Nature Precedings: Early Access to Scientific Results

Timo Hannay, Nature‘s Director of Web Publishing, sent out the following note in email:

Since you’ve been kind enough to express an interest in Nature web projects
in the past, I thought I’d let you know about our latest baby: Nature
Precedings
.

The traditional way for scientists to share their research results is
through journals. These have the benefit of being peer-reviewed, citable
and archival, but as a communication channel they are also relatively slow
and expensive. As a complement to this, scientists also use more immediate
and informal approaches, such as preprints (i.e., unpublished manuscripts),
conference papers and presentations. The trouble is, these usually aren’t
easy to share in a truly globally way (most repositories are institution- or
funder-specific), and you can’t formally cite them (which is important
because citation underlies the scientific credit system).

Nature Precedings is trying to overcome those limitations by giving
researchers a place to post documents such as preprints and presentations in
a way that makes them globally visible and citable. Submissions are
filtered by a team of curators to weed out obviously inappropriate material,
but there’s no peer-review so accepted contributions appear online very
quickly — usually within a couple of hours. The content is all released
under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and each item is made citable
using a DOI or Handle (the same systems used for peer-reviewed scholarly
papers).

A similar approach has long been the norm in physics, where the the
arXiv.org preprint server at Cornell provides an indispensible source of
up-to-the-minute reports (the main reason that Nature Precedings doesn’t
attempt to cover physics). We’re hoping to catalyse a similar degree of
openness and cooperation among researchers in other disciplines. Because
Nature Precedings isn’t peer-reviewed (to be more accurate, the submissions
are subjected to open review *after* their release, through user comments
and votes), we see it as complementing rather than competing with
traditional journals, just as arXiv.org operates alongside the peer-reviewed journals in physics.

The service is free to authors and readers alike.

We’re going to be sending out some formal announcements today (Monday) and
at that time also revealing some of our long list of academic partners (see
the Nature Precedings home page later today for that info). They have not
only helped us to conceive this service, but will also be supporting it in
other ways, including mirroring the content to ensure it’s long-term
toll-free availability. When I get some time I also plan to post more about
this on the Nascent blog.

P.S. I’m gathering
early coverage (good, bad and indifferent) here [on Connotea].

Kudos to Timo and his team at Nature. They are consistently the boldest and most innovative of publishers — and it’s so rare to see a market leader with Nature’s unparalleled reputation taking such risks. It’s truly inspiring.

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