First papers are now out!

Today we published our first advance articles in Environmental Science: Nano, and we’re really pleased that there’s already been significant interest in the journal.

One article in particular has gained readers’ attention on social media, owing to its title: “A chemical free, nanotechnology-based method for airborne bacterial inactivation using engineered water nanostructures”. Some people found it quite strange to read “chemical free” in an article published in a chemical science journal.

People find many different meanings in the phrase “chemical free”, and we’re interested in hearing what you think. We will be publishing the author’s views later, as a follow up to this post. In the interim, we would like to know your views on the phrase “chemical free”? Tell us in the comments section below. If you’re interested in reading more about how people view chemicals, check out this recent feature in Chemistry World (we’ve made it free to access).

Posted 28th Nov 2013

Note from Dr Harpal Minhas, Managing Editor.

Thank you for your comments – I acknowledge the title of this paper is controversial and I’d like to address some of the issues you’ve raised below and on social media.

The titles of research articles and other content in peer reviewed journals are the responsibility of the authors concerned and do not necessarily reflect the views of Editors or Publishers. However, in this case, we can understand why people would object to the title.

From now on we’re adding specific checks and balances in our editorial process to hopefully avoid these issues in the future. When we pick up “chemical free” language being used in titles, abstracts or article text, we’ll change it at proof stage to what we feel is a more appropriate term, explaining carefully to the author why we’ve made that specific change. We suspect most authors will welcome this guidance.

I can assure you that we did not suggest this title to the author, and we would never alter titles for any promotional activities. The title of any paper is decided by the author and their co-workers based on what they feel are the most important/relevant aspects of the research it represents. This ensures that they are able to frame the work in the way they feel is most appropriate to the community that the work addresses. Reviewers can comment on the title and ask for modifications. In this case they did not, but they did the rate the paper very highly for its research content. Once a paper is accepted, Editors and Publishers very rarely ask for authors to alter titles, based on their own opinions, as the paper has been appropriately approved by relevant peer review process. However, as noted above, we feel that the additional checks and balances would help authors to express themselves more clearly in controversial cases such as this.

With regards to the suggestion of retracting the article, we are a member of the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) and we follow their recommendation and guidelines. Articles are only retracted under a specific set of circumstances; these are outlined here and this case does not fall into these categories.

I’d like to specifically thank Mark Lorch for his message and comments about this article, and I want to take this opportunity to say that we agree with him when he says that it is wrong to use this phrase as an advertising slogan. Mark wrote a very interesting article on this subject for the BBC Magazine recently.

As has been pointed out, we have been critical of the phrase “chemical free” in the past and will continue to be. We try to engage with everyone about their perceptions of the word “chemicals” and really appreciate the passion from the community.

Posted 2nd Dec 2013

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)