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PNAS narrows pathway to publication

One door to publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has slammed shut. In an editorial this week, editor-in chief Inder Verma said the prestigious US journal will no longer accept submitted papers that come with a prearranged editor (who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences).

The journal formalized this publication track in 2010, when it eliminated ‘communicated’ papers, which allowed academy members to usher papers from non-member colleagues through to publication. Papers with prearranged editors (known in PNAS-speak as PE) went through peer review, but the process was shepherded by an academy member pre-chosen by the author of the paper, rather than an editor selected by journal. The intention was to encourage papers that were interdisciplinary or ‘ahead of their time’, and deserving of special attention. According to Verma’s letter: “The PE process was intended to be used on rare occasions but, since we formalized the PE process, more than 11,000 papers have been submitted by authors with a PE designation. Although we are certain that some of these papers truly needed special attention, the vast majority likely did not, and therefore we are discontinuing the PE process as of October 1, 2014.” Papers already submitted through that track won’t be affected by the change.

Nature noted Verma’s desire to eliminate prearranged editor submissions in a recent feature on PNAS (“The Inside Track”): “One in five direct submissions published in 2013 used a prearranged editor, and the acceptance rate for these papers is higher than for other direct submissions. ‘More and more the playing field will be levelled,’ says Verma.” That story focused on PNAS’s ‘contributed’ path to publication, which lets academy members publish up to four papers per year using peer reviewers they select (whose comments the members can take or leave). As our story noted, many members rarely or never use the ‘contributed’  track, and just a handful make regular use of it. This publication track remains unchanged, so academy members don’t need to make an ‘Indiana Jones’ style dash through a closing door just yet.

hat tip: In the Pipeline


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