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Nature Precedings

A few days ago, Nature launched its newest Web 2.0 baby, the Nature Precedings.

It is very interesting to see the initial responses, questions and possible misunderstandings of the new site, so browse through these posts and attached comments by Pedro Beltrao, Timo Hannay, Peter Suber (and again), Kaitlin Thaney, JeanClaude Bradley, Guru, Egon Willighagen, Deepak Singh, ChemSpy, Putting Down A Marker, Maxine Clarke, Bryan Vickery, Clarence Fisher, David Weinberger, AJC, Euan Edie, Tim O’Reilly, Dean Giustini, Peta Hopkins, Eric, mrees, Sally Wyman, Michael Jubb, Alex Palazzo, Marie, Corie Lok, Attila Csordas, Ben Vershbow, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Andrea Gawrylewski, Lukasz Cwiklik, Yeastbeast, Kevin Gamble, Andy Powell, lvowell, John Timmer, Brandon Keim, Omics, Revere and many others. It’s worth your time to read all that (and most of the posts are not very long anyway)!

Just a quick thought (more, much more, is likely to come soon!) for now about a couple of questions:

What is the appropriate content?

First, what kind of stuff should one put on Nature Precedings?

For instance, if I have a poster that I took to a couple of meetings in 1999/2000 and the paper has come out since – is it still interesting?

If I have a poster that I took to a couple of meetings in 2001/2002 which contains unpublished data, but does not contain data collected later which somewhat modify the conclusions, is it dishonest to put it on NP? The same for a PPT file of a talk?

If I have published a study on my blog and it is already time-stamped there (first here, then republished here) does it make sense to put the same stuff on NP?

I have posted unpublished data at the very end of this review post. Is that OK for NP?

Are my ClockTutorials fit for this platform? After all, one of them was cited in the “real” scientific paper.

I have posted hypotheses (often embedded into reviews) on my blog before, e.g., here, here and here. Are they appropriate for NP?


What I mean here is the possibility to have stuff posted at several websites simultaneously, thus ensuring that at least one copy survives the next 1000 years or so. NP is going to automatically store everything at a few separate places, I understand, and some of the stuff will get published in peer-reviewed journals later, and some of the stuff will also get re-posted on blogs.

The University library repositories are pretty empty and include only copies of already published peer-reviewed papers. They are also scattered among many institutions. It is so much better to have everything at one place, under the banner of a respectable brand name. And, since it is under Creative Commons licence, Nature has no copyright over the material.

Open Science organizations tend to see each other as potential collaborators, not competitors (soooo 20th century!).

Publishability (did I just invent a new word?)

A recurring question in the posts/comments linked above: will posting stuff on NP make it more difficult to later publish the same data in a Journal? Yes, if it is a Closed Access journal. No, if it is an Open Access journal (or Nature, which I hope will go full Open Access one day soon). Thus, NP is good for Open Science. Put the preliminary results on NP, get feedback, do some more work, write a manuscript, send it to PLoS-ONE, have it peer-reviewed both before and after publication, and enjoy the visibility (and the increased rate of citations) afterwards.

Science 2.0

I think that people misunderstood where I was going with this post a few days ago. I was not suggesting to use Facebook as a platform for science networking (though outreach can certainly be done there). I was suggesting that we study why Facebook is so attractive (and addictive) and try to replicate it for scientists. Read what danah boyd wrote about it the other day for the first inklings of why Facebook is becoming so interesting to ‘grown-ups’ ever since the outside applications were allowed a few weeks ago (she’s in Berkeley, isn’t she – I have to get to meet her and pick her brains while I am there in July).

In other words, Science 2.0 is scattered all over. I have far too many bookmarks to various sites and I cannot and will not check every one of them every 10 minutes. But if there was ONE SINGLE place to go and get all of the stuff, it would be a site of choice to every scientist on the planet.

Just imagine going online in the morning and having your browser ‘home’ set at a website that combines into one spot PLoS-ONE, Knowble, Nature Precedings, Nature Network, Nature Blogs, Nature Blog Network, Scienceblogs.com, Connotea, Postgenomic, Scintilla, JeffsBench, Erudix, ArXiv.com, JoVE, Lab Action, SciTalks and other stuff like thought experiments, medical hypotheses, biological procedures, Open Notebook Science, etc.? Having one Sci-ID (trademark by me) that works on all those sub-sites and places all of your uses of it in your profile that can be used for your promotion, tenure, employment, etc.? Totally Awesome!!!

