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Nature (journal)

Abbreviated title (ISO 4)
Discipline natural sciences
Language English
Edited by Philip Campbell
Publication details
(United Kingdom)
Publication history
Frequency Weekly
Impact factor
ISSN 0028-0836 (print)
1476–4687 (web)
OCLC no. 01586310
  • Journal homepage
  • Online access
  • Online archive

Nature is a prominent interdisciplinary scientific journal. It was first published on 4 November 1869.[1] It was ranked the world's most cited by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports and is widely regarded as one of the few remaining academic journals that publishes original research across a wide range of scientific fields.[2] Nature claims an online readership of about 3 million unique readers per month.[3] The journal has a circulation of around 53,000 but studies have concluded that on average a single copy is shared by as many as eight people.[4]

Research scientists are the primary audience for the journal, but summaries and accompanying articles are intended to make many of the most important papers understandable to scientists in other fields and the educated general public. Towards the front of each issue are editorials, news and feature articles on issues of general interest to scientists, including current affairs, science funding, business, scientific ethics and research breakthroughs. There are also sections on books and arts. The remainder of the journal consists mostly of research papers (articles or letters), which are often dense and highly technical. Because of strict limits on the length of papers, often the printed text is actually a summary of the work in question with many details relegated to accompanying supplementary material on the journal's website.

There are many fields of scientific research in which important new advances and original research are published as either articles or letters in Nature. The papers that have been published in this journal are internationally acclaimed for maintaining high research standards.

In 2007 Nature (together with Science) received the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanity.[5][6]


  • History 1
    • Prior to Nature 1.1
    • Creation of Nature 1.2
    • 20th and early 21st centuries 1.3
      • Editors 1.3.1
      • Expansion and development 1.3.2
  • 2 Publishing of articles
    • Landmark papers 2.1
    • Controversies 2.2
  • Science fiction 3
  • Publication 4
  • Notes and references 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


Prior to Nature

The enormous progress in science and mathematics during the 19th century was recorded in journals written mostly in German or French, as well as in English. Britain underwent enormous technological and industrial changes and advances particularly in the latter half of the 19th century.[7] In English the most respected scientific journals of this time were the refereed journals of the [8]

Nature, first created in 1869, was not the first magazine of its kind in Britain. One journal to precede Nature was Recreative Science: A Record and Remembrancer of Intellectual Observation, which, created in 1859, began as a natural history magazine and progressed to include more physical observational science and technical subjects and less natural history.[9] The journal's name changed from its original title to Intellectual Observer: A Review of Natural History, Microscopic Research, and Recreative Science and then later to the Student and Intellectual Observer of Science, Literature, and Art.[10] While Recreative Science had attempted to include more physical sciences such as astronomy and archaeology, the Intellectual Observer broadened itself further to include literature and art as well.[10] Similar to Recreative Science was the scientific journal Popular Science Review, created in 1862,[11] which covered different fields of science by creating subsections titled "Scientific Summary" or "Quarterly Retrospect", with book reviews and commentary on the latest scientific works and publications.[11] Two other journals produced in England prior to the development of Nature were the Quarterly Journal of Science and Scientific Opinion, established in 1864 and 1868, respectively.[10] The journal most closely related to Nature in its editorship and format was The Reader, created in 1864; the publication mixed science with literature and art in an attempt to reach an audience outside of the scientific community, similar to Popular Science Review.[10]

These similar journals all ultimately failed. The Popular Science Review was the longest to survive, lasting 20 years and ending its publication in 1881; Recreative Science ceased publication as the Student and Intellectual Observer in 1871. The Quarterly Journal, after undergoing a number of editorial changes, ceased publication in 1885. The Reader terminated in 1867, and finally, Scientific Opinion lasted a mere 2 years, until June 1870.[9]

