Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nature Protocols

Nature continues clearly the most innovative of the publishing houses in my view. A new web site is up in beta phase called Nature Protocols:

Nature Protocols is a new online web resource for laboratory protocols. The site, currently in beta phase, will contain high quality, peer-reviewed protocols commissioned by the Nature Protocols Editorial team and will also publish content posted onto the site by the community

They accept different types of content:
* Peer-reviewed protocols
* Protocols related to primary research papers in Nature journals
* Company Protocols and Application notes
* Non peer-reviewed (Community) protocols

There are already several protocol websites already out there so what is the point ? For Nature I guess it is obvious. Just like most portal websites they are creating a very good place to put ads. I am sure that all these protocols will have links to products on their Nature products and a lot of ads. The second advantage for Nature is the stickiness of the service. More people will come back to the website to look for protocols and stumble on to Nature content, increasing visibility for the journals and their impact.

A little detail is that, as they say above, the protocols from the papers published in the Nature journals will be made available on the website. On one hand this sounds great because the methods sections in the papers are usually so small (due to restrictions for publication) that they are most of the times incredibly hard to decipher (and usually put into supplementary materials). On the other hand, this will increase even further the tendency to hide away from the paper the really important pars of the research, the results and how these where obtained (methods) and to show only the subjective interpretations of the authors.
This reminds me of a recent editorial by Gregory A Petsko in Genome Biology (sub only). Here is how is states the problem :) - "The tendency to marginalize the methods is threatening to turn papers in journals like Nature and Science into glorified press releases."

For scientists this will be a very useful resource. Nature has a lot of appeal and will be able to quickly create a lot of really good content by inviting experienced scientists to write up their protocols full with tips and tricks accumulated over years of experience. This is the easy part for science portals, the content comes free. If somebody went to Yahoo and told them that scientist actually pay scientific journals to please please show our created content they would probably laugh :). Yahoo/MSN and other web portals have to pay people to create the content that they have on their sites.