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Nature launches a free pre-print service for the sciences

June 18th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

Today Nature Publishing Group launches Nature Precedings – a free document sharing service for the sciences. The service further enables scientists to share their preliminary findings and research in a free environment, while allowing authors to retain copyright in their work. All accepted contributions are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license, allowing for the material to be reused and redistributed as long as it is attributed to the author under terms specified.

This is the biological equivalent of the physics arXiv, but with a critical improvement. Placing pre-prints online solves the problem of an individual’s ability to access an article. But in the absence of an explicit copyright license, it’s unclear what that individual can actually do with the downloaded file. Nature’s choice to use CC-BY is a validation of the need to grant rights in advance to users, and of the CC-BY license in a truly Open Access service.

The launch of this Web service is a promising step towards further facilitating the dissemination and open exchange of information in the biological sciences. Precedings features submissions from biomedicine, chemistry and the earth sciences. The Web service fulfills the role of a preprint server but accepts a wider array of document types, including unpublished manuscripts, presentations, white papers and supplementary findings. Curators from Nature Publishing Group review all submissions. Acceptance is determined by the document’s relevancy to the field and legitimacy.

From Nature’s press release (which can be read in its entirety below),

“Helping scientists to communicate their ideas is central to Nature’s mission, and we are constantle seeking new ways to achieve this,” said Annette Thomas, Managing Director of Nature Publishing Group. “Precedings is an important new step for us and, we hope, the research community. We are particularly proud to have conceived and developed the service with the help of a group of such highly esteemed organizations; the British Library, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), Science Commons, and the Wellcome Trust.”

Science Commons joins the list of partner organizations in support of this initiative, and as a member of Precedings’ Advisory Committee.

“Science progresses through the open exchance and reuse of ideas and data, but within a system that provides proper credit for their originators,” said John Wilbanks, Executive Director of Science Commons. “Creative Commons licenses can help to achieve just that, and we are delighted they have found yet another scientific use in Nature Precedings.”

To access Precedings, visit http://precedings.nature.com.
——

* OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FROM NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP

Nature Publishing Group and partner organisations launch Nature Precedings, a free document-sharing service for scientists.

18 June 2007. For immediate release.

Today Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and partner organisations launch Nature Precedings http://precedings.nature.com, a free online service enabling researchers to rapidly share, discuss and cite early findings.

Written scientific communication takes place mainly through journals, but increasingly the web provides complementary opportunities for more rapid, participative and informal communication.

Nature Precedings is a free service from NPG that provides a way for researchers to share preliminary findings, solicit community feedback, and claim priority over discoveries. By promoting the rapid and open exchange of scientific information, the site ultimately aims to help accelerate the pace of discovery.

Nature Precedings accepts submissions from biomedicine, chemistry and the earth sciences. These are reviewed by professional NPG curators and accepted only if they are considered legitimate scientific contributions of likely interest to others in the field. Accepted contributions are assigned stable identifiers (‘Digital Object Identifiers’ and ‘Handles’) that enable formal citation, and are made available through an open-access archive. Submissions are not subjected to peer review before they are released. Because of this, contributions are usually published within one working day, often much sooner, and no charge is made to either authors or readers.

The new website fulfils the role of a preprint server ­ like the popular arXiv.org service in the physical sciences ­ but also accepts other document types, including unpublished manuscripts, white papers, technical papers, supplementary findings, posters and presentations. The site facilitates the discovery of interesting and relevant content through user-driven features such as tagging, voting and commenting. Authors retain copyright in their work, and all accepted contributions are released under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (http://creativecommons.org/about/). This enables redistribution and reuse while ensuring that authors receive proper credit for their work.

It is anticipated that the content will be mirrored at one or more partner organisations. This federated approach will ensure the long-term availability of the content, and effectively guarantee that the service will remain free and open.

“Helping scientists to communicate their ideas is central to Nature’s mission, and we are constantly seeking new ways to achieve this,” said Annette Thomas, Managing Director of Nature Publishing Group. “Precedings is an important new step for us and, we hope, the research community. We are particularly proud to have conceived and developed the service with the help of a group of such highly esteemed organisations: the British Library, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), Science Commons, and the Wellcome Trust.”

Richard Boulderstone, Director of e-Strategy at the British Library, said, “Informal online information sharing represents a tremendous opportunity for collaborative working between researchers and scholars worldwide. Precedings is an exciting example of how the British Library is partnering with other institutions to help facilitate and archive this scholarly information in a rapidly evolving digital environment”.

Graham Cameron, Associate Director of the EBI, said, “This is a great step forward in the open sharing of the findings of science. It will further the Œright to roam¹ scientific information, and thus facilitate connections to our databases and allow the application of our state-of-the-art text-mining tools.”

“Science progresses through the open exchange and reuse of ideas and data, but within a system that provides proper credit for their originators,” said John Wilbanks, Executive Director of Science Commons. “Creative Commons licenses can help to achieve just that, and we are delighted they have found yet another scientific use in Nature Precedings.”

Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, “I welcome this initiative and encourage researchers, including Wellcome Trust grant holders, to make use of Nature Precedings. By providing a means for scientists not only to freely share, but also to claim priority and achieve recognition through citation, this new service will help to provide greater openness in research.”

