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Editorial: Publish And Be Damned   

4 August 2006 4,774 views 21 Comments


I know, it’s not chemistry, but interesting things are brewing over at Nature. You see, they’re changing their peer-review process, and adding a new option for authors (so far only for Nature Chemical Biology edit: actually, only Nature just now). It’s currently working as a blog, where one can comment as on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the “open review” process, and clearly means that the sample-size of their referees has grown hugely. But the demographic of those lauding or critisisng the work has also changed to a more web-literate (and potentially younger) audience.

This is an important move; Nature is a prestigious journal, and this development will be closely watched by journal publishers around the world. Currently, authors still have a choice; the old method, of a select group of referees, paid by the publishers, (edit – nope, they’re not paid; such generous souls :)) and returning a closed decision on the prospective publication, or the new method. Clearly, as well as having a financial benefit to the publishers, the open nature of the new process removes at least some of the critical and q/c burden from the publishers. But will those commenting online simply be two packs of opposing views, or will there be a broad spectrum of opinions?

This move seems to be part of a trend just now, a second phase of web development by the publishers. Of course, the first phase was the availability of articles online. This first move was ground-breaking, and I’m sure most of you reading this use this facility. An addendum to this (1.5, if you like) was pre-published articles; ASAP or Early View for example. This gave them a constant stream of output, and a second chance to pull an article before it reaches print. This latest development from Nature follows (and I cringe at using the term) a Web 2.0 evolution, and the fact it has been implemented as a blog is of no surprise to me.

Indeed, most of the journal houses have a blog associated with their website now, generally a stream of new connected to their publications. That would be of no interest (after all, they have news pages anyway), but there’s normally some comment associated with the posts too, which can be quite revealing. And then there’s the independent science blogs like this one, and a host of others (my favourites are linked to in the sidebar). But one thing I’ve noticed is that they adhere strictly to the 1-in-10 rule, some times with a higher ratio. This is a guide to readership. For every reader, one in ten will comment. And for every ten commenters, one runs their own blog. But for some reason, people are actually intimidated by science blogs; this does lead to a better signal/noise ratio (see slashdot science for a lower ratio…), but is a little disappointing.

So comment freely (you are relatively anonymous here, BTW), and please, please add your opinion to the Nature blog – this could be a critical turning point, and needs your voice!!!

Update: As you can see, I’ve clarified a few points (and corrected some incorrect points – oops). Sorry for that. Also, please check out this article on the Nature Website.

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  • HOMO-LUMO says:

    Uau I just cannot believed. Very interesting all this. we´ll where this finishes.

  • One of the advantages of science blogs is the accessibility for the reader AND author. Many of the open access journals (like PLoS) have a significant author barrier (around $2000/article).

  • userlame says:

    This is a big deal–like being left alone with the keys to a Porshe in the movie “Risky Business.” Hopefully, we won’t all become pimps and dump the car in the lake.

  • Tot. Syn. says:

    That’s possibly the best analogy I’ve heard this week. Fantastic. Does that make Tet Lett something like a 14 year old nissan bluebird?

  • userlame says:

    Hmmm…you bring up a good point.

    How would the quality of a car scale against the ISI impact factor of a journal?

    If you’re interested in power, Tet Lett (ISI 2004: 2.484) would be a Scion xB. For gas mileage, it would be a Lincoln Navigator.

    I find Science to be a journal with bipolar disorder, so it would be a fast car that is not very reliable.

  • HOMO-LUMO says:

    Oh come on guys,

    Tet. Lett. has to be a FIAT, that bloody italian cars!!

    Dunno too much about paleoclimatology but is difficult to compare an article is ” Fluctuations in the oxygen levels of the indian and pacific oceans cause by deep water movements in the atlantic” with a 35 steps total synthesis with a yield of 85% for any step.

  • Canuck Chemist says:

    Nature pays its referees? I didn’t know any journal did this, but maybe I’m wrong…

  • Tot. Syn. says:

    HOMO-LUMO: Wash your mouth! Fiats are brilliant cars. Or at least my one is:

  • Dysleximus says:

    Hmmmm, then synlett must be your little brother’s first bike!!

  • Stuart says:

    Nature doesn’t pay its referees (at least as far as I know…)

  • Jeremiah says:

    Nice car Tot. Syn guy! Does it work?

  • HOMO-LUMO says:

    Hope I’m wrong, italian engines and time are a bad combination.

  • Tot. Syn. says:

    The car (for now at least) is working fine. It’s done 106,000 mi now, so it’s getting on a bit, but it still goes like a beast :). And it gets 40mpg… but I feel we’ve gone a bit OT now…

  • Jeremiah says:

    Good on you. That 1-10 rule is nonsense. I don’t believe for a second you only get 130 hits a day. I’m sure your site is getting 1500 page requests a day AT LEAST and with that, I’m sure that’s over 400-500 people a day. Of course, you would know for sure.??

  • Tot. Syn. says:

    You’re pretty close; 1700 page requests, and around 600-700 visits per day. Pretty good, and still increasing – thanks everyone!

  • Joshua says:

    Hi Totally Synthetic, thanks for writing a post about our open peer review trial. I’m very curious to hear what participants (and other people in the community) think about it…

    Just to clear up a few things, the open peer review trial is only for papers submitted to Nature, and not for papers submitted to Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Methods, etc. Also, as Stuart mentioned, we (unfortunately) don’t pay our referees to review manuscripts for us…

  • Anonymous says:

    Gap Auto Insurance…

    warbles standpoints.charged …

  • KRP says:

    Hi Paul Docherty,

    Please accpet my hearty congratulations on your succesful blog on totalsynthesis. I am writting to let you that I am planning to start a blog where my research ideas are posted (along the lines of usefulchem) and I plan to name it “totallyretrosynthetic” . Is it OK if I use the above name?

    Best regards,


  • KRP says:

    let you know that

  • Tot. Syn. says:

    KRP: In my opinion, that’s not a great idea. If you publish your ideas for research in a public blog, that might prevent you from publishing in a journal at a later point. That’s why I never discuss my own work in any detail here. However, if you still want to do it, I can’t stop you!
    Best of luck!

  • HPCC says:

    I think this thread is getting spammed. What do you think?
    As much as I like the Barenaked Ladies, I don’t think their contribution to science was significant enough for them to be discussed here. :D