Nature (journal)

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The huge progress in science and mathematics during the 19th century was recorded in journals written mostly in German or French, as well as in English. Britain underwent enormous technological and industrial changes and advances particularly in the latter half of the 19th century. [10] The most respected scientific journals of this time were the refereed journals of the Royal Society, which had published many of the great works from Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday to Charles Darwin. In addition, the number of popular science periodicals doubled from the 1850s to the 1860s. [11] According to the editors of these popular science magazines, the publications were designed to serve as "organs of science", in essence, a means of connecting the public to the scientific world. [11]

Nature, first created in 1869, was not the first magazine of its kind in Britain. One journal to precede Nature was Recreative Science: A Record and Remembrancer of Intellectual Observation, [12] which, created in 1859, began as a natural history magazine and progressed to include more physical observational science and technical subjects and less natural history. [13] The journal's name changed from its original title to Intellectual Observer: A Review of Natural History, Microscopic Research, and Recreative Science [14] and then to the Student and Intellectual Observer of Science, Literature, and Art. [15] While Recreative Science had attempted to include more physical sciences such as astronomy and archaeology, the Intellectual Observer broadened itself further to include literature and art as well. [15] Similar to Recreative Science was the scientific journal Popular Science Review, created in 1862, [16] which covered different fields of science by creating subsections titled "Scientific Summary" or "Quarterly Retrospect", with book reviews and commentary on the latest scientific works and publications. [16] Two other journals produced in England prior to the development of Nature were the Quarterly Journal of Science and Scientific Opinion, established in 1864 and 1868, respectively. [15] The journal most closely related to Nature in its editorship and format was The Reader , created in 1863; the publication mixed science with literature and art in an attempt to reach an audience outside of the scientific community, similar to Popular Science Review. [15]

These similar journals all ultimately failed. The Popular Science Review survived longest, lasting 20 years and ending its publication in 1881; Recreative Science ceased publication as the Student and Intellectual Observer in 1871. The Quarterly Journal, after undergoing a number of editorial changes, ceased publication in 1885. The Reader terminated in 1867, and finally, Scientific Opinion lasted a mere 2 years, until June 1870. [13]


First title page, 4 November 1869 Nature cover, November 4, 1869.jpg
First title page, 4 November 1869

Not long after the conclusion of The Reader, a former editor, Norman Lockyer, decided to create a new scientific journal titled Nature, [17] taking its name from a line by William Wordsworth: "To the solid ground of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye". [18] First owned and published by Alexander Macmillan, Nature was similar to its predecessors in its attempt to "provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge." [17] Janet Browne has proposed that "far more than any other science journal of the period, Nature was conceived, born, and raised to serve polemic purpose." [17] Many of the early editions of Nature consisted of articles written by members of a group that called itself the X Club, a group of scientists known for having liberal, progressive, and somewhat controversial scientific beliefs for their time. [17] Initiated by Thomas Henry Huxley, the group consisted of such important scientists as Joseph Dalton Hooker, Herbert Spencer, and John Tyndall, along with another five scientists and mathematicians; these scientists were all avid supporters of Darwin's theory of evolution as common descent, a theory which, during the latter half of the 19th century, received a great deal of criticism among more conservative groups of scientists. [19] Perhaps it was in part its scientific liberality that made Nature a longer-lasting success than its predecessors. John Maddox, editor of Nature from 1966 to 1973 and from 1980 to 1995, suggested at a celebratory dinner for the journal's centennial edition that perhaps it was the journalistic qualities of Nature that drew readers in; "journalism" Maddox states, "is a way of creating a sense of community among people who would otherwise be isolated from each other. This is what Lockyer's journal did from the start." [20] In addition, Maddox mentions that the financial backing of the journal in its first years by the Macmillan family also allowed the journal to flourish and develop more freely than scientific journals before it. [20]


