Saturday, June 09, 2007

Preprint servers: the CPS failed, how will Nature Precedings do?

Some 7 years ago, following successes in physics, launched the Chemistry Preprint Server (CPS), and Warr evaluated it in a JCIM article three years later. She wrote about 'lessons learned', but the only one seemed to have been that chemistry was not ready for it, as the project shutdown in 2004. The archives are still available, fortunately, and you may find it amusing to look up my or some other submission.

Now, Nascent wrote that Nature is setting up Nature Precedings, which was earlier noted by Pedro. The official announcement was published as an editorial in Nature. This being a Nature initiative, and not focused on just chemistry, I am sure it will do better than CPS. BTW, media coverage is tracked in a social way.

I might request an test account; I do have an old half-finished manuscript that I never got around to finishing. While still relevant, it could use some community input; this preprint server would be the perfect tool. That's how my first manuscript ended up on CPS too :)


  1. This does look very promising indeed - my group can definitely try it out. Concerning CPS, I had also made extensive use of it. The fact that they stopped accepting submissions is one thing. But changing the URLs is unforgivable. Actually it is even worse than that - last time I checked it was not even possible to use a simple URL to link to our articles because of the mandatory registration system. This is why I think redundancy is so important with the communication of science.

  2. I also uploaded a paper: one about Jmol which was presented at the ECCC10.

  3. Hi,

    I couldnt read the Nature and Wendys article,
    30+25 bucks was too much (I am at home).

    But I liked Chemweb alot (at this time called
    "online club for chemists" or "Web club for chemists").
    So it was - a kind of club - and this
    was probably the reason why not so many scientist
    submitted their articles to the preprint server.

    Organic chemists, which are considered very diligent,
    because the have to work a lot in the lab, didnt have
    time and interest to sneak around in such a "web club".
    They had Ovid and WOS for literature and Beilstein
    and Scifinder for reaction based searching. Using these
    services you could be very productive.

    And at this time the web was still new and
    especially in certain labs it was considered
    a bad thing to "hang around in the web".
    But like people taking a library day, such
    services require a lot of people for submitting
    and also reviewing online papers.

    Another reason was probably that most of the
    publishers did not allow preprints like it
    was common practice at for physics.
    So why would you bother to jeopardize your
    publications. But this has changed now a little

    Also was later abandoned
    by MDL and Elsevier is now owned by
    And lets not forget that Elsevier and ACS
    were competitors at this time (before they
    joined axis to convince people that
    open access publishing is evil). So every chemist
    between them would have been crushed.

    Another problem at this time was (I did not check
    the preprints at chemweb again) that many/some of these
    articles were poorly written. In language and content.
    As a scientist I would loose creditability to submit
    a poorly written article to a preprint server. And as
    a reviewer I would be annoyed to read a lot of crap
    and waste my time.

    I think the point were I was disappointed
    when Elsevier pulled out published papers and put
    only a link there, because ACS wanted it.
    That was the early death of

    "In an effort to find a compromise, Weeks says ChemWeb will remove the
    full text of papers from the site when they are published in a print
    journal, keeping an abstract and a link to the journal article. But
    Bovenschulte says ACS journals would still not consider such papers,
    because the results would already be public knowledge."

    Also the open peer review debate on Nature is interesting
    "Despite enthusiasm for the concept, open peer review
    was not widely popular, either among authors or
    by scientists invited to comment." (DOI kaputt)

    I think the strongest push will be the fact that everybody
    now can have a Nature publication (or preceding :-) So a bit
    of Nature's aura will shine upon them. So it may work.

    I wonder why has a genetics and metabolomics
    section but no chemistry section, should be easy to set up.

    Kind regards
    Tobias Kind

  4. Nature Precedings needs to have a good rating system for open, community-based review to work well. Currently, submitted articles can be voted for, but that does not tell one how many would have voted against it. Nor does one get to know the negative points unless they go through the whole article themselves. Such negative points may have been mentioned in some comments but they are not easy to spot. Further, one is usually disinclined to write textual comments unless one has a strong interest to do so.

    With open preprint systems, being able to find useful and reliable ideas and data in articles is perhaps more important than being able to submit one. This becomes apparent as the number of articles increase, when searching can return hundreds and thousands of articles. One can’t go through all of them, and a few ‘bad’ articles can easily cause frustration and distrust in the quality of the submissions.

    But if search criteria can include objective measures of article quality, then one can indeed easily find valuable material. Nature Precedings should therefore opt for a point-based rating system where different aspects of articles can be appraised.

    Thus, instead of just letting one vote for an article, one should be allowed to rate its different aspects on, say, a 1-5 scale. Such aspects can include:

    1. clarity
    2. originality
    3. novelty
    4. presence and quality of experimental data
    5. logical procession
    6. depth
    7. proper referencing

    In effect, this would be a proper peer-review system.

    The ratings, both their average and their spread, should be displayed alongside articles.

    A good review/rating system will discourage submission of bad articles, build trust in the usability and reliability of content in Nature Precedings, and encourage quality submissions.

    (similar comments posted elsewhere on the web by me)

  5. Dear anonymous, I think these are good suggestions. Might you add the link where you posted these comments?

    I can agree about increasing the flexibility in browsing and getting informed about new submissions. At this moment, for example, you cannot browse just the papers, but always have the posters/presentation document types too.

    It would also be a good idea to be able to read separately on those seven categories, to allow even more personalization of what you want to get informed about.

    Did you pick this up in the NP group on NN?