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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nature Precedings Rocks

Following up on my initial comments, my first two posts in Nature Precedings have appeared.

Most people have been posting Powerpoint presentations so I started there with a recent presentation at the American Chemical Society about Open Notebook Science.

Open Notebook Science Using Blogs and Wikis (doi:10.1038/npre.2007.39.1)

Next, I posted an update on the CombiUgi project by basically combining two blog posts (one and two).

It took a lot longer to do this than I expected, experimenting with the format and trying to make it fairly self-contained. I ended up using Powerpoint, which I like for its modular nature and flexibility with image-rich materials. For example, it is easy to spin off as a SlideShare document (which I just noticed supports hyperlinks while embedded - nice!).

There are a few reasons I think Precedings will be one of the key breakthrough apps for Open Science.

1) Nature Publishing Group brings a serious amount of credibility to the table. That is going to make it much easier to convince people in mainstream scientific circles to contribute and read.

2) Flexibility of format: although files must currently be submitted as Powerpoint, Word or PDF file types, the organization of the information within these files is fairly open. The "article" format is not currently required. Although there is no peer review requirement, there is definitely editorial control (which I experienced as I was asked to rewrite my first abstract). They want to make sure that submissions are genuine scientific communications.

3) Referenceability: each accepted submission gets a DOI and clear citation instructions.

4) A convenient system for acknowledging collaborators as co-authors, including affiliation info.

5) Web 2.0 bells and whistles: tags, comments, RSS feeds, etc.

6) The price is right - free read/write.

7) Creative Commons License - Non-Commercial Use with Attribution.

What they do not yet accept are large data files but it looks like that is coming down the road.


  • Nature Precedings needs to have a good rating system for open, community-based review to work well. Currently, submitted articles can be voted for, but that does not tell one how many would have voted against it. Nor does one get to know the negative points unless they go through the whole article themselves. Such negative points may have been mentioned in some comments but they are not easy to spot. Further, one is usually disinclined to write textual comments unless one has a strong interest to do so.

    With open preprint systems, being able to find useful and reliable ideas and data in articles is perhaps more important than being able to submit one. This becomes apparent as the number of articles increase, when searching can return hundreds and thousands of articles. One can’t go through all of them, and a few ‘bad’ articles can easily cause frustration and distrust in the quality of the submissions.

    But if search criteria can include objective measures of article quality, then one can indeed easily find valuable material. Nature Precedings should therefore opt for a point-based rating system where different aspects of articles can be appraised.

    Thus, instead of just letting one vote for an article, one should be allowed to rate its different aspects on, say, a 1-5 scale. Such aspects can include:

    1. clarity
    2. originality
    3. novelty
    4. presence and quality of experimental data
    5. logical procession
    6. depth
    7. proper referencing

    In effect, this would be a proper peer-review system.

    The ratings, both their average and their spread, should be displayed alongside articles.

    A good review/rating system will discourage submission of bad articles, build trust in the usability and reliability of content in Nature Precedings, and encourage quality submissions.

    (similar comments posted elsewhere on the web by me)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:15 PM  

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