Nature Precedings and open review, one year on

Today, 18 June, is the first anniversary of Nature Precedings, where researchers can post their unpublished manuscripts, presentations, posters, white papers, technical papers, supplementary findings and other scientific documents, which can all be “peer-reviewed” online by anyone in the scientific community. (The website was available before June 2007 in ‘beta’ form.) Santosh Patnaik, a user who periodically tracks Nature Precedings at the Nature Network Nature Precedings forum, estimates that the 500th document will be uploaded some time in the next two weeks.

Because the code for Nature Precedings is freely available, Dr Patnaik has mined some data to chart the growth of the website. His results are presented here, in graphical form. The number of posters and presentations, common when the site first launched, is now barely increasing, whereas the number of manuscript uploads has grown at a steady rate over the past year. The most popular discipline, perhaps unsurprisingly, is bioinformatics, although most other disciplines are also becoming more popular, particularly neurosience, ‘evolution and ecology’, and chemistry. (For those interested in statistics, Dr Patnaik has also estimated the productivity of Nature Precedings authors.)

One aspect of this type of open peer-review is that discussion is not limited to the English language, even though the language of uploaded documents is in English. The vast majority of comments are, however, in English: here is an example of constructive review in the neuroscience field, Nature Precedings style. There are many other examples: the most active discussions are here, but one can also filter by subject area.

Update: Hilary Spencer and the Nature Precedings team provide a one-year perspective at Nature Network.


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