Since 1869, Nature has set itself two goals, which can be boiled down to presenting science and its implications to the public, and presenting them to professional researchers. Public outreach is important for science — it is the public that pays for most of it — and with much of our magazine content and the brief summaries of research papers made accessible to journalists in advance, much good science is available to them. But what of the professional researchers — how can Nature best present science to you?
Any journal that tries to publish the most important results that it is sent, in all fields of science, will run into the same problem. Every bit of our output, we hope, is useful and interesting to somebody somewhere. But even the most optimistic of our editors would concede that the pool of readership for each of these specific advances is only a small subsection of our audience, professional researchers included. To the outside world, science is science. To those who read Nature, science is a multiplicity of specialisms — and specialists.
We know that most of you are specialists, and that you don’t read most of what we present to you. You’re busy people. It is hard enough to follow the literature that you need to read. Even the titles of research papers in an unfamiliar field can look incomprehensible. But if you’re anything like us, one reason you got into science in the first place was curiosity about the world — and not just the tiny piece of it that you now focus on. Wouldn’t it be useful and interesting to keep better track of the rest? Or at least, the rest that is published in Nature, and therefore already judged to be important?
We think so, and this week we begin an experiment to see how many of you agree. We have revisited 15 recently published Nature papers and asked the authors to produce two-page summaries of each. The summaries remain technical — these are not articles suitable for the popular press — but they try to communicate both the research advance and why it matters. The authors of these papers have been enthusiastic — they want the broadest possible readership — and we thank them for their cooperation. Now we want to know what you think. The first three summaries are published online this week (see go.nature.com/1uhcy3x). The rest will be released in the coming weeks. Please take a look. Be brave — pick a topic that you expect to struggle with — and then fill in the online survey to let us know what you think.
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