Nature’s past and future after 140 years

From an Editorial in Nature (462, 12; 5 November 2009):

Nature‘s first issue appeared on Thursday 4 November 1869. 7,269 issues later, a little bit of satisfaction may be in order given that the journal has survived wars and, so far, the Internet’s onslaught on traditional models of publishing. Nature’s papers are highly cited for what seem to us to be good reasons. Lots of people (millions online every month) want to read the journal. So where do we need to be self-critical? Readers will no doubt have many answers, but here are a few.

> Others sometimes put more weight on our judgement than it can justifiably bear. Large grants, philanthropic donations and personal chairs have been awarded on the strength of a paper in Nature — in effect, using editors’ decisions as a surrogate for independent judgement. This is an abdication of the decision-makers’ responsibility, and is a pitfall to be avoided.

> We endorse efforts to create systems that reach beyond the crudeness of the impact factor — systems that make transparent the citations and other effects of papers, and that record impacts of scientists’ other work, such as their contributions to databases and the hard slog of peer review.

> We have enhanced our journalism and externally authored opinion in recent years, and readers can anticipate further developments ahead.

> Nature has to reflect the values of its authors and readers. The core values of science — objectivity, independence, self-critical thinking and a relentless urge to observe, experiment and explore — are also important principles of good journalism and editing. As an unusual hybrid of magazine and journal, Nature can only retain readers’ respect if it follows those principles while adding substantial value to the lives and work of researchers and others seriously interested in science. Our commitment to fulfil these ambitions is as strong as it has ever been.

More about Nature.

Nature’s own history website.


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    Bob O'H said:

    I was impressed that Nature would use this editorial to strike at its own power like this. (writes he without a single Nature paper to his name…).

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