A query from NATURE about a possible structural biology journal

Tue Jun 22 10:11:00 EST 1993

To members of the macromolecular crystallographic community:

Barbara Culliton, the Deputy Editor of NATURE, has asked me to query the 
structural biology community about the desirability of having a NATURE 
STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY, which would function in much the way NATURE GENETICS 
does.  As you may know, genetics papers of high quality, but which may not be 
of sufficient general interest for readers of NATURE itself, can be 
published in NATURE GENETICS.  Although manuscripts may be submitted directly
to that satellite journal, another route is that papers submitted to NATURE 
that are favorably reviewed on the whole but that are deemed, either by 
referees or by the editorial staff, to be of less general interest than 
required for NATURE, may, at the approval of the authors, be considered 
immediately for NATURE GENETICS.  NATURE GENETICS takes into account the 
reviews from NATURE, so in many cases publication is almost immediate.  
NATURE itself contains a News and Views feature highlighting papers in 
NATURE GENETICS on a regular basis.  The staff at NATURE are considering 
starting a similar satellite journal in Structural Biology because they 
believe they are being forced by NATURE's page limitations (and demands to 
cover a broad range of topics) to reject too many structural biology papers 
that they like.

Dr. Culliton would very much appreciate receiving feedback from the community
about this idea.  My own view is that there are already too many journals to 
read and the Balkanization of the literature is becoming extreme (witness 
the imminent launching of STRUCTURE by the Current Biology people).  Yet, I 
confess the matter is not clear-cut, for most new journals are specialized and
reach a specialized audience; there is need for an additional forum that would
reach a general readership.  The question is whether a NATURE STRUCTURAL 
BIOLOGY would do that.  I have suggested to the staff that any satellite 
journals be distributed to subscribers of NATURE as a matter of course; they 
are considering this possibility, but economic factors may prohibit it.
[Many of you may not know that NATURE is a for-profit publication and is 
required by MacMillan's Journals, Ltd. to remain so.  Therefore, any new 
journal must have sufficient readership to earn its keep.  This fact explains
the tendency of NATURE sometimes to publish outrageous things just to provoke
interest.]  Anyway, these are my thoughts, but Dr. Culliton would like to 
hear yours.  If you have an opinion about a possible NATURE STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY, 
please transmit it to her by regular mail:

Barbara J. Culliton, Deputy Editor
1234 National Press Building
Washington, DC 20045

or by FAX (the number is 202-628-1609).

Incidentally, I understand that a significant factor in NATURE's final 
decision about starting such a journal would be whether or not they can find 
a suitable person to edit it.  Anyone interested in such a job should say so 
when sending comments.

Greg Petsko
Brandeis University
June 21, 1993

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