Benjamin Lewin, the editor of Cell and its sister journal Molecular Cell, announced to his staff and editorial board yesterday that he plans to retire on 1 October. His sudden departure represents "a big loss for Cell," says cell biologist Tony Hunter of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Reached by ScienceNOW, Lewin declined to comment, other than to deny rumors that he is ill.
After Lewin founded Cell in 1974, it quickly became a premier journal of molecular and cell biology. Scientists attribute the journal's success largely to Lewin's depth of scientific knowledge and hands-on management style. "It will be very different without Benjamin there," says Hunter, who has been on the journal's editorial board since 1980. "He was always there to talk with you about your paper or someone else's. This was in contrast with most other journals."
Lewin sold the journal, along with its three sister journals--Neuron, Immunity, and Molecular Cell--to Dutch science-publishing giant Elsevier Science in April, for an amount rumored to be close to $100 million. Insiders wondered how long Lewin would stay on, although Elsevier had announced he would remain editor for 5 years. Now, Deputy Editor Vivian Siegel will take over the helm, but some close to the journal suspect Lewin's departure, combined with Elsevier's takeover, will trigger an exodus of editorial staff.
"I don't think Cell can be Cell without Lewin," says molecular biologist Robert Tjian, also a member of the journal's editorial board. It is too early to tell whether individual editorial board members will stay on, he says.