Why you shouldn't publish in PNAS

By Razib Khan | August 13, 2012 7:41 pm

Update: It’s online.

Well, maybe the title is hyperbolic. But it’s been frustrating for years that PNAS seems to have some of the most backward post-publication delay policies/patterns in the business. So, for example there’s a new paper in PNAS which is being covered in the media extensively with a DOI link released, but the paper still isn’t on the website. This allows David Reich free rein to do a little amusing slap-slap without any paper to check him:

….The PNAS paper questioning Neanderthal admixture addresses issues swirling around two years ago but not Reich and Slatkin’s latest work. “It’s been an issue for several years. They were right to work on this,” says Reich. But now “it’s kind of an obsolete paper,” he says.

And of course Reich’s group put their preprint up on arXiv yesterday (though the linked piece above says that it’s already been accepted into PLoS Genetics), so we can slice & dice it while we’re waiting on PNAS.

My primary reason for putting a whole post on this issue, which Ed Yong has mentioned many times, is that Twitter kept buzzing (at least my feed) about when the paper was going live earlier today. On the one hand this generates pent up demand, but it also creates irritation and resentment. I understand that people present at conferences and give talks, and then you wait for the paper. But it’s really testing patience to release media coverage before you put the paper up. And if the past teaches us anything it could be days before they push it live.

I have no idea if this is PNAS‘ policy. Nature and Science somehow manage without this ‘feature.’ And I doubt anything will change. But it should change.

  • Chad

    Its in the Early Edition, just out today:

    Effect of ancient population structure on the degree of polymorphism shared between modern human populations and ancient hominins

    Anders Eriksson and Andrea Manica


  • Chad

    I will give one plus about PNAS. They were one of the first Journals to give the option of a PDF + Supplemental Data download so you don’t have to 10 extra files in addition to the main paper to dig through. I’ve just now noticed a few other journals doing this. I know its not much, but its a feature I have always loved.

  • JeffH

    At the same time having all Supplemental files in a single file makes copying large tables hard. I’ve found myself having to email authors or scraping the PDF rather than a simple download.

  • PeterC

    Well that lays to rest Premature News About Science

  • AK

    I believe PNAS, unlike Nature and Science, allow prepublication on the arxiv – if Erikkson and Manica wanted the paper online, they could put it online.

  • jack brown

    “free reign” -> “free rein”; the metaphor is you’re riding a horse and you let the reins loose so the horse can do what it wants.

    I agree that it’s really irritating having unnecessary delays in putting a paper on the site so we can actually read it, but I doubt it’s done to artificially pump up demand.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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