Nature Journal: Past, Present and Future

Seminar title slide
On 31st January, Nature-based Solutions Initiative and the Agile Initiative hosted Magdalena Skipper, Editor in Chief for Nature, for a seminar entitled ‘Nature in the 21st Century’.  

As Editor-in-Chief, Magdalena leads Nature’s magazine and research editorial teams. A geneticist by training, she has considerable editorial and publishing experience: having started in Nature Publishing Group in 2001, she was Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Genetics, Senior Editor for genetics and genomics at Nature, and Executive Editor for the Nature Partner Journals. Before joining Nature as Editor-in-Chief she was Editor-in-Chief of Nature Communications.  

Magdalena is passionate about mentorship, research integrity, as well as open and equitable research practice. As editorial champion of diversity, equality and inclusion at Springer Nature, her talk illustrated the need to recognise diversity in scientists and researchers, with aspirations for the ‘transformational power of science’ to provide opportunities for inclusion. 

The audience was also encouraged to consider the broader context of research, that it does not exist in a vacuum. Journals, including Nature, are increasingly interested in direct real-life applications of research, for example, papers related to assessing our progress towards Sustainable Development Goals. The research scope has been expanded to be multidisciplinary, with a greater focus on social sciences, to help understand how types of research may be better harnessed and communicated. Publishers are increasingly responding to societal challenges by expanding into thematic and multidisciplinary journals, as research evolves.

With a cross-disciplinary approach, Magdalena highlighted that science takes the backing of wide teams, and increasingly is more collaborative and dependent on large data sets. Nature aims to showcase examples where collaboration has worked successfully, including where it extends beyond the scientific community. Co-creation and involvement of audiences have also been shown to build trust and improve science communication.
Science and civil society can demonstrably produce research that can be actioned locally, based on trust and credibility developed through collaboration.

Journals are also finding increased political engagement in science, supported by the circulation of policy briefs accompanying scientific papers; translating research into action through specific communications that define an issue, then summarise findings, the study methods and resulting policy suggestions. Nature cited several examples where this dissemination of ‘impactful, influential, significant’ research results has led to critical policy changes.

Following these examples of the influence of science was a note of caution: That the historic image of science being immutable no longer applies. Retractions are supported in the spirit of transparency and continuing scientific progress through self-correction. Rather than admonishing scientists who acknowledge an error, or that they do not know the answer, reviewing research provides an opportunity to visit a topic afresh. This is particularly crucial in an age of ‘big data’, whereas datasets grow timely updates to research are required. Preprints are, therefore, encouraged. And Nature has taken further steps to encourage participation by providing an open-access fund with no fees for low-income countries.

Transparency is also key to journals as they navigate new challenges brought by the use of generative AI in Science. Publishers are continuously updating guidelines, that consider the possible uses of AI to speed up computations against risks of bias or copyright issues.

Describing ‘publishing as an enabler of science, within transparency and robustness’, Magdalena highlighted that Nature’s role is to champion science and relate it to policy and a wider audience. Including fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion in scientific communities, supporting collaboration and co-creation to tackle cross-disciplinary challenges. 

Read more about the Agile Initiative and their events here.