Over the past four years, the editors of Nature Chemical Biology have enjoyed getting to know chemical biologists from around the world and hearing about their diverse research. In the journal’s December Editorial (Nat. Chem. Bio. 4, 715; 2008), the editors describe how they select papers. From the Editorial:
The review process at Nature Chemical Biology includes two steps: editorial assessment and external peer review. We first read and discuss each manuscript in light of our editorial criteria and determine whether the manuscript should be sent for external peer review. For manuscripts that are not initially selected for external review, we contact the authors to decline the paper, and in some cases we encourage resubmission of a revised manuscript. In the latter case, we send the authors a decision letter that contains a web link for submitting a revised paper and encourage them to discuss the study further with the editor. Papers that are selected for external peer review are sent to a panel of scientific referees covering appropriate chemical and biological expertise, who are asked to assess the technical merits and scientific advance of the paper. After review, the editors discuss the manuscript in the context of the referee reports and make a decision to accept or decline the work, or to request a revised manuscript. Most published manuscripts have undergone more than one round of review by the same referees to ensure that all technical concerns have been addressed.
How do we determine which manuscripts are sent for external review? Our first consideration is whether the submitted manuscript falls within the scope of the journal. In principle, chemical biology papers should have a balance of chemical and biological components. However, for most current manuscripts the major advance is focused in one discipline. As a result we consider papers across this spectrum, ranging from fundamental chemical studies that are applied to understanding biological systems to major biological advances that were enabled by chemical approaches. Second, we consider whether the paper reports significant conceptual or methodological advances that are likely to open up new avenues of research in the field. In assessing a manuscript’s novelty, we rely on our editorial expertise and familiarity with the field’s criteria, but we also closely examine the published literature to provide context for the reported discoveries. Finally, because the journal’s audience includes both chemists and biologists, we favor papers that are likely to appeal not only to specialists but also to our broad readership.