Nature Reports Stem Cells necrology

by Alexey Bersenev on October 29, 2009 · 0 comments

in open science

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Last week Nature Publishing Group (NPG) shut down the online journal Nature Reports Stem Cells (NRSC) and the blog “The Niche“.  We didn’t know the exact reasons, but Monya Baker – the Editor of NRSC and an author at ”The Niche” indicated to financial issues and also said the following:

I’m sad to announce that Nature Reports Stem Cells and the Niche will cease operations this week.

When we launched in June 2007, we wanted to see how Nature Publishing Group (NPG) could build online communities by providing original content freely available to all members of a fragmented community as well as the interested public. The topic could not have been better: stem cell research was then – and is still – expanding and exciting. It requires highly varied experts to think and work together. Unfortunately, the business of scientific publishing is more difficult than the choice of topic.

I’m truly sad about it. Yes business climate is currently tough, but what criteria was the NPG decision based on? Why NRSC? Apparently, it was good for business, and I didn’t understand the decision.

In the field of stem cell research we have very few sources of valid information with expert’s opinion and analytical points of view. Honestly, I knew only one source that was used science journalists – NRSC. It was. Now we don’t have any.

It was the source of educational information not only for the public, but also for the professionals working in the field of stem cells. For example, the Niche and NRSC was able rapidly get commentaries and clarifications of some controversial issues directly from the authors of papers, investigators, business executives or interview the experts. I, as some other blogging scientists, can not do this. Of course I can ask experts, but will probably not get a response. This is because I have no well known brand-name behind of me. I don’t represent Nature. Finally, NRSC integrated the public and the professionals into one community.

It’s very sad that we’re losing the reliable information sources in stem cell field. Not many professionals and no journalists are actually writing about it. I mean really analytical content with possibility of discussion, not just news or “copy-paste” blogs. We need volunteers, who can give valid information to the public and analytical information with discussions for professionals. Only this could spread the knowledge, prevent misleading information and fraud in developing therapies and commercialization.  Maybe it’s time for the community to take over scientific journalism and exchange high-quality information? We need enthusiasts for this initiative.

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