Death of Letter Journals

Can we please just kill the letter journals now? You know, NatureScience, Geology? Because calling them scientific journals is increasingly a joke.

The typical article in these journals of late is an introduction, a discussion and a conclusion.  The data and methods?  Why those are in the supplemental materials. Editorials are written this way, scientific communications rely on the data and the methods used to analyze them. So it is time to strip these journals of the prestige usually accorded them and recognize them for what they are: collections of extended abstracts with controversial conclusions. Supplemental materials should be limited to large data tables and, occasionally, some specific details of data collection that do not bear on the analysis.  This is increasingly not the case.  Many papers published in these tabloid journals (following Wunsch’s 2010 naming) have supplemental materials that are longer than the published paper, and this is the growing trend.  So to really understand these papers, you have to read something 2 or 3 or 4 times the length of the thing that is supposedly the journal article.

This is too bad for those few true short papers (they do exist but are increasingly rare), but it is time to recognize that the age of the letter journal is past. We have a choice now between continuing to publish these extended abstracts and pretend that they mean something and simply moving on to restore journal articles to be complete entities as they had been in the past.  GG votes for real journal articles.


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