Obviously, I have been thinking about these questions for a while now and I may be one of the more optimistic folks out there. Hopefully, with my new job starting in less than two weeks, I’ll be able to turn some of the thinking (fueled by optimism) into action and test it in the real world!


  1. #1 Deepak
    June 26, 2007

    Well just create a mashup aggregator and use OpenID and you’re all set :)

    But seriously, you give me food for thought.

  2. #2 coturnix
    June 26, 2007

    Absolutely! So we need a “Sciencebook” and the ability to add our Postgenomic (personalized of course) app, our Connotea app, our SciLib.com app…..or whatever we want, using whatever various RSS’s, keywords, etc. we want. So, I can, for instance have a block on my page that contains the latest EurekAlert articles that contain the term “circadian”, another block that contains ScienceDaily articles from their “Plants and Animals” category, aggregator of the Seed’s scienceblogs.com Select Feed, etc.

  3. #3 Pedro Beltrao
    June 26, 2007

    I go with the idea of a mashup like Deepak said. All of these sites have (or should have) a way to expose their content such that you can combine it in a webpage or mashup (iGoogle, Netvibes, Yahoo tubes, Microsoft Popfly, etc).

    I think this talk called “Everything is Miscellaneous” goes to the heart of this discussion (I don’t remember where I saw the link to give credit, sorry). The main message I got from it was the big change it is when we move from the material world to ideas. We are very used to organizing the physical world where everything 1) has to go somewhere , 2)can only go in one place, 3) cannot occupy the same space as another object. Online we have no such limitations and we have to retool ourselves to think more in a world that is not material.
    I think this is what you are alluding to. We have a this miscellaneous bag of interesting content and we want to be able to display it in the way that we like best. This is a personal view and it can change very rapidly. We just don’t have the tools quite yet ready to do this intuitively.

  4. #4 Jean-Claude Bradley
    June 26, 2007

    We do have a web site that combines all of these sources – Google. I view Precedings or any other similar archive as just another hit that will be found by a researcher looking for specific information. That’s how most people find the chemistry lab work on our wiki.

    Having said that, there are certainly some interesting mash-up services to be constructed for people who are already aware of these resources and have preferences. I’m sure we’ll be reading about these in the blogosphere soon enough.

    Your question about posting older information on Precedings is one that I faced for my last submission. In order to reflect the most up to date information, I had to combine two blog posts and it took a bit of time. In the future, I’ll be simulposting, which will make it easier.

    I think that redundancy is a natural property of Science 2.0 and should be embraced. What counts is communicating your science (from raw data to interpretation to speculation) and having it discovered by those who can use it. Redundancy is a great way to do that.

  5. #5 JJackson
    June 26, 2007

    Isn’t what you are describing already in existence and called the internet?

    A single point (your browser) for viewing all information you might want to gain access to. Where something is published should be irrelevant moving it from several separate .com domains to one mega-site should not be relevant to anyone accessing the data.

    It may not work quite how we would like but the reason it fails seems to be two fold.

    1] Commercial interests hide things you want to see (over priced journals, subscription online news etc.)

    2] Technology is not quite there yet in two areas: search engines are not yet able to find quite what you are looking for (compounded by their commercial nature which always weights search results in favour of sites that are trying to sell you something) and translation software that to a large extent limits you to the language in which you searched.

    The ephemeral nature of a lot of the information does not help either. Broken links are a feature of the internet but the solution is again – at least in part – technical. If I drag data around in my spreadsheet it automatically maintains all the links and we obviously need that functionality. As long as storage capacity continues to expand at its current rate there should not be a problem keeping all the old stuff. I am not sure how we cope with the editable nature of online data where an article morphs over time.

  6. #6 Curtis
    June 26, 2007

    I have 2 comments.

    First, I addressed the issue of future publishability for data submitted to NP on my blog a few days ago. In short, for a journal like Nature, it’s OK to post data on NP and then submit it to Nature as long as you don’t talk to the press about it and break their embargo. This is how they have been dealing with papers from ArXiv.

    Second, the major flaw with all of Nature’s new Science 2.0 tools is that they are in different locations. As you proposed above, we need them all in one location. I believe the killer app would be one site that integrates all of these functions together. Because Nature already controls a number of these tools they are the one who can most easily integrate them all. Ultimately, integration would help all of the tools succeed. However, I’m worried that Nature has put each of the tools in a different location so they can see which will fail and then quietly get rid of them.

  7. #7 Gaurav Dhir
    August 28, 2009

    We do have a web site that combines all of these sources – Google. I view Precedings or any other similar archive as just another hit that will be found by a researcher looking for specific information. That’s how most people find the chemistry lab work on our wiki.

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