Open letter to Editor-in-chief of Nature

Dear Dr. Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of Nature,

In response to Randy Scheckman’s call to boycott top journals such as yours, you issued a press release in which you recognized that we scientists “…tend towards an over-reliance in assessing research by the journal in which it appears, or the impact factor of that journal”. We are very happy to hear that you recognize this problem. We have a suggestion for how the assessment of research could be refocused on its content rather than being evaluated by sometimes unreliable proxies such as the journal brand.

If journals such as yours actively promoted continued review of articles after their publication (post-publication peer review), they would provide scientists with another, more valuable, system with which to evaluate research.  Existing examples of such services include PubPeer and PubMed Commons. Top journals such as yours have the ability to promote this method of evaluation and could help us to replace our reliance on impact factor and other metrics with thorough evaluation of research.  We trust that top journals such as yours will continue to publish high quality research and this system of evaluation will help to make that more evident to everyone.

Please help to remedy this problem by actively promoting post-publication review.

4 thoughts on “Open letter to Editor-in-chief of Nature

  1. Excellent idea.

    I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical about Pubpeer when it was launched, not least because Nature had tried post-publication peer review without great success.

    I was wrong, and Pubpeer is doing a good job so far. I think the reason for that is because it has allowed anonymous comments. That’s essential to allow junior people to comment freely. It has the advantage that you are forced to rely on what’s written, not on the reputation of the person who wrote it. Of course some moderation is needed to stop malicious comments and spam.

    In fairness to Philip Campbell, it was partly on his initiative that I wrote in 2003 about Challenging the Tyranny of Impact Factors. It’s only got worse since then, but at least there is now a fightback.

  2. Few years ago I attempted to report fraud suspicions to Nature Editors. I got firm promise to investigate the issues. During 1.5 year after that I send several messages to Nature asking about results of their investigation, every time I received reply with various excuses why nothing was yet investigated and promise that it will. No need to say that it never happened? I had to send my documents agai as Editor reported that they were lost (obviously deleted as soon as received), next time they stated that their editors are too busy to investigate other fraud accusations etc. None of authors of paper in question was ever contacted to my knowledge, they just waited when I get tired of writing them and finally I gave up. “But we will endeavour to investigate this swiftly, and will inform you of the final outcome.”- citing first reply. Several years passed- still waiting for this swift responce.

    • This comment isn’t particularly helpful for anyone. Perhaps consider posting your specific issues with the paper directly on PubPeer for everyone to evaluate.

  3. If you want to evaluate some research, don’t rely on impact factors. Don’t rely on anonymous comments on the web either. Just read the paper and make up your own mind. Is this a radical idea?

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