Barbara Marte, Nature editor: ”Now we are publishing more documents than ever”

Barbara Marte (1)

Nature, first published on 1869, is the leading weekly, international scientific journal. Most scientific journals are now highly specialized, and Nature is among the few journals that still publish original research articles across a wide range of scientific fields.

Nature is a private owned publication. The Nature Published Group (NPG) includes Nature, Nature Research Journals, Nature Review journals and academic journals (e.g. Oncogene, BJC). The main office of the group is in King Cross (London).

The new generation of editors

“The background is very important: a PhD and a postdoc. In my case, I have a PhD in the Nancy Hynes Lab, FMI, and a postdoc in the Julian Downward lab, ICRF in London”, said Barbara Marte, the Nature senior editor, in his conference last July 6th in IDIBELL.

The Biology editorial receives around 150 papers, among letters and articles, a week and the 75-80% of them is returned without review. The numbers of submissions have increase. In 2011, they were more than 10.000 submissions.

Online, provides over 6 million visitors per month with access to NPG publications and online databases and services.

What is Nature looking for?

“We are looking for technically solid content, mostly assessed by peer review. Also for understanding contribution to the field, lasting impact, with important implications for further directions of research, including translational research and clinic. Among our considerations: conceptual vs. incremental advance, depth of findings, a definitive finding, community resources, and interest to a wide scientific audience”, said Marte.

“We use between 2-4 reviewers per paper from a “database” or reviewers, but we also use authors’ suggestions, literature searchers, and constantly add new referees to this list, and the “bad” reviewers can be removed”, continued the senior editor of Nature.

The technical expert must have a technical assessment and judge the general quality of data. Their decisions are rejections, suggesting publication elsewhere or invite a revision, addressing the referees’ comments or be accepted in principle.

The decision after the review

“Reviewers will often disagree with each other. Editors discuss and make decision based on arguments. Editors, not the reviews, ultimately decide what is published in Nature”, said Marte.

It is an Editor’s decision to publish a paper in Nature or in a Nature Research Papers. There are some famous rejections, like Fermi. When Enrico Fermi submitted his paper on the weak interaction theory of beta decay, Nature turned down the paper because it was considered too remote from reality. It was finally published by Nature 5 years after been published by Zeitschrift für Physik (1934), once his work had been widely accepted.

Appeals, what helps?

Nature editors do carefully consider appeals against rejection. All appeals were seen by handling editor and, at least one other senior editor. “Give additional data, bringing convincing arguments that editors or referees missed as important, etc. And don’t help any kind of hype, like this is the Rosetta stone of the research in this field of research”, admitted Marte.

The number of papers with possible claims on space in Nature vastly exceeds the number that it can be published each week, and therefore frequently forced to make difficult decisions.

“We often discuss about being blink about the authors. Even if the referees don’t know who the authors are, they can be some “conflicts”, like some comments that can make the referees”, declared the editor.

“Before was easier to publish than now? I’m not sure. I don’t have this feeling. We are publishing more papers than before. The quality and interest is enormous”, concludes Marte.

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