Publishing in Nature

Publishing in Nature – a guided tour from our guest speaker Dr. Graham Simpkins

We acknowledge that selecting the right target journal is an important decision and WiC are not advocating for publishing in Nature. We just want to pass on information to people who do want to publish in Nature.


How to choose the right journal for your manuscript?

In order to find the right fit within the Nature family, consider the following questions:

  1. How big is your story?
  2. What audience do you want to reach?
  3. How fast do you want it out?
  4. Is open access important to you?
  5. Does your work build on any recent papers in the journal?

What makes a Nature paper?

To publish in Nature the work must be new and have a very wide interest. In particular, the work has to report the most significant advances that have the widest impact. The significance should be easily appreciated by non-specialists (ie apparent to people outside your area of science). Only 10-15% of submissions go out to review.

What makes a research journal paper (eg Nature Geoscience or Nature Climate Change)?

To publish in one of the research journals the paper has to report the most significant advances within the discipline or communty. In particular, the significance should be easily appreciated by non-specialists with the discipline. Only 20% of submissions go out to review.

What makes a Nature Communications paper?

Publications in Nature Communication tend to cover important advances in a specialist area where the main audience is other specialists. This journal is multidisciplinary and open access. Nature Communications send 40% of submissions out to review.

What makes a Nature Scientific Reports paper?

Like Nature Communications, Scientific Reports is a multidisciplinary and open access journal. The differences is that manuscripts do not need to be novel but do need to be technically sound. Scientific Reports send most manuscripts out to review and publish about 60% of the manuscripts sent out to review. Unlike the other journals, it is not run by professional editors but rather an editorial board (like many of the major journals with academic editors).

What is the editorial process?


There are two hurdles to get past in order to publish in Nature.

1. The editor hurdle:

Each editor will thoroughly ready the manuscript and assess if it is suitable. This decision is ideally communicated back to the authors within a week of submission. The editors are primarily looking for two things: What is the conceptual advance and what is the breadth of interest? They will then consider the importance to the field, the practical applicability and what the paper’s key conclusions are.

Some of the reasons why the paper might be rejected without review include the following:

  • out of the journals scope,
  • the advance is incremental,
  • too specialist,
  • lacks experimental evidence to support conclusions, or
  • the results have been seen before (ie a modelling study showing an observed process).

2. The peer review hurdle:

The editors will select appropriate peer reviewers based on their research background. In general three reviewers are needed with often different expertise.

The reviewers will assess if the:

  • results are technically correct,
  • conclusions are supported/robust,
  • data is high quality, and
  • approach and analysis is up to standard.

The reviewers will then advise on the:

  • The scientific advance,
  • interest,
  • impact, and
  • overlap with other work.

What are some of the most common reasons why a paper is rejected after peer review?

Some of the most common reasons to reject a paper include:

  • conclusions are not sufficiently supported,
  • significant technical flaws,
  • interpretation is too ambiguous,
  • not novel,
  • results not significant enough,
  • lacking a critical element, and
  • too specialist for the given journal.

Nature is launching Nature Reviews Earth and Environment in January 2020.

What does this journal have to offer that others don’t?

You will not be working with academic editors but rather with professional editors (all editors have a PhD in relevant fields). These editors have more time to work one on one with the authors. In particular the editors give input on content, structure and focus. Nature also can generate high-quality artworks for the paper.

How do I publish in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment?

The majority of manuscripts (90%) will be commissioned by the editors. These will be on hot topics, trends in the literature or stagnant topics that need to be reopened. Authors will be selected who have authority, a strong publication record and respected by the community.

Can I pitch an idea?


To do this you will need to supply the following:

  • working title,
  • proposed authors,
  • key messages,
  • rationale and scope (200 words),
  • the sections and subsections (ie a paper skeleton), and
  • key references.

What is the journals scope?

There are three primary areas covered: i) weather and climate, ii) the solid Earth, and iii) surface processes.



What types of articles will be included?

  1. Reviews (6000 words): an authoritative, balanced survey of recent developments in an area of research.
  2. Perspective (5000 words): an opinionated review of a topic which is typically forward-looking or speculative.
  3. Technical review(5000-6000 words): accessible summary of techniques, devices or materials. It may be comparing different methods or providing guidelines for data analysis.

What topics will be covered in the front half (ie the more news section)?

This will include world views, comments, news and views, features and research highlights.

What is the cost to publish?

It is free to publish. The journal is accessed through subscription.

Tips for publishing in the Nature family of journals

  1. Ask your colleagues (who is not a specialist in your field) to read your papers. They will help you to understand if the significance is appreciated outside your field (as well as help you explain the concepts to non-specialists).
  2. If your paper has gone out to review and you get comments back which you can’t address, then email the editor and explain (rather than leaving it to explain in your response to the reviewers). The editor will be able to provide guidance on whether something must be done in order to move forward with the publication process.
  3. If you are rejected, consider a ‘transfer’ to another Nature journal. The online submission process will move all your user entered data so you don’t have to re-enter it all. The reviewers comments will also transfer to the new journal.
  4. There is no secret formula.


What does the embargo on the manuscript mean for me?

You can continue to present the work at conferences. You can’t talk to the media, make the manuscript publicly available or write about it in a blog/website etc. The manuscript can go into archive databases.

Do editors or reviewers decide on the manuscript outcome?

The editors make the decisions on manuscript outcomes and will overrule reviewers comments when needed. They will take into account the reviewers comments and if there are very different perspectives then the paper may go out to be reviewed by another referee.

What is the ‘consult’ option during the application?

This is a tick box as part of the application. The consult permits editor of different Nature journals to discuss your manuscript. This is very helpful when transfers are suggested to make sure the receiving journal would consider the application favourably.

What is the difference between article types?

There are multiple manuscript types within the journals (eg letters, analysis, article). The major difference between them is the length of the article.

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