A pair of chimps pucker-up for a kiss on the inaugural front cover of Nurture, a new magazine from the Nature Publishing Group. But Nurture is not another in a string of specialty journals that might have been called Nature Evolution. The primates who figure prominently inside the covers are the authors of Nature papers and the people who edit them.
Mailed in March to roughly 10,500 authors of research papers or letters in Nature between 2003 and 2005, the first issue of Nurture bears a distinct similarity to the kind of magazine distributed to airline passengers and members of automobile clubs. It includes a profile of a couple of Nature authors, a page explaining how cover pictures are chosen, editors' views on some popular Nature papers from 2004, and the details of a few new Nature Publishing Group journals, among other items. There is also a cartoon, a crossword and a number puzzle.
In part, the aim was also to show readers around behind the forbidding veil of Nature, the high-impact journal, and reveal the "real people" who work there, says editor Sian Lewis. To that end, the first issue includes a chronicle of a day in the life of Marie-Therese Heemels, senior editor of biological sciences, who bicycles uphill to drop her son at school and listens to the BBC to help her drift off at night.
So what next for Nurture? "We're still in the experimental phase," says Lewis, but the feedback has already been positive. "Readers want more of them," she says, and another issue is forthcoming in September. Already, plenty of requests for copies have been received from Nature authors who were left off the initial distribution list, and even from non-Nature authors. "Obviously we're not going to say, oh you can't see it," says Lewis. The magazine was definitely not meant to be "an exclusive, clubby thing."
Barbara Cohen, senior editor at PLoS Medicine, and a former Nature editor, disagrees. "What I find a bit strange is that it seems to be restricted to published authors, making it rather clubby," she says of the new magazine, which perhaps unsurprisingly is not available online. Cohen has seen only the cover of Nurture, but to her the exercise seems to be all about building brand and author loyalty in a changing science-publishing world. She points out that Nature has long engaged in author outreach, and Nurture probably fits within that tradition.
"To me it makes sense in the context of what seems to be a shift away from journal impact factors and the associated branding, toward the importance of individual articles that can now be found more effectively using Internet searches," Cohen says.
Now that Nature evidently feels that its authors need something other than the high-impact factor of Nature to encourage them to publish there, may we suggest another loyalty effort cribbed from the airlines: a Nature frequent-author program. Publish three papers, get another one published without pesky peer review. Take that, Science and Cell!