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The 15 February 2001 cover of Nature
|Publisher (country)||Nature Publishing Group (UK)|
|Publication history||1869 to present|
|ISSN||[http://dispatch.opac.ddb.de/DB=1.1/LNG=EN/CMD?ACT=SRCHA&IKT=8&TRM=0028-0836 0028-0836 0028-0836]|
Nature is one of the oldest scientific journals, first published on 4 November 1869. Although most scientific journals are now highly specialized, Nature is idiosyncratic (along with other weekly journals such as Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) in still publishing original research articles across a wide range of scientific fields. In most fields of scientific research, many of the most important new advances each year are published as articles or letters in Nature. Among the numerous scientific breakthroughs published in Nature are the discoveries of X-rays, the double-helix structure of DNA and the ozone hole. In astronomy and physical cosmology, most of the serious advances are published in specialist journals, but a short letter is often published in Nature for publicity purposes, in particular to get attention from the mainstream media.
Research scientists are the primary audience for the journal, but article summaries and accompanying articles make many of the most important articles understandable for the general public (and to scientists in other fields). Toward the front of each issue are editorials and news and feature articles on issues of general interest to scientists, including current affairs, science funding, business, scientific ethics and research breakthroughs. There are also sections on books and arts. The remainder of the journal consists mostly of research articles which are often dense and highly technical. Due to strict limits on the length of articles, in many cases the printed text is actually a summary of the work in question with many details relegated to accompanying supplemental material on the journal's website.
Having an article published in Nature is very prestigious, and the articles are often highly cited, leading 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 for 2005 was 29.273 (as measured by Thomson ISI).
As with most other professional scientific journals, articles 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 articles are rejected without review.
Nature was founded in 1869 by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, an astronomer and physicist best known as the co-discoverer of helium. Lockyer was also the first editor of the journal from its founding until 1919. In Nature's mission statement, it says:
- 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.
Nature is a weekly journal edited and published in the United Kingdom by Nature Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Macmillan Publishers which in turn is owned by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Nature has offices in London, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, Tokyo, Paris, Munich, and Basingstoke. Nature Publishing Group also publishes other specialized journals including Nature Neuroscience, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, Nature Clinical Practice, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology and the Nature Reviews series of journals.
Presently, each issue of Nature is accompanied by the Nature Podcast  presented by Naked Scientist, Chris Smith . The podcasts feature highlights from the issue and interviews with the articles' authors and the journalists covering the research.
The following is a selection of scientific breakthroughs published in Nature, all of which had far-reaching consequences.
- W. C. Röntgen (1896). On a new kind of rays. Nature 53: 274–276.
- Wave nature of particles
- C. Davisson and L. H. Germer (1927). The scattering of electrons by a single crystal of nickel. Nature 119: 558–560.
- The neutron
- J. Chadwick (1932). Possible existence of a neutron. Nature 129: 312.
- Nuclear fission
- L. Meitner and O. R. Frisch (1939). Disintegration of uranium by neutrons: a new type of nuclear reaction. Nature 143: 239–240.
- The structure of DNA
- J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick (1953). Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids: A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature 171: 737–738.
- Plate tectonics
- J. Tuzo Wilson (1966). Did the Atlantic close and then re-open?. Nature 211 (5050): 676-681.
- The ozone hole
- The human genome
- International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (2001). Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome. Nature 409 (6822): 860-921. (See 15 February 2001 cover above.)
Relation to open science publishing
As of 2005, Nature has only partially responded to the challenge from the Public Library of Science and its supporters, who in 2001 signed a petition calling for all scientists to pledge that from September of 2001 they would discontinue submission of papers to journals which did not make the full-text of their papers available to all, free and unfettered after a six-month period from publication. Nature's response was to allow authors to self-archive their original submission, after an embargo date, for example on the arXiv.org e-print archive.
Due to the intense competition to publish in Nature and the subsequent large volumes of submitted manuscripts, errors in peer review are inevitable due to human error. There are a number of famous cases in Nature where such anomalies in the peer-review process occurred.
Famous Nature papers that were fraudulent or incorrect
- A series of five fraudulent papers by Jan Hendrik Schön were published in Nature in the 2000-2001 period.
Landmark papers rejected by Nature, and published elsewhere
- Enrico Fermi's paper on the weak interaction theory of beta decay was turned down by Nature but promptly published by Zeitschrift für Physik.
Published Nature papers that were not peer reviewed
- Publication of Watson and Crick's 1953 paper on the structure of DNA in Nature. This paper was not sent out for peer review. John Maddox stated that "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..."
Nature family of journals
In addition to Nature itself, there are three families of Nature-branded journals published by the Nature Publishing Group:
- Nature research journals:
- Nature Biotechnology
- Nature Cell Biology
- Nature Chemical Biology
- Nature Genetics
- Nature Immunology
- Nature Materials
- Nature Medicine
- Nature Methods
- Nature Nanotechnology (started October 2006)
- Nature Neuroscience
- Nature Photonics (Launching in January 2007 ; ISSN 17494885 ; EISSN 17494893 ; website)
- Nature Physics
- Nature Structural and Molecular Biology
- Nature Reviews journals:
- Nature Reviews Cancer
- Nature Reviews Drug Discovery
- Nature Reviews Genetics
- Nature Reviews Immunology
- Nature Reviews Microbiology
- Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology
- Nature Reviews Neuroscience
- Nature Clinical Practice journals:
- Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine
- Nature Clinical Practice Endocrinology and Metabolism
- Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology and Hepatology
- Nature Clinical Practice Neurology
- Nature Clinical Practice Nephrology
- Nature Clinical Practice Oncology
- Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology
- Nature Clinical Practice Urology
- European Journal of Human Genetics
- Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Touchstone, New York, 1986.
- Fermi, E (1934).' Versuch einer Theorie der beta–strahlen', Zeitschrift für Physik, vol. 88, p. 161.
- The Nature website
- An electronic version of the first issue from 1869
- The Nature Reviews website
- Nature Clinical Practice website
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