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Systems Biology is changing the way biology is done. Is it a fad or is it effective? This blog tracks current happenings and helps you stay on top of the field. You can find a list of relevant papers at systems biology paper watch Have you heard a talk or read a paper in bioinformatics / systems biology you would like to tell other people about? Email: and get the word out!

Monday, October 30, 2006

"How to get a paper in Nature" Dr. Angela Eggleston, Senior Editor, Nature
Talk on the UCSD Campus

The talk "how to publish in nature" was rather misadvertised. In
fact, when we got there, the host said he chose the title to get
people to come (it worked), but the talk was more about the editor,
how she came to be an editor at Nature, and what NPG is like. On top
of that, 90% of what she said was either common knowledge (NPG
publishes these journals, full time editorial staff, yadda yadda) or
common sense (don't whine at the editors when you're paper is
rejected, follow the format guidelines, blah blah blah).

That being said, I learned these few interesting tidbits. NPG has 24
editors, 16 for biological sciences and 8 for physical (and all this
time you thought biology was a physical science) sciences. They don't
get as many submissions as I thought they did: 600/month. 75% are
rejected without review, 25% get reviewed, half of those are
published. Interdiscplinarity is high on the list of things they look
for, as is "novelty" (when's the last time you heard an editor saying
they encourage submission of old data).

Upon submission, an article is sent to the appropriate editor. If you
do the math, it turns out that an editor only has to ready 6-8
submissions/week. So each submission, apparently gets a full read
before they decide whether to send it out for
review. And apparently some rapport with the editor is encouraged
while you're trying to get your manuscript published.

What else... the online open-review trial bombed -big- time. They
probably won't adopt it. Some 3% of submissions opted for open review
(the rest being too afraid to publicize their nature-worthy results).
And for those who opted for open-review, the reviews were very
infrequent (who has time for that?) and often superficial. The editor
was squarely against the open access movement citing that a) none of
these journals have yet to turn a profit and thus validate the
business model, b) the journals work by charging the author (usually
$2,500), and for Nature to do the same, they would have to charge
$10k, which has a strong science-for-sale aspect to it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary. Wanted to go, but couldn't. Now I don't feel like I missed out.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the speaker about the open access movement jumping the gun a bit on things like community annotation (i.e. random internet users coming in and making all sorts of comments within published papers) and it's no surprise to me that their open peer review experiment flopped.

However, the economics argument is pretty weak. First, not all open access organizations are looking for profit; IIRC, PLoS is a non-profit organization. Second, while $2500 is a lot of money, it's not much compared to the cost of doing research...I like BMC's idea of institutions paying a set amount.

Another non-economic argument is that this system of astronomical subscription charges effectively keeps the third world out of major science. And yet another point is that the financiers of NIH/NSF/etc research, i.e. taxpayers, should at the very least have free access to what they're funding!

6:40 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

From Peter Suber's OA Newsletter #105: "Both the Hindawi and Medknow OA journal collections became profitable, an industry first. All the Hindawi OA journals use author-side fees and none of the Medknow journals do so. Together, therefore, they elegantly answered doubts about the business models for fee-based and no-fee OA journals."

10:50 PM  
Blogger Tarun Gupta said...

Quoting Anonymous:

"system of astronomical subscription charges effectively keeps the third world out of major science."

I completely agree to this fact and that is essentially one of the major reasons why so called third world submission get rejected with a comment "Repetition!"

$2500! That is roughly equal to the yearly salary of a PhD student in India!

-Tarun (

11:21 AM  
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