The Nature Portfolio: 9 facts librarians need to know

By: Saskia Hoving, Wed Jul 27 2022
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

What makes a Nature journal, and what impact do these journals have on research and the research community? Following a recent webinar on this topic, we pulled out some key facts about the Nature journals and how they drive positive change through groundbreaking research.

With over 60 publications covering the life, physical, applied, health and social sciences, the Nature Portfolio of journals is a lot to take in. On 16th June, Alison Wright, Editorial Director at Nature Research, and Jill Adie, Senior Publishing Manager at Nature Research spoke on a webinar to introduce librarians and information managers to the Nature journals, their publishing process, and the impact that they have.

The webinar explored what makes a Nature journal and how they are valued in the research community. It also shed light on the publishing strategy and how the journals drive new research forward. Below we’ve pulled out the top 9 facts from the webinar you need to know.

1. Rigorous and reproducible research is key

"It really isn't science if it can't be reproduced," said Alison Wright during the webinar, as she introduced the different types of Nature journals and explained the ethical standards that they adhere to.

Research integrity is an important driver of reliable and trustworthy research, and includes issues such as reproducibility and replicability. There is a need to promote robust research, starting at the lab bench and extending to the dissemination of findings to the scientific community, as well as to the public. And all this is taken into consideration by editors, who are trained scientists, when selecting submitted manuscripts and putting them through the peer review process.

2. Nature journals are transformative journals

A transformative journal is a subscription or hybrid journal that has committed to transitioning to fully open access. Since January 2021, this is now true of Nature and all Nature Research journals. Alison explained that there is currently both gold open access and subscription routes to publication with the 24 transformative journals at Nature Portfolio (Nature Communications is fully open access already).

In 2021, Nature Portfolio published 8% more OA articles proportionally than in 2020. An overview of Nature Portfolio’s publishing models and more details can be found here.

3. Original research isn’t the only thing the portfolio publishes

Nature was first published in 1869. Today, over 150 years since its first publication, it’s become a beacon for exceptional research, a forum for discovery and debate, and a source for top scientific news. Alongside Nature, the Nature Research portfolio of journals and Nature Communications also publish original research that delivers significant advances in a variety of fields.

Nature Reviews journals, on the other hand don't publish primary research. Instead, the portfolio of 22 reviews journals publishes review articles, offering an in-dept synopsis and opinion on a specific topic within each journal’s field. And these reviews are commissioned – editors identify topics and select authors to write on them – as opposed to submitted articles. Reviews are ideal for readers who need a quick but comprehensive overview of recent developments or a new research area, and are also widely used by students as teaching tools. More information about Nature Reviews can be found here.

In addition, Nature’s News & Comment provides in-depth journalism across a variety of academic disciplines.

4. Filtering, enhancing and amplifying research

Alison Wright went on to explain that the Nature journals are showcase journals – they are highly selective, but also highly supportive of the authors who publish with them. Let’s take a closer look at the way this works…

"I think what we do boils down to these three things,” said Alison Wright. “We filter, we enhance and we amplify."

  • Filter – over 50,000 manuscripts are read and assessed for quality and integrity at Nature and the Nature Portfolio journals each year. 4,500 make it to publication in Nature or a Nature Portfolio journal, while almost 4,000 are published after transfer to another journal in the wider portfolio. 
  • Enhance – nearly 300 highly qualified specialists work on the creation of Nature and the Nature Portfolio journals. This includes professional editors and editorial assistants, as well as art, production and copy editing staff. Their work is all about ensuring the research published in the journals is of the highest quality possible and produced to the best standards. 
  • Amplify – research published in the Nature Portfolio is research that gets talked about. And a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure this is the case. In 2021 alone, the Nature press office press-released 468 papers and held 15 press briefings, generating mentions in 105,930 news articles.

5. The research impacts policy

News coverage isn’t the only area where we work to ensure widespread knowledge of the research published in Nature and the Nature Portfolio. We’re well aware of the power of research to influence policymaking for the better. And that’s why, in appropriate cases, we don’t just amplify the research through news coverage, but also produce Policy Briefs aimed specifically at translating research for policymakers.

Jill Adie pulled out a specific example of the influence research can have on policy in the webinar, focused on the paper ‘Promises and perils of sand exploitation in Greenland’.

“[A] very direct outcome of the paper,” explained lead author Mette Bendixen, “was the fact that just four days after it was published, five of the total 7 parties in the Greenland Government decided they wanted an economic assessment of the potential of sand exploitation in Greenland.”

6. Publishing in the Nature Portfolio changes researchers’ careers

The Nature portfolio’s outstanding reputation in academia, coupled with the efforts from authors and our dedicated press team to promote the research we publish, means that publishing in one of the Nature journals can sometimes have a significant impact on researchers’ careers, whether through media attention, awards or collaboration from enhanced visibility of the research

Again, Jill Adie was able to illustrate this with words from the lead author of the paper ‘A complex human gut microbiome cultured in an anaerobic intestine-on-a-chip’, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

“Our paper ranked top three on Nature BME’s most visited articles of 2019 [...] and gained a great deal of attention from academic institutes, industry sectors and funding agencies. In light of these results, I was awarded Lush Prize (UK) [...] and Ingber Lab managed to secure multiple grants/awards through Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FDA, etc. This work opened multiple avenues of research that Ingber Lab is currently exploring, as well as offering new opportunities for collaborations.”

7. The UN SDGs are a key focus of new journal launches

Editors of the Nature Portfolio believe in the transformational power of science and its potential to drive positive change in the world. As members of the scientific community, they are committed to supporting the research enterprise by curating, enhancing and disseminating research that is rigorous, reproducible and impactful. They work to promote openness and transparency as well as the highest standards in research culture, and engage with researchers at all stages of their career to understand their needs and advocate for positive change.

The editors always look for the appropriate home for new and emerging research. Creating new journals does not go without extensive research and there are a number of reasons why the Nature Portfolio has continued to launch new journals. The main drivers are:

  • Responding to growing demand within the existing community
  • Extending the Nature portfolio to new communities
  • Creating journals that will further research in areas of need – such as Nature Sustainability, Nature Food, or Nature Aging.

While there are many considerations to take into account when launching any new journal, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a key priority for Nature portfolio and Springer Nature as a whole. Responding to societal challenges has been a driving factor behind many of the new launches in recent years.

8. We measure journal success in a number of ways

Measuring the success of any new journal launch is vitally important. We need to know that it is serving the research community we set out to serve and that it’s also serving the researchers who choose to publish with us.

Jill talked through a number of ways in which we can understand whether a journal is performing well:

  • The number of submissions received
  • Numbers of readers – page visits, downloads, etc.
  • Whether the research community is talking about the journal and the research it publishes – for example, through Altmetric scores
  • Whether the research is receiving media coverage
  • Academic citations
  • Journal Impact Factors
  • Policy mentions – i.e. how often a journal or the research it publishes is cited within policy

Jill also explained that articles are not the only way in which the Nature Portfolio journals make an impact. Original journalism in the News & Comment sections also regularly has an impact at a societal level.

One example discussed in the webinar was the news published in 2020 that ‘Thousands of coronavirus tests are going unused in US labs’. This story uncovered bureaucratic bottlenecks holding up COVID test processing early in the pandemic. After the story broke, a White House task force turned their attention to eliminating these barriers.

9. There’s lots more on our librarian hub

The Springer Nature librarian portal has a great overview of the Nature Portfolio and further details of the new launches. In particular, make sure you visit:

And don’t forget, you can watch the webinar recording here.

Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. 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.