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New microgravity journal makes its debut

June 04, 2015

A new online, open-access peer-reviewed journal focusing on multidisciplinary research performed in microgravity and Earth-based microgravity analogue environments has taken flight.

The first issue of npj Microgravity, a joint project between Arizona State University and the Nature Publishing Group with support from NASA, is now available.

Designed to be the premier journal covering research that both enables and is enabled by spaceflight, this platform highlights important scientific advances in the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering fields.

The initial journal launch covers topics including the effects of microgravity on mouse skin physiology after a three-month stay in space; how antifoams act in microgravity; the economics of microgravity research; and microgravity metal processing.

This is the latest launch in Nature Partner Journals (npj), a new series of online, open-access journals published in collaboration with world-renowned international partners. As with all titles within the Nature-branded series, npj Microgravity will publish high-quality open research.

“We are in a renaissance period for spaceflight research that has tremendous potential for breakthrough advances in diverse scientific and technological domains to benefit life on Earth and exploration of space,” said Cheryl Nickerson, a professor in ASU's Biodesign Institute, who is the editor-in-chief of the new journal.

For half a century, humans have reached for the stars to explore beyond Earth. Astronauts have boldly gone to the moon, flown 135 space-shuttle missions, and continuously orbited onboard the national science lab of the International Space Station.

The results of research conducted on these missions have given scientists unprecedented opportunities to study the effects of microgravity.

Microgravity (see this Biodesign Blog entry for more) is an extreme environment in which gravity is greatly reduced. As with studies in other extreme environments, research in microgravity and Earth-based systems that mimic aspects of microgravity provides a unique opportunity to not only enhance future spaceflight exploration missions, but also yield novel insight to advance our understanding of biological, physical and engineering sciences on Earth with practical applications to benefit the general public.

Npj Microgravity captures the discoveries from reduced gravity and other similar environments, thereby providing scientists and science enthusiasts alike a way to stay at the cutting edge with the latest research.

Nickerson, who is also a professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences, is internationally recognized for her research in utilizing the microgravity environment of spaceflight and spaceflight analogue conditions as unique research platforms to provide insight into infectious disease mechanisms and understand how physical forces dictate the outcome of host-pathogen interactions that lead to disease.

One of the Nickerson’s newest investigations, delivered to the International Space Station earlier this year by the commercial carrier SpaceX, aims to further our understanding of how intestinal pathogens cause disease, prevent or counteract foodborne illness in astronauts, and translate these findings into novel strategies to prevent foodborne illness for the general public.

“I believe npj Microgravity is exactly the type of platform needed to highlight and broaden microgravity and analogue research into widespread mainstream acceptance with the highest values of scientific integrity historically defined by the Nature brand," Nickerson said. “To ensure our success, we have recruited a world-class editorial board.”