Science's Why Not Today Problem

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Science  07 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5450, pp. 39
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5450.39

All those privileged to participate in science today should be enormously excited about the prospects for the new year and century. Scientists are now equipped with exhilaratingly powerful tools and shape their next experiments from a staggering collection of past successes. Information, let alone knowledge, has never before increased at this pace. Indeed, the pursuit of information has become the major economic driving force of the global economy. Not only is science exciting the public and driving the electronic and biotechnology industries; more and more, the public expects science to solve tomorrow's problems.

The downside of all this speed, power, and data is that you can drown in it while treading as fast as you can. Sciencehas long been committed to bringing our readers novel thought-preservers—intellectual life jackets to help readers understand what's new and important as well as what to anticipate. Increasingly, the emphasis is shifting to interdisciplinary and integrative science over specialization. In that bright new data-packed, opportunity-laden world, finding the highlights not only becomes ever more important but approaches an absolute requirement. Although Science's tools for scholars, both in print and more recently online, have been refined as their number has grown, this year's effort should help readers move to a new level of proficiency.

Starting with this issue, Scienceis launching a new feature, “Editors' Choice,” consisting of brief, generally intellectually accessible synopses written by our editors and highlighting articles published in other journals, just as Science papers are highlighted in This Week in Science (TWIS). Because only a few such significant articles can be featured in News or Compass, Editors' Choice is intended to alert readers to other interesting items spotted by our editors while monitoring their literature. Editors' Choice together with TWIS will provide our readers with a quick, reliable resource for keeping on top of the world of science.

Perhaps the single most important new feature for 2000, to be implemented in February, will be electronic submittal of manuscripts at the new Web site designed especially for this purpose ( At that time, electronic review of papers will become our standard practice. Authors' choices and reviewers' timeliness should both benefit from this option, which we expect to expedite consideration, accelerate communication, and cut costs and wasted time. Of course, Science will still accept papers the old-fashioned way, too.

For more than 15 years, Science has used a two-tiered review process, relying first on a Board of Reviewing Editors (known belovedly inside our walls as the BoRE) made up of nearly 100 distinguished scientists in all fields worldwide. This year, our BoRE will be repopulated to relieve those who have expended their time and effort so diligently on our behalf and to seek advisors in the new areas demanded by the breadth of papers now being received. Those who do not occasionally browse through our editorial roster ( may have missed its growth. We now have more than 20 scientifically trained manuscript selection and decision editors, including five in our Cambridge, UK, offices. Last summer, one senior editor established our editorial office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With this expanded editorial staff, Science strives to offer prospective authors more personal attention, rapidly and with broader representation.

Many other efforts are under way: more Perspectives; more online dEbates; the return online of Books Received, now searchable; the ability to search topics across multiple journals online (see; and some style changes to ease referencing and formatting (see the Information for Contributors in this issue and online). Science's yearlong salute to the millennium will launch here next week.

Why don't we launch all of our creative ideas at once? The fact is, many readers still survey the literature the way they did last century and couldn't care less about the e-knowledge hullabaloo. If the scientific enterprise is to realize its potential—to improve human welfare, foster education, and promote a more informed public, interested and able to understand their place in nature and the universe—all these tools and more will be needed. Giving readers what they want, not just what technology can create, is really our Y2K problem. To fulfill this commitment to you, we need to hear your views. Happy New Year, and beyond.

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