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Nature Communications – First Impressions

April 14, 2010

Just this morning noticed (late by 2 days) that Nature Communications went live with an editorial and 11 research articles,  and Mark and John asked me to do a brief analysis.

To celebrate the launch the articles are made available FREE until September 30th, 2010.

As of this morning there are 11 articles and one editorial and of these 11 articles only 4 are published with the open access option marked with an orange OPEN logo next to the title.  The fewer number of articles so far makes me think that authors are not attracted by the open access option but by the Nature brand. In any case, I feel an article publication charge of $5,000 or €3,570 would not be attractive for many authors.

On the ToC, the articles are listed in reverse chronological order (latest first). Each entry is accompanied by a pictorial summary and a 30-50 word summary (obviously written by staff-experts). Both are very catchy, the tiny pic seem to aid in tracking while scrolling down. Each entry is also accompanied by 3-4 terms with the first one being the broader term and the others more like sections headings. Following the broader terms, 3 articles are of Physical Sciences, 2 of Chemical Sciences and 6 of Biological Sciences. The ToC is also easy to navigate and attractive – not too much of pictorial clutter like JACS or not too bald like PNAS.

The authors constitute a geographical mix, from US, France, Germany, CAS China, Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand.

Albert Fert, the 2007 physics Nobel winner is a co-author of one paper.

In browsing each of the articles to gauge the quality, it became obvious to me that most if not all are NOT of the Nature-type. Some articles didn’t quote high quality journals like Nature, Science etc., some abstracts end with sentences like: we provide support for….., our observations may be important for…..

There are no web 2.0 tools other than the social bookmarking options and articles follow the standard Nature format (eg., Methods are in the bottom). In the html version each of the listed references has a show context button which when expanded pullsout the associated sentences(s) in the text rather than jumping up to the associated text. There is no reference linking in pdf. One can download the entire section of references (not just the citation). Articles intentionally made to look longer in the pdfs than the regular nature articles. I was surprised to see an ADS linkout in the references related to a bio reference, and started wondering why no linkouts exist to Scitation content.

As for the submissions Nat Comm says:

“If a paper is rejected from one Nature journal, the authors can use an automated manuscript transfer service to submit the paper to Nature Communications via a link sent to them by the editor handling the manuscript. Authors should note that referees’ comments (including any confidential comments to the editor) and identities are transferred to the editor of the second journal along with the manuscript. The journal editors will take the previous reviews into account when making their decision, although in some cases the editors may choose to take advice from additional referees. Alternatively, authors may choose to request a fresh review, in which case they should not use the automated transfer link, and the editors will evaluate the paper without reference to the previous review process.”

It appears that in launching Nat Comm NPG ceded some of the staff responsibility to the advisory board, at least NPG makes it appear so. I am sure this has to do with complaints from authors who don’t get their papers moved to a peer-review stage. David Weitz from Harvard (BMF board member and APL author) is on the 41 member Editorial Advisory panel.

Nat Comm says: ”Like other Nature titles, Nature Communications has no external editorial board; editorial decisions are made by a team of full-time professional editors, who are PhD-level scientists. If a paper’s importance within the field is unclear, an editor may request advice from a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel in deciding whether to review it.”

NPG make it look like they are following the Science model although it is no where close.

This is what Science says: Most submissions are evaluated by the staff editors and our Board of Reviewing Editors for potential significance, quality, and interest. The Board, composed of more than 140 leading scientists worldwide, evaluates manuscripts electronically with a 48-hour turnaround and provides prompt, expert assessment and input into editorial decisions and the selection of reviewers. About 80% of submitted manuscripts are rejected during this initial screening stage, usually within one week to 10 days.

So the final message is: here is a competing journal for Cell, PNAS, APL, PRL etc

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