather than the editor, that judges a manuscript’s impact [33]. The journal also supports the publication of negative results and replication studies [34]. Plant Direct encourages the deposition of pre-prints, providing discounts on the publishing fee for authors who have deposited their manuscripts on a pre-print server [34].

Plant Direct is a community journal which supports members of two Societies, the SEB and ASPB, and scientists who publish in the Society’s journals. It maintains partnerships with two other SEB journals, JXB and TPJ, and two ASPB journals, Plant Physiology and The Plant Cell. Under these partnerships, the journals can refer rejected papers that are scientifically sound to Plant Direct with their reviews, thus decreasing the reviewing time and burden on the community.

Plant Direct published its first paper in July 2017 under the editorship of Ivan Baxter [33]. Ivan worked tirelessly to get Plant Direct off the ground and helped develop the journal as the home for the publication of White Papers relating to the plant sciences, publishing its first in 2018. In 2022, Larry York from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory assumed the role of editor-in-chief [35]. Larry is working on harmonising processes and improving experiences for authors, reviewers, and handling editors while focusing on being a service to the community.

Journals webinar series

In collaboration with the SEB, the journals have been organising a series of webinars to promote the latest discoveries while creating space for scientific community interaction. Authors are invited to talk and answer questions about their accepted papers in the journal.

This series started in 2021, and all the recordings are available.

Journals initiatives for 100 years of the SEB

To celebrate 100 years of SEB, the journals are organising plenty of initiatives:

  • Science with Impact: a collection of influential articles published by the SEB journals during their lifetime.
  • Scientists with Impact: an interview series with scientists who are making substantial contributions to their fields.
  • Centenary Reviews: a series of Special Darwin Reviews from leading scientists commissioned by JXB.
  • Conservation Physiology Ten-Year Celebration: a session at the Centenary Conference to discuss and reflect on the journal’s first decade and future.
  • Reflecting on the past, present and future of Experimental Biology research: a SEB magazine piece with reflections of five Editors-in-Chief of the SEB journals about experimental biology research.
  • Image integrity workshop: a workshop at the Centenary Conference to discuss the good practice of preparing and assessing image-based data, organised by the SEB’s Lancaster editorial office.

Special  Thanks

Thanks for all the comments and feedback from the staff, publishers and editors-in-chiefs of the journals, including Martin Parry, David Mansley, Raquel Gonzalez-Cuesta, Bridget O’Boyle, Mary Traynor, Rosie Trice, Sarah McKenna, Steven Cooke, Larry York, and Johnathan Napier.


[1] SEB History. SEB History: We have 100 years of history! Read about the SEB foundation and some key facts, SEB Website, 2023,

[2] The Society for Experimental Biology - Origins and History. Cambridge, 16-19 July, 1974 : Printed on behalf of the Company of Biologists Ltd. for the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting of the Society. Printed by Thuleprint Ltd., Lerwick, Shetland Islands, 1974. SEB

[3] Thomas Archibald Bennet-Clark. R. Brown, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 1977,

[4] Journal of Experimental Botany. Nature, 1949,

[5] 1995 and Beyond. Bill Davies, JXB, 1995,

[6] Editorial. Bill Davies, JXB, 1995,

[7] Retirement of Mary Traynor, executive editor of JXB (1995–2020). Bill Davies, Jerry Roberts, Christine Raines & John E Lunn, JXB, 2020,

[8] New Editor-in-Chief for JXB. Jerry Roberts, JXB, 2007,

[9] The Flowering Newsletter. JXB website,

[10] A tribute to Lars Hennig (1970–2018). Iva Mozgova,  Cristina Alexandre,  Yvonne Steinbach,  Maria Derkacheva, Eberhard Schäfer & Wilhelm Gruissem, JXB, 2018,

[11] eXtra JXB. Jerry Roberts, JXB, 2009,

[12] Experimental Botany in 2017. Christine Raines, Mary Traynor & Johnathan Ingram, JXB, 2017,

[13] Looking Back and Looking Forward. John Lunn, JXB, 2021,

[14] Next Generation Editors. John Lunn, JXB, 2023,

[15] The Plant Journal overview. TPJ website,

[16] The future is bright for The Plant Journal, now in its 20th year. Christoph Benning, TPJ, 2011,

[17] Editorial. Diana Bowles, TPJ, 2001,

[18] Editorial. Lee Sweetlove, TPJ, 2018,

[19] Editorial. Lee Sweetlove, TPJ, 2017,

[20] Launching the new TPJ Features Website. Lee Sweetlove & Alon Cnaai, TPJ, 2021,

[21] Announcement of the first TPJ Fellows. Lee Sweetlove, Alisdair Fernie & Asaph Aharoni, TPJ, 2020,

[22] Plant Biotechnology Journal homepage. PBJ website,

[23] PBJ celebrates twenty years of service to the scientific community by offering free global access, improved ranking and diversity. Henry Daniell, PBJ, 2022,

[24] Editorial. Keith Edwards, PBJ, 2008,

[25] Editorial. Keith Edwards, PBJ, 2010,

[26] Editorial. Henry Daniell, PBJ, 2013,

[27] Conservation Physiology overview. Con Phys website,

[28] Conservation physiology today and tomorrow. Steven J. Cooke, Con Phys, 2014,

[29] What is conservation physiology? Perspectives on an increasingly integrated and essential science. Steven J. Cooke, Lawren Sack, Craig E. Franklin, Anthony P. Farrell, John Beardall, Martin Wikelski & Steven L. Chown, Con Phys, 2013,

[30] Elevating the impact of conservation physiology by building a community devoted to excellence, transparency, ethics, integrity and mutual respect. Steven J Cooke, Kevin R Hultine, Jodie L Rummer, Nann A Fangue, Frank Seebacher, Erika J Eliason, Heath A MacMillan, Andrea Fuller, Craig E Franklin, Con Phys, 2022,

[31] SEB Conference 2023: Science Across Boundaries Sessions. SEB website,

[32] Plant Direct homepage. PD website,

[33] Introducing Plant Direct. Ivan Baxter, PD, 2017,

[34] The scope of Plant Direct. Ivan Baxter, PD, 2017,

[35] Five years with Plant Direct: Thank you. Ivan Baxter, PD, 2022,