Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Comment on Michael E. Smith's blog post "Problems with the big journals, Science and Nature"

Michael E. Smith's recent post "Problems with the big journals, Science and Nature" is right on target. These prestige or "luxury" journals do seem to focus more on the potential newsworthiness of their articles than on their scientific value. I don't say this from personal experience because I've never had the temerity to submit to them. But I remember a dinner party with some friends who've published in them repeatedly. While discussing a manuscript they were preparing, the most successful of them all said something like, "We can't send this to Science. They're only interested if its the oldest or the biggest or the smallest." And this was not sour grapes. He had published several articles in Science. He'd figured out the magic formula and wasn't bitter about it. He was merely stating what he perceived to be a fact of life. So, I would say there is a widespread perception among scientists that these journals are primarily interested in results that are going to make headlines. This doesn't mean that the articles they choose are therefore necessarily unworthy. In the Venn diagram for publishing results, the domains for "newsworthy science" and "significant science" do overlap. I scan Science and Nature every week, and I find many of the articles interesting not only for their substantive results but also for their innovative combinations of methods.

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