Journal surprises

I’ve written before on the phenomenon of new journals. I’m particularly fascinated by the way that families of titles develop. In recent months we have seen Science Signaling out of the AAAS stable, EMBO Molecular Medicine from EMBO, and Nature Chemistry from Nature Publishing Group (NPG). The latter title is just the latest in a long stream from NPG. In the last 15 years the growth of the Nature brand has been remarkable. I remember the first issue of the curiously titled Bio/technology in 1983, and the relief when the title changed in 1996 to Nature Biotechnology with no punctuation marks. (I wonder if there have been any other journals with unusual punctuation in their titles?). By then Nature Genetics and Nature Medicine had appeared, so the family was well-established. But new Nature babies kept appearing, making us Librarians pray for the publishing equivalent of birth control. Just as we thought all subject areas had been covered then in 2000 NPG started the Nature Reviews series with another seven titles, followed a few years later by the Nature Clinical Protocols series, now in the process of being rebranded as Nature Reviews. One of my colleagues recalls how happy she was when in 2002 NPG launched a new non-biomedical title (_Nature Materials_)- at last an NPG title that she didn’t have to subscribe to!
The most remarkable thing about this family of Nature-branded journals – now 32 strong by my count – is that the publisher has maintained excellence across all these titles. The original brand is not diluted but rather enhanced by the extensions. Someone in Crinnan Towers clearly knows their business (and that’s Business with a capital $).
The latest news from NPG to reach my ears is that they planning another launch, this time not in a specialised field but bang in the centre of science. It’s to be called Nature Science, with a mission “to place before the general public the grand results of advancing science, serving society”. They will also make their first foray into social sciences with the launch of Nature Economics, “to take part in a severe contest between intelligence and ignorance, giving early information of all advances made in any branch of Natural knowledge”. These two will be closely followed by Nature Royal, probably a joint venture between NPG and the Royal Society but possibly a step downmarket in a NPG and Hello! link-up. A bit later down the road we may see a move into the market for mother and baby magazines with NeoNature Nurture.
From further afield I hear of counter launches from AAAS – bringing out Science Nature – and from Pearson – bringing out The Economical Naturist.
NPG are also continuing their strategy of innovations in emerging communications technology, with the launch of Nature Twitter, specially designed to be compatible with the new Nature Phone – the N-Phone. Meanwhile, a group of radical OA activists have announced their plans to send out each weekly issue of Nature as a series of tweets, one sentence at a time. They call this Twitter Nature, or Twitcher for short.
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And then I woke up, and took another paracetamol.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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10 Responses to Journal surprises

  1. Henry Gee says:

    I did advance the idea of Nature Science Fiction that would compete head- to head with established SF titles such as Interzone, F&SF and Asimov’s. The idea was politely declined.
    My father, though, was very pleased when I joined Nature but disappointed when he found that it didn’t contain pictures of naked ladies cavorting healthily in the sunshine.

  2. Frank Norman says:

    I’m sure it could be arranged.

  3. Henry Gee says:

    I did receive a crank inappropriate submission from some chap who wanted to tell us all about the evolutionary importance of human secondary sexual characters. To support his manuscript (this was in the days when people mailed mss to the office) he included a copy of a luridly pneumatic porn mag – with three extra copies, one for each of the referees. I mailed the whole package back. All of it.

  4. Maxine Clarke says:

    My Nature Crime Fiction proposal is under consideration by the board of directors as I write. Henry, maybe we should collaborate: Proc Nature Fiction S and Proc Nature Fiction C?
    Great post, Frank – much better than the Guardian’s feeble attempt (newspapers to be replaced by Twitter). That is either not funny, or going to happen anyway, or obvious, or a combination.

  5. Frank Norman says:

    Maxine – thanks! I was a bit worried that NPG might object to my bowdlerisation of their mission statement.

  6. Henry Gee says:

    My Nature Crime Fiction proposal is under consideration by the board of directors as I write
    🙂

  7. Matt Brown says:

    I propose Nature erutaN to report palindromic gene sequences.

  8. Matt Brown says:

    By the way, that was me, logged in in my events-entering guise.

  9. Grace Baynes says:

    Frank, my heart actually stopped when I saw the first line of this. Then I read, and laughed very hard. This is brilliant.
    Please, please, I want a Twitcher!

  10. Frank Norman says:

    Grace – I’m glad you laughed. I hope I didn’t reveal too many of NPG’s secret plans.