So you want to publish a Brevia in Science. Well, I do, but that’s beside the point. What are the requirements? Actually the Science Magazine website is not internally consistent. This page lists one set of requirements, and this page lists another. I’ve seen the requirement for the abstract listed at 50 words and 100 words. According to Pamela Hines, Senior Editor, it’s 125 words, but perhaps she was referring to regular Reports. The Supplemental Online Material is stated to be limited to 500 words or a figure, but that gets routinely violated also. Brevia consist of ”not more than six references”, or are “suggested” to have as many as six references, except when they don’t. Okay, I’m nit-picking. What really matters?
At the 2009 AAAS seminar “How to publish in Science”, Pamela Hines stated that Brevia are for work that is “emotionally suited” to the venue. That is, they are not incomplete studies, but “fun”, generalist results of very broad interest. I see the fun label as also flexible, since high-impact environmental results have been showcased there, and no one would regard contaminant transfer through food webs as “fun”. But I know what she means: accessibility for the entire readership. Other than that, the standard requirements apply, says Dr. Hines. Can you communicate with educated, but not expert readers? Does every sentence say what you mean it to say?
Further standard considerations apply, according to Dr. Hines. Conclusions must be convincing, interpretations must be supported, mechanistic insights must be sufficient, biological relevance must be sufficiently evidenced. Excessive or unfounded speculation and examples repeating what’s been seen elsewhere will hurt your chances. Yet the field of inquiry, AAAS membership, being American, being an eminent author, working for a prestigious institution, or contacting the journal prior to submission does not matter.
I asked Dr. Hines why Science has but one Brevia per issue. She responded that it’s just a general editorial decision. Then she asked me if I would like to see more Brevia. I said that would allow more papers, and hence, more chances to get in.
I also asked her if stating predictions, e.g. hypotheses, was important. Interestingly she was not as insistent on authors stating a priori predictions as I would have…predicted. To be sure, this is more like the classic scientific method, but just as important would be asking an important question but getting an unexpected answer.
I have chosen to state our predictions in the Brevia manuscript I’m preparing. I believe in actually making a priori predictions, and I believe it strengthens the “story” told in the manuscript. If we get reviewed, I’ll be interested to see if the reviewers comment on this.
For more on writing for Science Magazine, see my other posts: