Re: [asa] 31,000 scientists against global warming.

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Fri Dec 04 2009 - 17:34:03 EST

On Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 2:21 PM, Terry M. Gray <>wrote:

> PNAS itself didn't use to be even peer-reviewed. I think as long as an NAS
> member was willing to sponsor a paper it could be published. Could someone
> confirm this? Is this still true today?
> I ran into this because of my own interest in Linus Pauling's
> counter-mainstream vitamin C research.
> TG

What Terry is referring to is so-called communicated submissions which
allowed a member of the NAS to sponsor a non-member's paper. This changed
around 1995 when direct submissions were introduced. Over 10,000 papers are
directly submitted to the peer reviewers as of 2008. On July 1, 2010 the
communicated submission will go away.

This communicated the policy change:

As of July 1, 2010, PNAS will no longer allow the submission of papers
“Communicated” to the journal by NAS members and will instead handle these
papers as Direct Submissions. Authors are free to ask an NAS member to edit
their paper as a “Prearranged Editor” prior to submission to PNAS.
Assignments are handled by the Editorial Board, and members who agree in
principle to edit a paper are given special consideration by the board. NAS
member contributions are not affected by this policy change.

PNAS has a nearly 100-year history of scientific publishing that is governed
by principles established by George Ellery Hale in 1914, which include
publication of work by a nonmember that appears to an NAS member to be of
particular importance. Until 1995, the majority of papers published in PNAS
were authored by nonmembers whose work was “Communicated” by an NAS member
who believed the work to be of sufficient significance to warrant
publication in the Academy's journal. Many such papers were landmarks in
their field, such as the 1950 paper by John Nash
that described a principle now known as the Nash equilibrium, the 1977
discovery of split genes and RNA splicing by Phillip Sharp
and the 1979 finding by Hershko et al. of the ATP-dependent proteolytic
system responsible for protein degradation

In 1995 PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli introduced the option of
“Direct Submission” by authors, both members and nonmembers. Manuscripts
submitted directly to the PNAS office that pass initial screening by the
Editorial Board (now comprised of 167 NAS members) are anonymously
peer-reviewed by experts in the field of the paper, and the final decision
on publication is made by an NAS member. This option has enjoyed enormous
success, growing from 31 submissions in 1995 to 10,573 in 2008.Indeed, PNAS
continues to experience dramatic growth in submissions (Fig.
and impact (4 <>).
 [image: Fig. 1.]<>
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Fig. 1.

A graph of the number of Communicated and Direct Submissions received since

As the popularity of the Direct Submission path increased, many members
declined to communicate papers and instead asked authors to send their work
directly to PNAS, naming a member as a potential editor. Through a process
called “Prearranged Editor,” an author may ask an NAS member to edit a
Direct Submission paper, as they would have done for a Communicated paper.
When the manuscript is received by PNAS, the NAS member designated as the
Prearranged Editor is asked to comment on the significance of the work and
recommend a final decision on publication after peer review, which is
handled—as for all Direct Submissions—by the PNAS office. Before the
peer-review process is initiated, a member of the PNAS Editorial Board is
asked to confirm that the Prearranged Editor has the requisite expertise and
the paper is appropriate for publication in PNAS (see the PNAS Information
for Authors at

The popularity of Direct Submission and the declining number of Communicated
papers factored heavily in a recent proposal by the Editorial Board to
eliminate the latter. Votes of the Editorial Board affirming this proposal
were followed by a poll of all NAS members, who favored the proposal by a
large margin. After extensive discussion at its meeting in early August and
on the recommendation of its Committee on Publications, the NAS Council
voted to approve the proposal to eliminate Communicated papers from PNAS,
effective July 1, 2010, and strengthen the system of Prearranged Editors. At
the same time, the Board and the Council affirmed the unique role of PNAS in
publishing the most important work of its members in the form of Contributed
papers, a feature of the journal that will not change.

The publication of papers that NAS members recognize as exceptional, but out
of the mainstream, is encouraged under the Prearranged Editor system, as it
has been with Communicated papers. The Council endorsed the view that this
change—which permits members to facilitate the publication of such papers in
PNAS but without the administrative burden of managing the review process
themselves—will make the review process more uniform by centralizing it in
the PNAS office for all manuscripts submitted by nonmembers and will assure
readers of PNAS that all manuscripts are vetted by an appropriate authority
in the subject area. Academy members continue to make the final decision on
all PNAS papers, unlike the process in place at such journals as *Nature*, *
Cell*, and *Science*, where final editorial decisions are often made by
staff rather than practicing researchers.

The Editorial Board believes that the Prearranged Editor process for Direct
Submissions combines the best of the Communicated and Direct Submission
processes. PNAS is unique because of its relationship with the NAS and its
members—leading scientists in the US and abroad—who not only publish some of
their own best work in PNAS but who also manage the journal and make all
editorial decisions. In the end, every paper published in PNAS has the seal
of approval of an Academy member. With the introduction of NAS member
Inaugural Articles, Commentaries, Perspectives, Feature Articles, and
Letters, PNAS strives to serve the entire scientific community.

We welcome questions and comments about this policy change.

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Received on Fri Dec 4 17:34:43 2009

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