Creation of Nature

First title page, November 4, 1869

Not long after the conclusion of The Reader, a former editor, Norman Lockyer, decided to create a new scientific journal titled Nature,[12] taking its name from a line by William Wordsworth: "To the solid ground of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye".[13] First owned and published by Alexander Macmillan, Nature was similar to its predecessors in its attempt to "provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge."[12] Janet Browne has proposed that "far more than any other science journal of the period, Nature was conceived, born, and raised to serve polemic purpose."[12] Many of the early editions of Nature consisted of articles written by members of a group that called itself the X Club, a group of scientists known for having liberal, progressive, and somewhat controversial scientific beliefs relative to the time period.[12] Initiated by Thomas Henry Huxley, the group consisted of such important scientists as Joseph Dalton Hooker, Herbert Spencer, and John Tyndall, along with another five scientists and mathematicians; these scientists were all avid supporters of Darwin's theory of evolution as common descent, a theory which, during the latter-half of the 19th century, received a great deal of criticism among more conservative groups of scientists.[14] Perhaps it was in part its scientific liberality that made Nature a longer-lasting success than its predecessors. John Maddox, editor of Nature from 1966 to 1973 as well as from 1980 to 1995, suggested at a celebratory dinner for the journal's centennial edition that perhaps it was the journalistic qualities of Nature that drew readers in; "journalism" Maddox states, "is a way of creating a sense of community among people who would otherwise be isolated from each other. This is what Lockyer's journal did from the start."[15] In addition, Maddox mentions that the financial backing of the journal in its first years by the Macmillan family also allowed the journal to flourish and develop more freely than scientific journals before it.[15]

20th and early 21st centuries

Nature underwent a great deal of development and expansion during the 20th century, particularly during the later half of the 90s.


Norman Lockyer, the founder of Nature, was a professor at Imperial College. He was succeeded as editor in 1919 by Sir Richard Gregory.[16] Gregory helped to establish Nature in the international scientific community. His obituary by the Royal Society stated: "Gregory was always very interested in the international contacts of science, and in the columns of Nature he always gave generous space to accounts of the activities of the International Scientific Unions."[17] During the years 1945 to 1973, editorship of Nature changed three times, first in 1945 to A.J.V. Gale and L.J.F. Brimble (who in 1958 became the sole editor), then to John Maddox in 1965, and finally to David Davies in 1973.[16] In 1980, Maddox returned as editor and retained his position until 1995. Philip Campbell has since become Editor-in-chief of all Nature publications.[16]

Expansion and development

In 1970, Nature first opened its Washington office; other branches opened in New York in 1985, Tokyo and Munich in 1987, Paris in 1989, San Francisco in 2001, Boston in 2004, and Hong Kong in 2005. Starting in the 1980s, the journal underwent a great deal of expansion, launching over ten new journals. These new journals comprise the Nature Publishing Group, which was created in 1999 and includes Nature, Nature Research Journals, Stockton Press Specialist Journals and Macmillan Reference (renamed NPG Reference).

In 1996, Nature created its own website[18] and in 1999 Nature Publishing Group began its series of Nature Reviews.[16] Some articles and papers are available for free on the Nature web site. Others require the purchase of premium access to the site.

Nature claims a readership of about 424,000 total readers. The journal has a circulation of around 53,000 but studies have concluded that on average a single copy is shared by as many as 8 people.[4]

On 30 October 2008, Nature endorsed an American presidential candidate for the first time when it supported Barack Obama during his campaign in America's 2008 presidential election.[19][20]

On October 2012, an Arabic edition of the magazine was launched in partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. As of the time it was released, it had about 10,000 subscribers.[21]

On 2 December 2014, Nature announced that it would allow its subscribers and a group of selected media outlets to share links allowing free, "read-only" access to content from its journals. These articles are presented using the digital rights management system ReadCube (which is funded by the Macmillan subsidiary Digital Science), and does not allow readers to download, copy, print, or otherwise distribute the content. While it does, to an extent, provide free online access to articles, it is not a true open access scheme due to its restrictions on re-use and distribution.[22][23]

Publishing of articles

Having a paper (article or letter) published in Nature or any Nature publication such as Nature chemistry or Nature chemical biology is very prestigious, and the papers are often highly cited, which can lead to promotions, grant funding, and attention from the mainstream media. Because of these positive feedback effects, competition among scientists to publish in high-level journals like Nature and its closest competitor, Science, can be very fierce. Nature '​s impact factor, a measure of how many citations a journal generates in other works, was 42.351 in 2013 (as measured by Thomson ISI), among the highest of any science journal.

As with most other professional scientific journals, papers undergo an initial screening by the editor, followed by peer review (in which other scientists, chosen by the editor for expertise with the subject matter but who have no connection to the research under review, will read and critique articles), before publication. In the case of Nature, they are only sent for review if it is decided that they deal with a topical subject and are sufficiently ground-breaking in that particular field. As a consequence, the majority of submitted papers are rejected without review.

According to Nature '​s original mission statement:

It is intended, FIRST, to place before the general public the grand results of Scientific Work and Scientific Discovery; and to urge the claims of Science to a more general recognition in Education and in Daily Life; and, SECONDLY, to aid Scientific men themselves, by giving early information of all advances made in any branch of Natural knowledge throughout the world, and by affording them an opportunity of discussing the various Scientific questions which arise from time to time.
—Nature, 1869[24]

This was revised in 2000 to:

First, to serve scientists through prompt publication of significant advances in any branch of science, and to provide a forum for the reporting and discussion of news and issues concerning science. Second, to ensure that the results of science are rapidly disseminated to the public throughout the world, in a fashion that conveys their significance for knowledge, culture and daily life.
—Nature, 2000[25]

Landmark papers

Many of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in modern history have been first published in Nature. The following is a selection of scientific breakthroughs published in Nature, all of which had far-reaching consequences, and the citation for the article in which they were published.


A series of five fraudulent papers by Jan Hendrik Schön were published in Nature in the 2000–2001 period. The papers, about superconductivity, were revealed to contain falsified data and other scientific fraud. In 2003 the papers were retracted by Nature. The Schön scandal was not limited to Nature. Other prominent journals such as Science and Physical Review also retracted papers by Schön.[26]

Before publishing one of its most famous discoveries, Watson and Crick's 1953 paper on the structure of DNA, Nature did not send the paper out for peer review at all. John Maddox, Nature '​s editor, stated that "the Watson and Crick paper was not peer-reviewed by Nature ... the paper could not have been refereed: its correctness is self-evident. No referee working in the field ... could have kept his mouth shut once he saw the structure".[27]

An earlier error occurred when Enrico Fermi submitted his breakthrough paper on the weak interaction theory of beta decay. Nature turned down the paper because it was considered too remote from reality.[28] Fermi's paper was published by Zeitschrift für Physik in 1934,[29] and finally published by Nature 5 years later, after Fermi's work had been widely accepted.

When Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research initially rejected by Nature and published only after Lauterbur appealed the rejection, Nature acknowledged more of its own missteps in rejecting papers in an editorial titled "Coping with Peer Rejection":

[T]here are unarguable faux pas in our history. These include the rejection of Cerenkov radiation, Hideki Yukawa's meson, work on photosynthesis by Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and Hartmut Michel, and the initial rejection (but eventual acceptance) of Stephen Hawking's black-hole radiation.[30]

In June 1988, after nearly a year of guided scrutiny from its editors, Nature published a controversial and seemingly anomalous paper detailing Dr. Jacques Benveniste and his team's work studying human basophil degranulation in the presence of extremely dilute antibody serum.[31] In short, their paper concluded that less than a single molecule of antibody could trigger an immune response in human basophils, defying the physical law of mass action. The paper excited substantial media attention in Paris, chiefly because their research sought funding from homeopathic medicine companies. Public inquiry prompted Nature to mandate an extensive, stringent and scientifically questionable experimental replication in Benveniste's lab, through which his team's results were categorically disputed.[32]

Science fiction

In 1999 Nature began publishing science fiction short stories. The brief "vignettes" are printed in a series called "Futures". The stories appeared in 1999 and 2000, again in 2005 and 2006, and have appeared weekly since July 2007.[33] Sister publication Nature Physics also printed stories in 2007 and 2008.[34] In 2005, Nature was awarded the European Science Fiction Society's Best Publisher award for the "Futures" series.[35] One hundred of the Nature stories between 1999 and 2006 were published as the collection Futures from Nature in 2008.[36]


Nature Materials, a specialised journal from Nature Publishing Group.

Nature is edited and published in the United Kingdom by Boston, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Munich, and Basingstoke. Nature Publishing Group also publishes other specialized journals including Nature Neuroscience, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, the Nature Clinical Practice series of journals, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Nature Chemistry, and the Nature Reviews series of journals.

Since 2005, each issue of Nature has been accompanied by a Nature Podcast[37] featuring highlights from the issue and interviews with the articles' authors and the journalists covering the research. It is presented by Adam Rutherford and Kerri Smith, and features interviews with scientists on the latest research, as well as news reports from Nature's editors and journalists. It also incorporates regular slots called the "PODium", a weekly 60-second opinion slot, and the "Sound of Science", a regular slot featuring science-related music or other scientific audio recordings. It was formerly presented by Chris Smith of Cambridge and The Naked Scientists.

