Nothing but Nature


Academic tagged me with a meme the other day, and although I don’t really know what a meme is, I thought this would be a good segue into topic o’ the day. The rules are to create a 6-word ‘memoir’ (which I have interpreted as ‘statement’) and to post it along with a picture.

Big paper. It’s what’s for dinner.



Given that I live in the academic world, I have always been aware of the Holy Grails of publishing: Nature, Science, and maybe some other one-word wonders. I occasionally came across such papers in grad school, and I would read them, usually think they were pretty nice, and file them into the unorganized void in the back of my head.

Here at Brilliant U., it has been brought to my attention that I have not been paying proper homage to the Jesus of Journals all of these years. But salvation is mine to be had! I should cast out my trade journals! Throw anything with an impact factor less than 7 to the back of my closet! I should repent for my diverse journal-reading ways!

To put it succinctly, some of my coworkers are obsessed with the big journals of this world. They believe two things which I do not:
Anything published in a big journal is a god-send to Science.
Anything published anywhere else is not worth reading.

It is the blind loyalty with which I take issue. For two reasons:

Sometimes the revered journals publish crappy Science. For example, most of the articles published in PNAS are not subjected to (thorough) peer review because either the authors have a friend who is a member of the academy (Track 1) or one of the authors is a member of the academy (Track 3). Although most members are probably loathe to embarrass themselves by communicating garbage science to a prestigious journal organization, the fact of the matter is that plenty of crap gets through… enough to make me realize that coworker belief #1 is just not true.
It goes without saying that there is plenty of quality science going on at non-Nature level. Fundamental studies that make significant headway in the understanding of basic scientific issues often wind up in trade journals. Sometimes, it is precisely this *understanding* that leads to Really Cool Application on the cover of Nature Biotech. We often overlook this key point.

I try not to get too worked up about the paper-reading preferences of my strange colleagues, but the longer I am here, the more I have to laugh. These people are really missing out.