Happy New Year

Science  03 Jan 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5603, pp. 17
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5603.17

This issue of Science welcomes 2003, and with it we extend to our colleagues in the scientific community our warm wishes for a productive, rewarding New Year. As usually happens at this time of year, we also have some changes to announce. We hope you'll like them enough to think of them as useful, if belated, holiday gifts. At our editorial retreat in September 2002, we spent a couple of days thinking about two issues our readers have been bringing to our attention. One has to do with the clarity and accessibility of the papers we publish: Too often we are told that it is harder than it ought to be for an accomplished scientist to read papers outside his or her specialty. The other is about navigability—how easy, or difficult, it is for readers to understand the organization of Science so they can find what interests them.

One place in which we can address both concerns is in the Table of Contents you just passed. As you see, it has been redesigned to look less cluttered, we think, and graphically more interesting. Our purpose was to give the journal's different departments a clearer identity and make it easier for readers to scan the list of Research Articles and Reports to find the papers that fall in their own area. The Table of Contents now contains a brief sentence after each Research Article or Report that communicates the essential finding of the paper, to guide readers toward material outside their own fields that they might want to digest. You will also find new content: a “community page” of sorts, as a second Random Samples page in the News section, and the first in a brand-new series of Essays.

Of less concern to some readers, although very important to others, are changes in our Information for Contributors. We continue to encourage authors to submit, as online supplements, materials, methods, and supporting details that are less essential to the main thrust of the paper. This should help improve the clarity of Reports by modestly expanding the space for explanation and clarification. Another change responds to new concerns related to national security: We caution authors about the possibility that use might be made by terrorists of certain kinds of new scientific information, particularly microbiological. Science has installed an additional review step, which we will undertake for reports that raise that issue.

So much for organization and mechanics. The completion of one annual cycle and the beginning of a new one calls for some reflection on the past year. 2002, the first full year of the War on Terror, has brought other challenges to our community in addition to handling papers on hot bugs. Academic scientists in the United States and their institutions are coping— slowly, and maybe not in time—with new regulations for tracking foreign students and visiting colleagues. The application of governmental controls intended for weapons and their specifications to more basic kinds of research is back again, having been in hiatus since the end of the Cold War. Looking forward, though, there is much to hope for. Here is my wish list; perhaps it will include an item or two that finds a place on yours.

  • 1) 2003 sees the United States join a consortium of nations committed to a broad program of research on climate-change mitigation through the development of alternative energy sources.

  • 2) Growing concern about the responsible conduct of science leads to a sharp reduction in cases of research misconduct, without the need for new and more stringent government regulation.

  • 3) There is a consensus that impediments to the free exchange of scientific data and materials should be dropped.

  • 4) Material transfer agreements wither, and here at Science we no longer hear complaints from outraged readers that authors won't send them their transfected cells.

  • 5) In the United States, immigration rules and restrictions on access to research projects, which seemed troubling at the end of 2002, are clarified to everyone's relief.

  • 6) Best of all, scientific work continues unabated on the world's significant problems of human health and environmental quality.

A lot to hope for, perhaps even outrageously optimistic. Well, didn't we say it was a wish list?

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