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Reproducible methods

Nature Cell Biology will publish online methods in more detail.

A central tenet of academic research is that the data are exposed to public scrutiny. Data that survive debate and experimental validation form the basis of new research, which nurtures the tree of knowledge (the shedding of the odd branch in a storm of controversy is a healthy part of the process). The dissemination of new research is commonly facilitated by publication in peer reviewed journals, ensuring that data pass a set of standards set by the research community and applied by referees and editors.

An essential part of the process is that scientific papers are sufficiently detailed to allow for assessment of the data and for independent reproduction of experiments (we have commented previously on the decline of reproduction of data; Editorial Nature Cell Biol. 8, 541; June 2006). In an effort to improve the information provided by the papers we publish, we have previously called for a ban on 'data not shown' (Editorial Nature Cell Biol. 8, 541; June 2006) and it is our policy to display uncropped data (Editorial Nature Cell Biol. 8, 203; March 2006), as well as the sequences of nucleotide probes and antigens (Editorial Nature Cell Biol. 9, 481; May 2007). We have also set clear policies for the sharing of research materials (Editorial Nature Cell Biol. 8, 425; May 2006).

However, a criticism rightly levied at journals with an intentionally terse format is that excessively tight word limits are not compatible with methods sufficiently detailed for reproducibility. Most read papers online, and this format allows for the cost-effective display of limitless information. As a result, we have joined the other Nature titles to present our 'Methods' sections online only. Although we have relaxed our format guidelines for this section, we suggest that methods are limited to around 1,600 words.

Notably, the 'Methods' section will remain integral to the main online paper and it will be copy edited. Although references in the 'Methods' will only be included in the online edition of the manuscript, they will be taken into account for impact factor calculations.

All the policies discussed above are listed in our online 'Guide to authors' (

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Reproducible methods. Nat Cell Biol 11, 667 (2009).

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