Author, reviewer and editor – the talented Prof Stephen Lawn

At BioMed Central, we’re deeply saddened at the loss of Prof Stephen Lawn, who died on 23rd September after a battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was a passionate and talented researcher, and approached his roles on journals with equal energy. Here, two of our editors who dealt with him regularly on their journals, pay tribute to him.

“The day that happens, there’ll be a porcine aerial display”

Prof Stephen Lawn always managed to express himself with wit and humour – even when he was frustrated about something. He was a man who wore many hats- in just our own relationships with him he was a researcher, author, reviewer, adviser and editor. He was always constructive and had a passion for ensuring progress of scientific research through collaborations as well as dissemination of acquired knowledge.

When he joined BMC Medicine as an Editorial Board Member in 2012, he was quick to offer his advice and support to ensure TB/HIV research remained on the agenda. He also understood the power of communication very well. While many of us only think to give feedback when things go wrong, Steve would also make an effort to express his satisfaction when things went well.

Prof Stephen Lawn
Prof Stephen Lawn

He was one of the few people who would take the time to communicate whenever he had a good experience as an author. My phone would go off and he would be on the other end explaining what had been helpful (or not) during the submission and review process and how as an author that had directly helped him and co-authors. He would explain that he felt it’s important to let journal editors know about what is working, just as much as they need to know what isn’t.

Steve also served as a Section Editor for the newly formed ‘Tuberculosis and other mycobacterial diseases’ section at BMC Infectious Diseases from 2011-2014. Despite the huge amount of calls upon his time he was never too busy to provide advice to other editors or constructive feedback to authors. I always knew that if I asked Steve’s opinion on a manuscript we would get a fair, unbiased but rigorous assessment. He understood the challenges researchers in less-resourced areas faced and his enthusiastic championing of the subject area led to the success of the section at the journal.

Steve was also always fun to chat to – although with his travels, research, editorial roles AND the marathon running he made the rest of us feel somewhat inadequate! We last corresponded in March when he was preparing for his Inaugural lecture on HIV-associated TB epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa which further proves his commitment to dissemination of knowledge.

The Steve Lawn Memorial Fund has been set up to provide support for selected TB researchers In Africa. To help carry on his legacy in TB/HIV research, donations can be made here

As an advocate of open access publishing, he was also always willing to lend his support to express why he liked the publishing model (as you’ll see here in this video at 0:34/ 2:53/ 6:57), which to a large extent was influenced by his own experiences in South Africa. Aside from the research, he was also always willing to engage in more general topics such as how the peer review and submission processes needs to evolve. How to make things better: for authors, reviewers, readers, researchers and ultimately for patients …. these were common themes of discussion with Steve.

We will miss him terribly, but are hopeful that the in-roads he has made in TB/HIV research, particularly in low-resource settings, will have a lasting legacy.


Selection of articles published by Steve Lawn and colleagues in BMC Medicine and BMC Infectious Diseases:

Video Q&A: Rapid urine LAM test for HIV-associated TB – potential to reduce deaths? An interview with Stephen Lawn

HIV-associated tuberculosis: relationship between disease severity and the sensitivity of new sputum-based and urine-based diagnostic assays

Management of HIV-associated tuberculosis in resource-limited settings: a state-of-the-art review

The predictive value of current haemoglobin levels for incident tuberculosis and/or mortality during long-term antiretroviral therapy in South Africa: a cohort study

Rapid microbiological screening for tuberculosis in HIV-positive patients on the first day of acute hospital admission by systematic testing of urine samples using Xpert MTB/RIF: a prospective cohort in South Africa

Detection of lipoarabinomannan (LAM) in urine is an independent predictor of mortality risk in patients receiving treatment for HIV-associated tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Point-of-care detection of lipoarabinomannan (LAM) in urine for diagnosis of HIV-associated tuberculosis: a state of the art review

Determine TB-LAM lateral flow urine antigen assay for HIV-associated tuberculosis: recommendations on the design and reporting of clinical studies

Diagnostic accuracy of the Xpert MTB/RIF assay for extrapulmonary and pulmonary tuberculosis when testing non-respiratory samples: a systematic review

Treatment outcomes in HIV-infected adolescents attending a community-based antiretroviral therapy clinic in South Africa

Delays in starting antiretroviral therapy in patients with HIV-associated tuberculosis accessing non-integrated clinical services in a South African township

Identification of losses to follow-up in a community-based antiretroviral therapy clinic in South Africa using a computerized pharmacy tracking system

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