How we (almost) published in Cell

One day, we received a very special call. One that brought us back to the lab bench, surrounded by pipets, nitrile gloves, buffer bottles, and the everlasting dream of seeing our results published in a high impact journal. We got the opportunity of publishing in Cell! Well, more precisely, on its cover.

Dr Salvador Aznar Benitah, from IRB Barcelona, contacted us with the great news: he was about to publish, not only one, but two papers! Both in the same volume of this top journal. His team had just made some breakthroughs into the regulation of circadian rhythms and he wanted us to design a cover that would illustrate these discoveries.

We learnt long time ago how our bodies are regulated by our internal clock, but actually, they had discovered that there isn’t only one, but plenty biological clocks ticking within us! With their two publications analysing circadian regulation on the skin and the liver, they showed how our tissues regulate their clocks in response to daylight and darkness, independently from the brain. Also, they realised that there is a crosstalk between the different clocks, which is necessary to ensure synchronization and proper function of our body. Without a doubt, this is a key discovery, since alterations of these rhythms have been associated with premature ageing and even predisposition to the generation of tumours.

After attending a masterclass in circadian rhythms from Salva in an express briefing session, we started thinking about how to represent these discoveries in one striking image.  Inevitably, the time and rhythmicity topic directly led us to think about clocks but with two different executions.

In the first one, we built upon an excellent idea from Salva: a composition of different types of clocks and watches displayed as a metaphoric representation of the organ diversity found in our bodies. After a long search in image libraries and a photoshop overdose, we were quite thrilled with the result. In the cover proposal, all the clocks were hung on the same wall and showed the same time. This image together with a strong copy sent a clear message.

First cover proposal, different types of clocks showing the same time
Second cover design, synchronized clocks changing cities by organs

In the second one, we opted for a more familiar picture with a little twist. You may have seen them before. Maybe in an airport or at a hotel reception. A set of identical clocks showing the names of different cities and times across the globe. But we thought they would quickly capture people’s attention if they were synchronized at the same exact hour. We changed the names or real cities by organs and turned their clock hands to synchronize them!

Salva and his team liked our designs and sent them over to the journal just like other authors in the issue, but unfortunately, we were not the winning horse 😉

Although our designs did not get published we really enjoyed the challenge and we are sure that working with such brilliant researchers we will have many more chances of seeing their work (and ours!) in top-notch scientific press very soon.