Representatives of the above organisations will form a Precedings Advisory Committee, where they will be joined by a group of senior practicing scientists.

“I strongly support the idea of a preprint server for biological sciences. My colleagues and I will certainly be using it to report findings from our lab as the papers get written,” said Ravi Iyengar, Professor of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and a member of the Precedings Advisory Committee.

Timo Hannay, NPG’s Director of Web Publishing said, “Nature Precedings is the latest in a series of collaborative tools that Nature is building to enable researchers to use the web to maximum effect in their work. We hope it will help to foster more collaboration and openness, especially in fields where this is not the norm. We’re still at the beginning of this process, and Nature Precedings itself will continue to evolve. But with the support of our amazing list of forward-looking partners, and in discussion with other scientists and science publishers around the world, we look forward to enabling this exciting and essential next step in the evolution of scientific discourse.”

Nature Precedings is available at http://precedings.nature.com/

Further information can be obtained from Timo Hannay, Director of Web Publishing, Nature Publishing Group, 4 Crinan Street, London N1 9XW. Tel: +44-20-7843-4750. Email: t.hannay@nature.com.

About Nature Publishing Group
Nature Publishing Group (NPG) is a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. It is dedicated to serving the academic, professional scientific and medical communities. NPG’s flagship title, Nature, was first published in 1869. Other publications include Nature research journals, Nature Reviews, Nature Clinical Practice and a range of prestigious academic journals including society-owned publications. NPG also provides news content through news@nature.com. Scientific career information and free job postings are offered on Naturejobs.

NPG is a global company with headquarters in London and offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Tokyo, Paris, Munich, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Delhi, Mexico City and Basingstoke. For more information, please go to www.nature.com.

About the EBI
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and is located on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton near Cambridge (UK). The EBI grew out of EMBL’s pioneering work in providing public biological databases to the research community. It hosts some of the world’s most important collections of biological data, including DNA sequences (EMBL-Bank), protein sequences (UniProt), animal genomes (Ensembl), three-dimensional structures (the Macromolecular Structure Database), data from microarray experiments (ArrayExpress), protein­protein interactions (IntAct) and pathway information (Reactome). The EBI hosts several research groups and its scientists continually develop new tools for the biocomputing community.

About EMBL
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory is a basic research institute funded by public research monies from 19 member states (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Research at EMBL is conducted by approximately 80 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. The Laboratory has five units: the main Laboratory in Heidelberg, and Outstations in Hinxton (the European Bioinformatics Institute), Grenoble, Hamburg, and Monterotondo near Rome. The cornerstones of EMBL’s mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in the member states; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences and to actively engage in technology transfer activities. EMBL’s International PhD Programme has a student body of about 170. The Laboratory also sponsors an active Science and Society programme. Visitors from the press and public are welcome.

Ruth Francis
Senior Press Officer, Nature
Tel: + 44 207 843 4562
Fax: + 44 207 843 4951
E-mail: r.francis@nature.com

5 Responses

  1. Nature Publishing Group launches free pre-print service for the biological sciences – Creative Commons, on June 18th, 2007 at 7:58 am

    [...] after the jump [...]

  2. Santosh Patnaik, on June 21st, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Nature Precedings needs to have a good rating system for open, community-based review to work well. Currently, submitted articles can be voted for, but that does not tell one how many would have voted against it. Nor does one get to know the negative points unless they go through the whole article themselves. Such negative points may have been mentioned in some comments but they are not easy to spot. Further, one is usually disinclined to write textual comments unless one has a strong interest to do so.

    With open preprint systems, being able to find useful and reliable ideas and data in articles is perhaps more important than being able to submit one. This becomes apparent as the number of articles increase, when searching can return hundreds and thousands of articles. One can’t go through all of them, and a few ‘bad’ articles can easily cause frustration and distrust in the quality of the submissions.

    But if search criteria can include objective measures of article quality, then one can indeed easily find valuable material. Nature Precedings should therefore opt for a point-based rating system where different aspects of articles can be appraised.

    Thus, instead of just letting one vote for an article, one should be allowed to rate its different aspects on, say, a 1-5 scale. Such aspects can include:

    1. clarity
    2. originality
    3. novelty
    4. presence and quality of experimental data
    5. logical procession
    6. depth
    7. proper referencing

    In effect, this would be a proper peer-review system.

    The ratings, both their average and their spread, should be displayed alongside articles.

    A good review/rating system will discourage submission of bad articles, build trust in the usability and reliability of content in Nature Precedings, and encourage quality submissions.

    (similar comments posted elsewhere on the web by me)

  3. Austen Heinz, on August 8th, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Its time to do away with journals. They are no longer needed in modern times.

    http://materialtransfer.org/posts/enough_is_enough_with_journals

  4. Science Commons » Blog Archive » A Wellcome future for science, on April 28th, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    [...] In the spring, the Trust signals its support for sharing preliminary research and findings, joining the British Library, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and Science Commons as a partner [...]

  5. Science, research – A Wellcome future for science | ::CafeAcademic.Com::, on June 12th, 2008 at 6:48 am

    [...] In the spring, the Trust signals its support for sharing preliminary research and findings, joining the British Library, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and Science Commons as a partner [...]