Written by Marios Karouzos, Publishing Manager at Nature Portfolio
A virtual “Meet the Editors” session brought together eight editors from six different Nature Portfolio journals. The aim of the session was to explain the editorial, peer-review and publishing process within the Nature Portfolio journals.
The editors in attendance were Leslie Sage (LS, Nature), May Chiao and Paul Woods (MC and PW, Nature Astronomy), Iulia Georgescu (IG, Nature Reviews Physics), Stefanie Reichert (SR, Nature Physics), Nilda Oklay-Vincent (NOV, Nature Communications) and Elena Belsole (EB, Communications Physics). The panel discussion was moderated by yours truly. Here, I summarize the event and provide useful links for some of these frequently asked questions.
LS: When looking back at a year, one can identify one or two papers in their field that stand out as landmark papers. These are the papers suited for Nature.
IG: Unlike other journals, Nature Reviews focus on commissioned content and the editors work closely with the invited authors to develop the ideas behind a piece of content, edit the text, and redraw the figures. Nature Reviews Physics, specifically, is very keen on technique papers, instrumentations and methodology.
SR: Nature Physics is primarily a physics journal and as such looks for papers that focus on the underlying physics of a particular problem.
MC: It is often the case that a paper falls within the scope of more than one journal. The question is then, which community does the author want to reach or feels would be most interested in their results. Nature Research journals require significant novelty but perhaps not as wide implications and relevance as Nature.
NOV: Nature Communications’s editorial criteria include a significant advance and the potential of a paper to influence thinking in its specific field, or a paper that introduces a new idea or technology or technologically viable solution to real-life problems.
EB: Like Nature Physics, Communication Physics is primarily a physics journal. It looks for papers that present an advancement in the field but can be relevant to a niche part of the community.
PW: We read all the submissions we receive and assess them according to their content. Who is on the author list is not a deciding factor when evaluating a paper.
LS: I don’t care who you are, or where you’re from. Some of the best papers published in Nature have been led by grad students.
IG: While generally Reviews in Nature Reviews Physics are written by senior researchers, the journal publishes a number of other types of content that are well suited to earlier-career researchers. One example is the “Tools of the Trade”, which is content focusing on a specific method.
MC: If you are worried about potential bias, all Nature Portfolio journals offer the option for a mutually anonymous peer review, where the identities of both the referees and the authors are hidden from each other throughout the peer-review process.
Authors often worry that papers posted on a preprint server would be disqualified from consideration at Nature Portfolio journals. How does it actually work?
LS: Putting the original submitted version of a primary research paper on a preprint server has no impact whatsoever on the consideration of the paper in a Nature Portfolio journal. This has always been the case, even though there is sometimes confusion about it.
IG: While preprints of invited commissioned content cannot be uploaded to preprint servers ahead of publication, they can be posted on third-party repositories after a 6-month embargo period.
NOV: Nature Communications and Communications Physics (along with Scientific Reports and the other Communications journals) are fully open-access journals. All their content is published open-access and reaches a wide audience. They also have a waiver program that supports authors unable to cover publication fees in these journals. Authors will need to send a request (email@example.com) for a waiver or a discount at the time of submission (or transfer) to the journal.
MC: Since January 2021, Nature and the Nature Research journals are transformative journals, offering a gold open access route for publication. This means that authors of an accepted paper can choose to pay an author publication charge to make their paper free in perpetuity under an open license (CC-BY) to maximise reuse.
EB: In addition, there is an ongoing trial called “Guided Open Access” through which a paper can be submitted and simultaneously considered for a number of Nature Portfolio journals. The peer-review process is guided by a group of editors across these journals.
EB: Manuscript editors are completely unaware whether your paper has been given a waiver, or if you plan to publish gold open access, ensuring that the editorial assessment process remains completely independent.
IG: While Nature Reviews Physics does not offer an open access route for publication, some of its content is made free for a specific time period, or in some exceptional cases in perpetuity. In addition, content in this journal can be accessed through the dissemination of SharedIt links.
In some cases, papers that are rejected in one Nature Portfolio journal might be the right fit for another Nature Portfolio journal.
PW: A transfer system is in place to ensure that an author can find the best place for their paper in the Nature Portfolio. If rejected at one of our journals, the authors can easily transfer their manuscript, all its files and any referee reports to a different journal in the Nature Portfolio.
SR: The different Nature Portfolio journals are editorially independent. This means that the editors of the new journal will make their own assessment of the situation.
EB: Editors in different journals typically communicate with each other if they think a paper might be suited for a different journal (unless authors have explicitly asked for such communications not to happen). Such inter-journal communications help expedite the publication process.
LS: Never be intimidated to submit to Nature. Feel free to approach me at a conference or shoot me an email with your idea/paper and I will be happy to provide feedback.
IG: Language skills should never stop you from submitting to our journals. As long as the main scientific points of your paper come across, the editors are going to assess these rather than the quality of the writing and then help you improve the presentation.
MC: If you have more questions or would like a more detailed view of the editorial process, we are happy to come to your institute (virtually or in person, when possible) to give a talk about it.
EB: Typical assessment times from editors are shorter than 7 days and as such you are encouraged to submit your full paper directly to the journal and you will receive a timely response.
After acquiring a physics degree in Athens, Greece, I moved on to do my Ph.D. in astrophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, followed by a postdoctoral position in Seoul, South Korea, where I worked at Seoul National University. Because three countries are just not enough, in 2016 I moved to London, UK, where I have been working since, first as one of the launching editors of Nature Astronomy and currently on secondment with the Nature publishing team, working on the transition of the Nature Portfolio to open access.