The publication of the 50th volume of Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review (OMBAR) represents a significant milestone in the history of the series. The first volume appeared in 1963 at a time when there was a considerable proliferation of new marine science journals. The founder editor was Harold Barnes, a senior researcher with the Scottish Marine Biological Association at The Marine Station, Millport, the forerunner of SAMS. He recognised there was a place in the literature for a review series whose objects were 'to consider annually basic aspects of the field, returning to each at appropriate intervals, to deal with subjects of especial or topical importance, and to add new ones as they arise.' His vision was amply justified because the publication has appeared annually ever since and continues to be widely read and cited. Consequently, its impact factor is consistently at the top in its field, a position greatly valued by authors in these days when such metrics are considered important. The longevity and continuing success of the series among numerous other review publications can be attributed to a variety of factors. In particular, the variety and breadth of scope of the contributions, the experience and scholarship of the many hundreds of authors involved, and their willingness to dedicate the time required to write long and detailed articles. Indeed, the latitude allowed authors regarding length, and the opportunity to include complex tables and extensive reference lists, is a consistent feature of the series and one appreciated by authors and readers alike. The spread and balance of articles within each issue is also important and, as one reviewer commented: 'That most marine scientists can usually guarantee finding at least one review in every issue in which to take an interest is a measure of the success established by this indispensable series.'
In the 50 years that have passed since the publication of the first volume the marine environment has changed. Seas are now warmer, more polluted and over-exploited than ever before, mainly as a result of the continued expansion of the human population and its increasing pressure on marine resources. Marine science has also changed. Developments in technology have made possible investigations previously considered impossible; submersibles, satellites and DNA based techniques, for example, are routinely employed and much of the data collection previously done by hand is now undertaken remotely and automatically. Although ‘curiosity driven’ marine science continues unabated there is also a greater emphasis than formerly on studies that have relevance to anthropogenic influences on the oceans. This changing emphasis is reflected in recent issues where many deal with such topics and Volume 50 continues this trend.
Throughout its first 50 years OMBAR has continued to be intimately associated with SMBA/SAMS. Following Harold Barnes’ untimely death in 1978, his wife Margaret (a SAMS Honorary Fellow) took over the editorship. Margaret had always been an integral, experienced and tireless other half of the editorial team who shared Harold’s vision and enthusiasm so that it was natural for her to assume the editorship and ensure the series’ smooth continuation. For many of the subsequent years she was also Editor of Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, also started by her husband, and in 1988 to lighten her considerable load she invited two other SAMS scientists, Alan Ansell and Robin Gibson, to join her on the editorial team. Alan Ansell acted as Managing Editor from 1994 until his death in 1999 when the post passed to Robin Gibson. Following Alan’s death, Jim Atkinson (UMBS Millport) was recruited and on Margaret Barnes’ final retirement in 2002 after 40 years as editor her place was filled by a SAMS Honorary Fellow John Gordon. Drs Gibson, Atkinson and Gordon all retired as editors in 2012 after a cumulative 47 years in post. The SAMS/UMBS connection will be retained through David Hughes (SAMS) and Philip Smith (UMBS) respectively and the new Managing Editor will be Professor R.N. Hughes, University of Bangor, Wales.
OMBAR has made a major contribution to marine science by providing an outlet for authors to publish digests of the ‘state of the art’ in a very wide range of topics but, in return, both SAMS and the editors have benefited from their association with the series. SAMS is well known as the ‘home’ of OMBAR and on its behalf the editors have been able to attend numerous conferences to keep up to date with current trends. Over the years SAMS staff have published many papers in the series and it is fitting that two articles authored by SAMS researchers appear in the golden jubilee volume.