Nature Medicine 2.0 alarms by its editor in chief

Oops, the folks at Nature Publishing Group are more and more watching us, the people of the second-generation Internet, you know the two point oh. Recently, the editor chief of Nature Medicine (impact factor 28.878 in 2005), wrote and editorial and even a blog post concerning “what is the Web 2.0–driven scientific publishing world going to look like?” The editorial is a static monologue by form, but at the end of it, there is an outgoing link to the dynamic blog post. And a post is successful, when it becomes a dialogue and that success is fulfilled only through comments.

In the traditional academic environment an editor in chief of a peer-review journal like Nat. Med. is in a position of enormous power from a point of view of an experimental scientist interested in submitting a paper. But this time it is not the case, the emphasis is on the survival of the traditional brand based and peer review model: “One idea is that the community will increasingly do without high-profile journals to decide what an important paper is and what it is not. If many scientists get together to discuss papers in social-networking sites, they may provide visibility to papers published in obscure journals and deprecate articles from more visible titles. If this becomes the case, and if high-profile journals make enough editorial mistakes while selecting the papers we publish, then the value of those publications will indeed go down.” In a fractionated tribal niche world, like the current web “is there room for journals like Nature Medicine?”

Lopez’s not too strong conclusion is of course affirmative in a way that brands, like Nature and Science continue to matter. But I think it is a little bit to rhetorical and useless to interpret the competition in terms of a “winner takes it all”, 1 or 0 situation:
“If anything, this version of the web has led to the appearance of new brands that seem to have been part of a process that looks a lot like a winner-takes-all competition. Whenever you hear about the Web 2.0 success stories, it’s always the same names (which we listed above), ready to join the pantheon of similarly triumphant websites such as Google, Amazon and eBay. The challenge for the existing journals is to find the way to become the winner that takes it all.”

So scientific fellows in the blogosphere and wikisphere, let us discuss this further here and/or in the original Spoonful of Medicine post and answer the following questions of Lopez and the peer review establishment:

“What’s your take on this matter? Do you really imagine a time when publishing in Nature or Science will stop being as meaningful as it is now? Or perhaps this question is misplaced and the impact of Web 2.0 on journals will take a totally different form. What kind of Web 2.0–driven changes do you think we need to worry about?

6 thoughts on “Nature Medicine 2.0 alarms by its editor in chief

  1. Popular science magazine, BBC Focus, recently had a four page feature on Web 2.0, with a particular slant on the phenomenon of online celebrities. Not sure what it has got to do with popular science…

    Their website is so awful I can’t find anything about it – it’s probably just in print. They have launched a blog which just says “hi, we have a blog!”. Well, it’s a start.

    I think the whole “two point oh” thing (a term I use with my tongue firmly in my cheek!) is something journalists and publishers alike need to engage with.

    Does it mean the death of journalism as we know it, or for publishing for that matter? No, I don’t think it will be that drastic.

    We’ve been doing ‘user generated content’ in magazines for donkey’s years – look at Chat and Pick Me Up, or any letters page. Do we edit the letters because of space? Sometimes. But mostly because 4980 of the letters each week are utter bollocks.

    Where a journalist is more knowledgable than the audience, they can provide the depth the audience cannot (or get places they cannot). Where the audience is more knowledgable than the journalist they can summerise and write a LOT more succinctly than those knowledgable readers.

    But then again, there is the rise of the wikipedian

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