In 2007, Nature Publishing Group began publishing Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, the official journal of the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics and Molecular Therapy, the American Society of Gene Therapy's official journal, as well as the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal. Nature Publishing Group launched Nature Photonics in 2007 and Nature Geoscience in 2008. Nature Chemistry published its first issue in April 2009.

Nature Publishing Group actively supports the self-archiving process and in 2002 was one of the first publishers to allow authors to post their contributions on their personal websites, by requesting an exclusive licence to publish, rather than requiring authors to transfer copyright. In December 2007, Nature Publishing Group introduced the Creative Commons attribution-non commercial-share alike unported licence for those articles in Nature journals that are publishing the primary sequence of an organism's genome for the first time. In 2008, a collection of articles from Nature was edited by John S. Partington under the title H. G. Wells in Nature, 1893–1946: A Reception Reader and published by Peter Lang.[38]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Huxley, T. H. (1869). "Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe". Nature 1: 9–11.  
  2. ^ "About Nature". Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Announcement: A new iPad app for Nature readers". Nature. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Demographics: Nature, archived from the original on 2011-05-13 , a profile of Nature's readership.
  5. ^ Ham, Becky; AAAS News release (October 26, 2007). "Science Receives Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for Excellence in Communication".  
  6. ^ "Journals Nature and Science – Communication and Humanities 2007".  
  7. ^ Schroeder, Robert; Siegel, Gretta E. (2006). "A Cooperative Publishing Model for Sustainable Scholarship". Journal of Scholarly Publishing 37 (2): 86–98 (88).  
  8. ^ a b Barton, R. (1998). "Just before Nature: The purposes of science and the purposes of popularization in some english popular science journals of the 1860s". Annals of science 55 (1): 1–33.  
  9. ^ a b Barton, "Just Before Nature," p. 7
  10. ^ a b c d Barton, "Just Before Nature," p. 6
  11. ^ a b Barton, "Just Before Nature," p. 13
  12. ^ a b c d Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, p. 248
  13. ^ Poem: "A Volant Tribe of Bards on earth are found". Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
  14. ^ Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, p. 247
  15. ^ a b Maddox, John and Macmillan, Harold (1970). "The 'Nature' Centenary Dinner". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 25 (1): 9–15(13).  
  16. ^ a b c d Nature Publishing Group: History.
  17. ^ Stratton, F. J. M. (1953). "Richard Arman Gregory, 1864–1952". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 8 (22): 410–417 (413).  
  18. ^ "Branching out (1970-1999)". Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved 2014-11-13. 
  19. ^ "America's choice". Nature 455 (7217): 1149. 2008.  
  20. ^ Weekly science journal Nature endorses a presidential candidate: Barack Obama. (2008-10-31). Retrieved on 2013-06-20.
  21. ^ Yahia, Mohammed (October 18, 2012). "Nature Arabic Edition launches". Nature Middle East. Retrieved 2013-06-22. The first issue of Nature Arabic Edition, an Arabic translation of Nature, has been released. The monthly print version is now available to 10,000 subscribers in the Arabic-speaking Middle East 
  22. ^ "Nature journal subscribers can now share article links globally". Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "Science journal Nature to make archives available online". The Guardian. 2 December 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  24. ^ "Nature's mission statement". 11 November 1869. Retrieved 11 September 2008. 
  25. ^ Nature's mission statement.
  26. ^ "Retractions' realities". Nature 422 (6927): p. 1. 6 March 2003.  
  27. ^ Maddox, J. (2003). "How genius can smooth the road to publication". Nature 426 (6963): 119.  
  28. ^ Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Touchstone, New York, 1986. ISBN 0-671-44133-7
  29. ^ Fermi, E. (1934). "Versuch einer Theorie der β-Strahlen. I". Zeitschrift für Physik 88 (3–4): 161–177.  
  30. ^ "Coping with peer rejection". Nature 425 (6959): p. 645. 16 October 2003.  
  31. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Futures". Nature. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Futures Archive".  
  35. ^  
  36. ^ Henry Gee, editor. "Futures from Nature: 100 Speculative fictions from the pages of the leading science journal".  
  37. ^ "Archive: Nature Podcast". Nature. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  38. ^ Partington, John S. (2008). H. G. Wells in Nature, 1893–1946: A Reception Reader. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.  


  • Barton, R. (1996). "Just Before Nature: The Purposes of Science and the Purposes of Popularization in Some English Popular Science Journals of the 1860s".  
  • Browne, J. (2002). Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Freely available scans of volumes 1-112 (1869-1923)
  • Interview with Timo Hannay, director of web publishing for Nature Publishing Group
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