Hit, miss or maybe | Nature reviews Chemistry
Each month, we select articles to showcase in our research highlights. Here we share how we choose which articles to display.
On Nature reviews Chemistry, we publish 2-3 research highlights each month, where we try to summarize the most important findings from some recently published research. Our goal is to provide the latest developments in the broader chemical context that is appropriate for our audience, so that “the forest can be seen for the trees”. In many ways, it is a bit like the journal clubs that many researchers participate in within their research groups. Here we hope to shed some light on our approach to selecting the articles we write about.
We try to pick out newer articles that are exciting and interesting in the field of chemistry. Since chemistry is a broad church, we seek to offer content that attracts all our readers. And of course we try to identify something that is exciting. There are inevitably more articles we can highlight than we can actually cover (more on this later). To find these stories, we receive regular updates with press releases from some of the major scientific publishers. We also follow RSS feeds that include journals that fall within our scope, and we use social media to track what the chemistry community is talking about. The latter opens the window for the more informal discussions that can sometimes give us far more insight. For example, tweets can share how researchers formulated a research question, or opinions about recent discoveries from others working in their field. These discussions do not always lead us to a specific article, but they do help to keep us up to date on developments that are important to our society. As a small team, we need to learn from you (our readers) about where we need to grow and how we can best cover selected topics. For example, a well-received highlight may eventually inspire us to order a longer-format article.
We browse through the mentioned resources for articles that catch our attention, and try to shortlist 2-4 that we want to write about. Each of us is also a researcher, with our own specific areas of expertise, which inevitably brings a bit of a skew to the subjects we get excited about. To ensure that articles outside the team’s areas of expertise are highlighted, we have a couple of strategies for “spreading love”. For example, we often invite other chemists who work across the journals in the Nature Portfolio to write research highlights for us as guest writers. We also aim to select articles that fall within other core areas of chemistry (or more specific research areas) than those we highlighted last month. For example, if we highlight a new NMR method within a month, we can try to avoid covering an NMR method (or an analytical method depending on what is published) in next month’s round of research highlights. Sometimes such plans are not so unambiguous, but we try to bring variety to our coverage and will avoid (where we can) cover articles that have been much discussed elsewhere. Although we often experience highlighting work published in the broad chemical journals that most of our readers will be well acquainted with, it is satisfying to highlight work from lesser-known titles and even that in journals that may not naturally attract a chemistry audience.
Armed with a personal list of cards, we discuss in the editorial office and explain why these articles have caught our attention. Then we share our opinions on each other’s lists, including thoughts on which articles may be important to highlight. The key, and probably not so obvious to readers, is that some topics are more difficult to write about than others – especially those we are less familiar with, since the key details and advances may not be so obvious to the casual reader. For these latter cases, we often contact the authors with some questions that may give us more insight. Sometimes we even quote an author in our last climax. However, if we are pressed for time, we start writing and designing an image that contains the main points we are discussing or one that is more playful and / or eye-catching. Once published, of course, we share the article on Twitter and try to tag all contributing parties to ensure that everyone is in the loop for re-tweeting, and so on. Overall, we are keen to learn from our audience and would like to participate in discussions about the latest advances.
As for the articles we do not end up writing about, we have decided that we will continue to share them in the hope that they can start some further discussions and interactions with our community. By using the #ResearchHighlight # nearmiss tags on Twitter, we hope our growing fan base can take a closer look at what’s caught our attention lately, and we welcome you to share what’s your catch too!