Norman Lockyer, the founder of Nature, was a professor at Imperial College. He was succeeded as editor in 1919 by Sir Richard Gregory. [21] Gregory helped to establish Nature in the international scientific community. His obituary by the Royal Society stated: "Gregory was always very interested in the international contacts of science, and in the columns of Nature he always gave generous space to accounts of the activities of the International Scientific Unions." [22] During the years 1945 to 1973, editorship of Nature changed three times, first in 1945 to A. J. V. Gale and L. J. F. Brimble (who in 1958 became the sole editor), then to John Maddox in 1965, and finally to David Davies in 1973. [21] In 1980, Maddox returned as editor and retained his position until 1995. Philip Campbell became Editor-in-chief of all Nature publications until 2018. Magdalena Skipper has since become Editor-in-chief. [21]

Expansion and development

In 1970, Nature first opened its Washington office; other branches opened in New York in 1985, Tokyo and Munich in 1987, Paris in 1989, San Francisco in 2001, Boston in 2004, and Hong Kong in 2005. In 1971, under John Maddox's editorship, the journal split into Nature Physical Sciences (published on Mondays), Nature New Biology (published on Wednesdays), and Nature (published on Fridays). In 1974, Maddox was no longer editor, and the journals were merged into Nature. [23] Starting in the 1980s, the journal underwent a great deal of expansion, launching over ten new journals. These new journals comprise Nature Research, which was created in 1999 under the name Nature Publishing Group and includes Nature, Nature Research Journals, Stockton Press Specialist Journals and Macmillan Reference (renamed NPG Reference). In 1996, Nature created its own website [24] and in 1999 Nature Publishing Group began its series of Nature Reviews. [21] Some articles and papers are available for free on the Nature website, while others require the purchase of premium access to the site. As of 2012, Nature claimed an online readership of about 3 million unique readers per month. [5]

On 30 October 2008, Nature endorsed an American presidential candidate for the first time when it supported Barack Obama during his campaign in America's 2008 presidential election. [25] [26] In October 2012, an Arabic edition of the magazine was launched in partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. As of the time it was released, it had about 10,000 subscribers. [27] On 2 December 2014, Nature announced that it would allow its subscribers and a group of selected media outlets to share links allowing free, "read-only" access to content from its journals. These articles are presented using the digital rights management system ReadCube (which is funded by the Macmillan subsidiary Digital Science), and does not allow readers to download, copy, print, or otherwise distribute the content. While it does, to an extent, provide free online access to articles, it is not a true open access scheme due to its restrictions on re-use and distribution. [28] [29] On 15 January 2015, details of a proposed merger with Springer Science+Business Media were announced. [30]

In May 2015 it came under the umbrella of Springer Nature, by the merger of Springer Science+Business Media and Holtzbrinck Publishing Group's Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education. [31] Since 2011, the journal has published Nature's 10 "people who mattered" during the year, as part of their annual review. [32] [33]

Publication in Nature

Skewed curve of citations per article in 2015 to Nature articles from 2013 to 2014 Nature citations per article, 2013-2015.jpg
Skewed curve of citations per article in 2015 to Nature articles from 2013 to 2014

According to Science , another academic journal, being published in Nature has been known to carry a certain level of prestige in academia. [34] In particular, empirical papers are often highly cited, which can lead to promotions, grant funding, and attention from the mainstream media. Because of these positive feedback effects, competition among scientists to publish in high-level journals like Nature and its closest competitor, Science , can be very fierce. Nature's impact factor, a measure of how many citations a journal generates in other works, was 42.778 in 2019 (as measured by Thomson ISI). [1] [35] [36] However, as with many journals, most papers receive far fewer citations than the impact factor would indicate. [37] Nature's journal impact factor carries a long tail. [38]

Studies of methodological quality and reliability have found that some high-prestige journals including Nature "publish significantly substandard structures", and overall "reliability of published research works in several fields may be decreasing with increasing journal rank". [39]

As with most other professional scientific journals, papers undergo an initial screening by the editor, followed by peer review (in which other scientists, chosen by the editor for expertise with the subject matter but who have no connection to the research under review, will read and critique articles), before publication. In the case of Nature, they are only sent for review if it is decided that they deal with a topical subject and are sufficiently ground-breaking in that particular field. As a consequence, the majority of submitted papers are rejected without review.

