Stuart Cantrill on the Growing Success of Nature Chemistry

Journal Interview, January 2012


A recent analysis of Essential Science IndicatorsSM data from Thomson Reuters shows that the journal Nature Chemistry is having a growing impact among journals in the field of Chemistry. The journal's record in this field includes 272 papers cited a total of 4,901 times between its 2009 launch and August 31, 2011.

Nature Chemistry's Impact Factor in the current release of Journal Citation Reports® is17.927, and the journal ranks at #4 by Impact Factor among all journals in the Chemistry, Multidisciplinary category.

In the interview below, talks with Nature Chemistry's Chief Editor, Dr. Stuart Cantrill, about the journal's history and citation achievements.

SW: Did you expect Nature Chemistry to become highly cited, or is this surprising to you?

At the time of Nature Chemistry's launch in 2009, there were already some long-established general chemistry journals and so although we hoped to compete favorably with these existing titles, we weren't going to take anything for granted. Nevertheless, the goal was to create a top-quality journal by publishing the very best primary research in all areas of chemistry, complemented with other content—including reviews, commentaries, editorials and research highlights—that would be of broad interest to the wider community.

When our first Impact Factor was released in the middle of 2011, we were very pleased with how well we compared with our competitors, and delighted to be the #1 journal publishing primary research in the Chemistry, Multidisciplinary category.

SW: How would you account for the high citation rate of Nature Chemistry?

The high citation rate is most likely a reflection of the quality and appeal of the content that Nature Chemistry publishes. In turn, this reflects the considerable time and effort that our team of full-time professional editors dedicates to each stage of the editorial process.

After an initial evaluation by the editorial team, only manuscripts that are thought to offer compelling new chemical insight or significant practical implications are selected for external peer review. Referees are then carefully chosen by an editor to ensure that the process is both fair and thorough. Our editors also guide our authors through the process of revising a manuscript and may also provide substantial editorial input to the final published version of a paper (particularly to the abstract and also the figures) to make sure that the work is presented in a way that will be clear and accessible to a broad audience of chemists.

SW: Would you give us a brief history of the journal?

"At the time of Nature Chemistry's launch in 2009, there were already some long-established general chemistry journals and so although we hoped to compete favorably with these existing titles, we weren't going to take anything for granted."

The decision to launch Nature Chemistry was made in 2007 and I started as the chief editor in February of 2008, just over a year before we published our first paper. The journal followed in the footsteps of other successful physical sciences research titles launched by Nature Publishing Group, but is tailored to the needs of the chemistry community. For example, this means that Nature Chemistry has graphical abstracts (most other Nature journals do not) and we also enhance the chemical content of our papers by providing compound pages with useful chemical information as well as annotating the main text of our research articles so that chemical entities are linked to external databases.

We're also quite interactive with the chemistry community. Before we launched, we often invited comment on our blog (The Sceptical Chymist) about our plans for the journal, and the blog has remained active since. We also engage with our (more than 50,000) followers on Twitter and we will continue to interact with our authors and readers in this way—as well as through more traditional means such as attending conferences and visiting institutions and laboratories.

SW: What historical factors have contributed to the success of Nature Chemistry?

The successful launch of other discipline-specific research journals by Nature Publishing Group certainly provided a very useful blueprint for how to go about turning Nature Chemistry from an idea into a real functioning journal. In particular, our marketing team came up with fun and innovative ways to raise the community's awareness of the journal at conferences and through our website. And for many (although not everyone), the "Nature" name is synonymous with the publication of high-quality scientific research, so that may have also registered with the community.

Another factor that meant we hit the ground running was that each member of the founding editorial team at the journal had prior editorial experience at other chemistry publishers, including the American Chemical Society, The Royal Society of Chemistry, and Wiley.

Also, as I alluded to earlier, although many niche chemistry journals have been launched over the past decade, the main general chemistry journals that most people would want to send their best work to (including myself when I was a graduate student) had all been around for quite some time before Nature Chemistry was launched. Perhaps it helped that we were just something new—and a bit different in terms of the much smaller number of papers that we publish each year.

SW: Have there been specific developments in the fields served by Nature Chemistry that may have contributed?

There are certainly some areas of chemistry that seem to garner more citations than others. The explosion of interest over recent years in graphene, and particularly its chemistry, has been quite dramatic and it seems that papers we publish on this topic are cited quickly and often. Two other popular citation areas that spring to mind are metal–organic frameworks (or MOFs as everyone refers to them) and organocatalysis. All three of these areas are what some would refer to as "hot" or "trendy" and there is certainly a lot of attention focused on them. The truly standout papers in these areas will likely attract a lot of citations.

But of course, there are also fields that aren't generally thought of as trendy or hot, but still produce really interesting work—we've published papers in those areas too, and sometimes they get cited more than you might think. There are also emerging areas in chemistry in which we have published papers, including topological insulators and quantum computation of molecular properties.

"We hope to inspire chemists to push the boundaries of our science even further and to think critically about the role that chemistry has to play in today's society."

SW: What, in your view, is this journal's main significance or contribution in the field of Chemistry?

This question is one that is best answered by the chemistry community; I think it is for them to say what sort of contribution we offer or why we are significant to them. Nevertheless our goal is that Nature Chemistry should be a venue where any chemist can go looking for (and find) the most important developments in chemical research.

In addition to this, however, we aim to provide an overview of interesting research published in other journals (through our research highlights and News and Views articles) and offer critical insight into research topics (through review articles) and non-research issues (in editorials and commentaries). We hope to inspire chemists to push the boundaries of our science even further and to think critically about the role that chemistry has to play in today's society.

SW: How do you see your field(s) evolving in the next few years?

Chemistry is not really a field that progresses in massive leaps, it evolves quite slowly and methodically by building on the substantial body of knowledge that has been accumulated over the past century and a half. This is not to say that chemistry is not exciting or that it does not have a massive impact on our daily lives—nothing could be further from the truth!

As pointed out in relation to 2011 being designated as the International Year of Chemistry, our science has a crucial role to play in solving global problems and perhaps one of the most important of these is energy. The efficient generation of clean and renewable energy is a challenge that chemistry is well equipped to tackle and developments in this area will hopefully gather pace in the next few years. And when it comes to the topic of human health, chemistry will continue to be a major player; vital not just for making and developing drugs, but also for providing us the tools that will help us gain a better understanding of the molecular basis of how the body functions.

SW: What role do you see for your journal?

At Nature Chemistry we seek to highlight the most important advances in our field, whether the primary research was published in our journal or not. In addition, we also look at other topics such as safety, education, publishing, and communication to name but a few. We strive to present our content in a clear and accessible manner and this is further enhanced by the high levels of text and figure copyediting applied by our editorial production team.

We aim to be an essential all-round read for chemists and other scientists with an interest in chemistry. Moreover, by interacting with the chemistry community through both our blog and Twitter account, we hope to bring together chemists from different laboratories around the world and encourage discussion and debate—and perhaps even collaboration.End

Nature Chemistry
Dr. Stuart Cantrill, Chief Editor
Nature Publishing Group, publishers


Matyjaszewski K, Tsarevsky NV, “Nanostructured functional materials prepared by atom transfer radical polymerization,” Nat. Chem. 1(4): 276-88, July 2009 with 161 cites. Source: Essential Science Indicators from Clarivate Analytics.


  • This journal is a Rising Star in Chemistry for January 2012.



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