I recently gave a talk in Singapore about publishing in Nature Protocols. When I give these talks, one of the things I explain is why Nature Publishing Group is interested in publishing methodological information. For that specific talk I had great new supporting document – an article in the previous weeks Nature about the “top 100 papers”. Of course, my top 100 papers is going to be very different from yours, but the top 100 for the purposes of this article was defined as the most cited papers of all time in the Science Citation Index, owned by Thomson Reuters.
When I saw the cover of Nature that week, and learnt of the news story, I knew what the most cited articles were going to be – methods papers. I knew about the high cites because when we first launched Nature Protocols we looked to see which methods papers were most cited, indicative, we believed, of people having reproduced the method and being in need of a protocol. We found such papers had amazingly high cites. An example of one of the highly cited papers serving as the inspiration for a protocol was the paper by Piotr Chomczynski and Nicoletta Sacchi on isolating RNA. We felt it was important that users of the assay understood how and why it worked, and published a protocol on the assay by the original inventors.
It will be fascinating to look in ten years’ time to see the methods being invented now that have taken off and revolutionised the way we do research. I very much hope our protocols will have helped facilitate their adoption in new labs around the world.