According to Nature's original mission statement:

It is intended, FIRST, to place before the general public the grand results of Scientific Work and Scientific Discovery; and to urge the claims of Science to a more general recognition in Education and in Daily Life; and, SECONDLY, to aid Scientific men themselves, by giving early information of all advances made in any branch of Natural knowledge throughout the world, and by affording them an opportunity of discussing the various Scientific questions which arise from time to time. [40]

This was later[ year needed ] revised to:

First, to serve scientists through prompt publication of significant advances in any branch of science, and to provide a forum for the reporting and discussion of news and issues concerning science. Second, to ensure that the results of science are rapidly disseminated to the public throughout the world, in a fashion that conveys their significance for knowledge, culture and daily life. [41]

Landmark papers

Many of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in modern history have been first published in Nature. The following is a selection of scientific breakthroughs published in Nature, all of which had far-reaching consequences, and the citation for the article in which they were published.


In 2017, Nature published an editorial entitled "Removing Statues of Historical figures risks whitewashing history: Science must acknowledge mistakes as it marks its past". The article commented on the placement and maintenance of statues honouring scientists with known unethical, abusive and torturous histories. Specifically, the editorial called on examples of J. Marion Sims, the 'Father of gynecology' who experimented on African American female slaves who were unable to give informed consent, and Thomas Parran Jr. who oversaw the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. The editorial as written made the case that removing such statues, and erasing names, runs the risk of "whitewashing history", and stated "Instead of removing painful reminders, perhaps these should be supplemented". The article caused a large outcry and was quickly modified by Nature. [42] The article was largely seen as offensive, inappropriate, and by many, racist. Nature acknowledged that the article as originally written was "offensive and poorly worded" and published selected letters of response. [43] The editorial came just weeks after hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia in the Unite the Right rally to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, setting off violence in the streets and killing a young woman. When Nature posted a link to the editorial on Twitter, the thread quickly exploded with criticisms. In response, several scientists called for a boycott. [44] On 18 September 2017, the editorial was updated and edited by Philip Campbell, the editor of the journal. [45]

When Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research initially rejected by Nature and published only after Lauterbur appealed against the rejection, Nature acknowledged more of its own missteps in rejecting papers in an editorial titled, "Coping with Peer Rejection":

[T]here are unarguable faux pas in our history. These include the rejection of Cherenkov radiation, Hideki Yukawa's meson, work on photosynthesis by Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and Hartmut Michel, and the initial rejection (but eventual acceptance) of Stephen Hawking's black-hole radiation. [46]

In June 1988, after nearly a year of guided scrutiny from its editors, Nature published a controversial and seemingly anomalous paper detailing Jacques Benveniste and his team's work studying water memory. [47] The paper concluded that less than a single molecule of antibody diluted in water could trigger an immune response in human basophils, defying the physical law of mass action. The paper excited substantial media attention in Paris, chiefly because their research sought funding from homeopathic medicine companies. Public inquiry prompted Nature to mandate an extensive and stringent experimental replication in Benveniste's lab, through which his team's results were refuted. [48]

Before publishing one of its most famous discoveries, Watson and Crick's 1953 paper on the structure of DNA, Nature did not send the paper out for peer review. John Maddox, Nature's editor, stated: "the Watson and Crick paper was not peer-reviewed by Nature ... the paper could not have been refereed: its correctness is self-evident. No referee working in the field ... could have kept his mouth shut once he saw the structure". [49]

An earlier error occurred when Enrico Fermi submitted his breakthrough paper on the weak interaction theory of beta decay. Nature rejected the paper because it was considered too remote from reality. [50] Fermi's paper was published by Zeitschrift für Physik in 1934. [51]

The journal apologised for its initial coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in which it linked China and Wuhan with the outbreak, which may have led to racist attacks. [52] [53]


A paper was published with important figure anomalies from an author with a past of publishing figure anomalies. [54]

A 2013 fraudulent paper was also published in Nature. [55]

From 2000 to 2001, a series of five fraudulent papers by Jan Hendrik Schön was published in Nature. The papers, about semiconductors, were revealed to contain falsified data and other scientific fraud. In 2003, Nature retracted the papers. The Schön scandal was not limited to Nature; other prominent journals, such as Science and Physical Review , also retracted papers by Schön. [56]

In 2022, an editorial published in Nature entitled "How Nature contributed to science's discriminatory legacy" mentioning the problematics of some of their articles: "But we have also published material that contributed to bias, exclusion and discrimination in research and society." [57]

