Enhancing science education, communication and collaboration: the real-world benefits of Reviews, News & Opinion content

By: Saskia Hoving, Mon Mar 11 2024
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

How does Reviews, News & Opinion content, sometimes referred to as non-primary content, benefit researchers? As the name suggests, this content includes news, views, analysis, opinions and reviews that fuel debate and drive change within research communities and beyond. From reviews, Q&As and primers that educate and inspire future generations of scientists, they provide analysis and insights that support global collaboration and progress against the world’s greatest challenges. Reviews, News & Opinion content is not only widely read and talked about, but has real-world benefits. This blog highlights the different types of Reviews, News & Opinion content and how it maximises research impact, with examples from the Nature Portfolio.

Reviews, News & Opinion content: a catalyst for debate and change

How do Reviews, News & Opinion and primary content differ? Primary content reports original research authored by one or more of the investigators and is always peer-reviewed. By contrast, Reviews, News & Opinion content highlights, summarises and synthesises research from one or more primary content sources or gives opinions on specific topics or issues. Taking the Nature Portfolio journals as an example, more than half of the content published is Reviews, News & Opinion research content. This includes:

  • Article summaries – short, focused papers about one scholarly article informed by critical appraisal.
  • Peer-reviewed review articles summarising current knowledge within a field or discipline, commissioned by Nature Portfolio’s in-house editors.
  • Perspectives, opinions and commentaries bringing original perspectives on issues or proposing solutions.
  • Longer-length feature articles providing depth and detail to a topical issue or telling a story.
  • Community focused articles, covering issues impacting the broader research community such as career development, representation and sustainability.  
  • News stories highlighting new developments within the research ecosystem, such as policy or a new research centre.

These types of content are usually editorially independent and commissioned for the Nature Portfolio journals by their editorial teams. Article summaries are typically written by the in-house editors who are experts in their fields. All other content is written by science journalists or external authors – typically scientists who are experts in their respective research fields and regularly attend conferences to stay up to date with issues and trends within the community. 

Reviews, News & Opinion content are used for a variety of different purposes:

  • For students and educators: makes original research more accessible by summarising original research through the Reviews & Perspectives of world-leading researchers

“Review articles provide an overall picture of the topics that I bring up in lectures, as well as become material for discussion in our student groups.”- Asst. Professor, Asia

  • For faculty: provides clear and attractive graphics and explanatory content that makes an excellent resource for understanding and for using in teaching and conferences. For example, this graphical guide to the race for coronavirus vaccines won a Society for News Design award.
  • For researchers: supports collaborative approaches across different disciplines, provides awareness and analysis of cross-sector scientific news and policy, and illustrates real-life impact of research to policymakers and the public

“Well-written non-primary content guides me to important primary research when exploring topics beyond my immediate expertise.” - Asst. Professor, North America

“Non-primary content gives me ideas about how I can discuss scientific topics in a way that people from outside the field might also understand, for example, policymakers and citizen scientists.” - Staff Scientist, UK/Europe

Impact reports: providing a window into real-life change

In 2022, Nature Portfolio’s Reviews, News & Opinion content:

  • was accessed over 36 million times.
  • collected over 11,000 citations.

But how do Nature Portfolio editors know if the content commissioned is valuable to the community? Did it spark public debate? Or drive a change in policy? To measure the impact of our Reviews, News & Opinion content, Springer Nature partnered with Altmetric, a data science company that tracks online activity around scholarly research outputs, to build and test an Impact Tracker for Reviews, News & Opinion content published. The data showed that Nature Portfolio’s Reviews, News & Opinion content was being talked about and acted on. 

In 2022, Nature Portfolio’s content was mentioned in more than 100 policy documents, generated more than 18,000 news hits, collected a total of 633,848 in Altmetric score, and reached an average Altmetric score of 81 (a “good” Altmetric score is 20 or more).

For example:

  • A Nature survey asking more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus whether it could be eradicated, was covered by 250+ news outlets and cited by at least five policy documents, with an Altmetric score over 9,000.
  • A Comment in Nature Sustainability highlighting negative impacts of a wildlife trade ban (proposed to prevent future pandemics) was later cited in three separate policy documents.
  • When Nature Energy published a Comment challenging the accepted norm of economic growth in global climate change mitigation scenarios, it received 100 news hits and an Altmetric score over 1,500.

Empowering the future: Reviews, News & Opinion content’s crucial role

In an age of misinformation and distrust, it is essential that researchers can explain their research in a clear and compelling way to non-specialists and students, and Reviews, News & Opinion content can go a long way in enabling this. For example, Nature Portfolio videos Coronavirus variants: what you need to know and How New Vaccines are Developed, were used by the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, world-leaders in COVID-19 sequencing.

Reviews, News & Opinion content not only saves time in helping researchers quickly understand broad and related research, but it also acts as a gateway into other research areas.

“It guides the scope of my subsequent research output and assisted me in building a multidisciplinary team for collaborative research.” - Senior Researcher, Australia/NZ

Breaking down discipline silos has never been more important than it is today – data shows that global, interdisciplinary collaboration is increasing, and the researcher of the future will need to navigate different research disciplines and cultures.

Nature Portfolio looks increasingly to where new journals can make a positive societal impact, and has launched several new journals focused on complex global challenges that require collaborative multidisciplinary solutions. The Reviews, News & Opinion content in these journals is commissioned with this diverse audience in mind, just like the newest journals. Nature Cities combines cutting-edge research with reviews and timely news and opinions, such as arguing for using mobile phone data to delineate urban areas, or reviewing the literature on the politics and governments of cities. Nature Chemical Engineering publishes commentary and analysis on topics such as engineering carbon dioxide capture systems to rethinking chemical engineering education.

Reviews, News & Opinion: Advancing education, collaboration, and innovation

The world of Reviews, News & Opinion content serves as a dynamic force for advancing scientific education, communication, and collaboration. By offering a diverse range of formats, from insightful reviews to thought-provoking perspectives, Reviews, News & Opinion content bridges the gap between researchers, students, policymakers, and the broader public. In facing increasingly complex challenges, the significance of Reviews, News & Opinion content in empowering future researchers and fostering interdisciplinary cooperation cannot be overlooked. 

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Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving is chief editor of The Link Newsletter and The Link Blog, covering trends & insights for all facilitators of research. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women's inclusion in today's science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.