Nature Protocols is coming to the end of its 7th volume, and after publishing only one type of article for the past seven years, this month sees the introduction of a brand new article type: the Protocol Update.
At first glance our first Protocol Update1 follows the same basic format as the hundreds of Protocols we’ve published so far. However it is an acknowledgement that over time protocols are improved upon. The major differences between Protocol Updates and Protocols are:
- Protocol Updates have headers to say it is an update
- Protocol Updates are always at the start of the issue
- Protocol Updates contain a statement at the start to make it clear it is an update of a protocol we published previously (back in 20062 in this first example).
- Protocol Updates include a discussion of how this new version compares to the original, explaining the rationale for the improvements as well as making it clear which parts remain the same.
You may be wondering why we have introduced this new article type. Whilst we have the functionality for authors and readers to comment on protocols, these comments are not peer reviewed and their presence at the end of a protocol means they can be missed by readers of the protocol. For the particular protocol we have updated, the authors, referees and editors agreed that there were sufficient improvements to the procedure presented back in 2006 to justify publishing a new version. The area covered – quality assurance for polychromatic flow cytometry – is basic but important to get right. It is needed to support a diverse range of methods with many biological applications, and this importance has driven various improvements. We decided we should acknowledge this and provide an updated protocol for its many users. However as it is not a new protocol – the authors are the same, the applications the same, and even some of the text – we are not labelling it as a new protocol. So you will see, if you compare the articles, that where there is new information, this is included, however where there is no change, but the information remains important for users of the protocol, it has been retained.
Given our large scope, and the many innovative new methods being developed, we don’t anticipate publishing many Protocol Update articles each year. There is just too much exciting research going on and it is important to focus on covering these new protocols, plus those we have still not managed to cover in the past seven years. The choice available to editors when commissioning new protocols can be overwhelming so we aim to continue to focus on commissioning topics we have not covered previously rather than revisiting what we have already published. However, we felt we needed the option, occasionally, to update an area we’ve covered before.
If you have any comments and suggestions we are, as always, keen for feedback.