In 2024, a paper titled "Pluripotency of mesenchymal stem cells derived from adult marrow," published in 2002, was retracted due to concerns raised regarding some of the panels shown in a figure, making it the most-cited retracted paper ever. [58] [59] [60]

Science fiction

In 1999, Nature began publishing science fiction short stories. The brief "vignettes" are printed in a series called "Futures". The stories appeared in 1999 and 2000, again in 2005 and 2006, and have appeared weekly since July 2007. [61] Sister publication Nature Physics also printed stories in 2007 and 2008. [62] In 2005, Nature was awarded the European Science Fiction Society's Best Publisher award for the "Futures" series. [63] One hundred of the Nature stories between 1999 and 2006 were published as the collection Futures from Nature in 2008. [64] Another collection, Futures from Nature 2, was published in 2014. [65]


Nature Materials, a specialized journal from Nature Portfolio, 2018 Nature Materials Nov 2008.jpg
Nature Materials, a specialized journal from Nature Portfolio, 2018

Nature is edited and published in the United Kingdom by a division of the international scientific publishing company Springer Nature that publishes academic journals, magazines, online databases, and services in science and medicine. Nature has offices in London, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Munich, and Basingstoke. Nature Portfolio also publishes other specialized journals including Nature Neuroscience , Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods , the Nature Clinical Practice series of journals, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology , Nature Chemistry , and the Nature Reviews series of journals.[ citation needed ] [66]

Since 2005, each issue of Nature has been accompanied by a Nature Podcast [67] featuring highlights from the issue and interviews with the articles' authors and the journalists covering the research. It is presented by Kerri Smith and features interviews with scientists on the latest research, as well as news reports from Nature's editors and journalists. The Nature Podcast was founded – and the first 100 episodes were produced and presented – by clinician and virologist Chris Smith of Cambridge and The Naked Scientists . [68]

Nature Portfolio actively supports the self-archiving process and in 2002 was one of the first publishers to allow authors to post their contributions on their personal websites, by requesting an exclusive licence to publish, rather than requiring authors to transfer copyright. In December 2007, Nature Publishing Group introduced the Creative Commons attribution-non-commercial-share alike unported licence for those articles in Nature journals that are publishing the primary sequence of an organism's genome for the first time. [69]

In 2008, a collection of articles from Nature was edited by John S. Partington under the title H. G. Wells in Nature, 1893–1946: A Reception Reader and published by Peter Lang. [70]

Communications journals

Nature also publishes a number of journals in different disciplines, all prefixed with "Communications", which complement their other journals. These include: [71]

See also


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General bibliography

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Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal articles, books or theses. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted on the Internet is often called "grey literature". Most scientific and scholarly journals, and many academic and scholarly books, though not all, are based on some form of peer review or editorial refereeing to qualify texts for publication. Peer review quality and selectivity standards vary greatly from journal to journal, publisher to publisher, and field to field.

In academic publishing, a retraction is a mechanism by which a published paper in an academic journal is flagged for being seriously flawed to the extent that their results and conclusions can no longer be relied upon. Retracted articles are not removed from the published literature but marked as retracted. In some cases it may be necessary to remove an article from publication, such as when the article is clearly defamatory, violates personal privacy, is the subject of a court order, or might pose a serious health risk to the general public.

"Severe dopaminergic neurotoxicity in primates after a common recreational dose regimen of MDMA ("ecstasy")", is an article by George A. Ricaurte that was published in September 2002 in the peer-reviewed journal Science, one of the world's top academic journals. It was later retracted; instead of using MDMA, methamphetamine had been used in the test.

Water memory is the purported ability of water to retain a memory of substances previously dissolved in it even after an arbitrary number of serial dilutions. It has been claimed to be a mechanism by which homeopathic remedies work, even when they are diluted to the point that no molecule of the original substance remains, but there is no theory for it.

The impact factor (IF) or journal impact factor (JIF) of an academic journal is a scientometric index calculated by Clarivate that reflects the yearly mean number of citations of articles published in the last two years in a given journal, as indexed by Clarivate's Web of Science.

Citation impact or citation rate is a measure of how many times an academic journal article or book or author is cited by other articles, books or authors. Citation counts are interpreted as measures of the impact or influence of academic work and have given rise to the field of bibliometrics or scientometrics, specializing in the study of patterns of academic impact through citation analysis. The importance of journals can be measured by the average citation rate, the ratio of number of citations to number articles published within a given time period and in a given index, such as the journal impact factor or the citescore. It is used by academic institutions in decisions about academic tenure, promotion and hiring, and hence also used by authors in deciding which journal to publish in. Citation-like measures are also used in other fields that do ranking, such as Google's PageRank algorithm, software metrics, college and university rankings, and business performance indicators.

<i>PLOS One</i> Peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal

PLOS One is a peer-reviewed open access mega journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2006. The journal covers primary research from any discipline within science and medicine. The Public Library of Science began in 2000 with an online petition initiative by Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus, formerly director of the National Institutes of Health and at that time director of Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center; Patrick O. Brown, a biochemist at Stanford University; and Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Academic authorship of journal articles, books, and other original works is a means by which academics communicate the results of their scholarly work, establish priority for their discoveries, and build their reputation among their peers.

MDPI is a publisher of open-access scientific journals. It publishes over 390 peer-reviewed, open access journals. MDPI is among the largest publishers in the world in terms of journal article output, and is the largest publisher of open access articles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philip Campbell (scientist)</span> British astrophysicist, former editor in Chief of Nature

Sir Philip Henry Montgomery Campbell is a British astrophysicist. He served as editor-in-chief of the peer reviewed scientific journal Nature from 1995 to 2018. From 2018 he was the Editor-in-Chief of the publishing company Springer Nature until his retirement in May 2023.

Scientific Reports is a peer-reviewed open-access scientific mega journal published by Nature Portfolio, covering all areas of the natural sciences. The journal was established in 2011. The journal states that their aim is to assess solely the scientific validity of a submitted paper, rather than its perceived importance, significance, or impact.

Scholarly peer review or academic peer review is the process of having a draft version of a researcher's methods and findings reviewed by experts in the same field. Peer review is widely used for helping the academic publisher decide whether the work should be accepted, considered acceptable with revisions, or rejected for official publication in an academic journal, a monograph or in the proceedings of an academic conference. If the identities of authors are not revealed to each other, the procedure is called dual-anonymous peer review.

Frontiers Media SA is a publisher of peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journals currently active in science, technology, and medicine. It was founded in 2007 by Kamila and Henry Markram. Frontiers is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, with offices in the United Kingdom, Spain, and China. In 2022, Frontiers employed more than 1,400 people, across 14 countries. All Frontiers journals are published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Predatory publishing</span> Fraudulent business model for scientific publications

Predatory publishing, also write-only publishing or deceptive publishing, is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors while only superficially checking articles for quality and scientific integrity, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide. Although the term "predatory publishing" was originally proposed to decribe open access publishers, who charge authors without providing a proper peer-review, subscription-access publishers have also resolved to predatory practices. For example, Springer and the IEEE had to retract over 120 articles, that they published in subscription-based journals, because the papers were automatically generated by the computer program SciGen.

Metascience is the use of scientific methodology to study science itself. Metascience seeks to increase the quality of scientific research while reducing inefficiency. It is also known as "research on research" and "the science of science", as it uses research methods to study how research is done and find where improvements can be made. Metascience concerns itself with all fields of research and has been described as "a bird's eye view of science". In the words of John Ioannidis, "Science is the best thing that has happened to human beings ... but we can do it better."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elisabeth Bik</span> Scientific integrity expert (1966-)

Elisabeth Margaretha Harbers-Bik is a Dutch microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant. Bik is known for her work detecting photo manipulation in scientific publications, and identifying over 4,000 potential cases of improper research conduct, including 400 research papers published by authors in China from a research paper mill company. Bik is the founder of Microbiome Digest, a blog with daily updates on microbiome research, and the Science Integrity Digest blog.

Jacques Benveniste was a French immunologist born in Paris. In 1979, he published a well-known paper on the structure of platelet-activating factor and its relationship with histamine. He was head of allergy and inflammation immunology at the French biomedical research agency INSERM.