Science - September 22, 2005

Wageningen scores well in Science and Nature

A survey done by the Wageningen UR library shows that the number of Wageningen publications in Nature and Science has risen explosively in recent years. This week the Entomology Group was celebrating again.

It is the second time this year that a researcher in the group has had an article published in Science. First time round the honour went to malaria researcher Dr Willem Takken, and this week it was Dr Iris Kapper’s turn to publish in Science. The content of the article is still under embargo from Science. Kapper’s article is the ninth from Wageningen UR to make it to one of the two most internationally prestigious scientific journals this year.

This year’s achievements are approaching those of 2004, when Wageningen had a record 13 publications in the two journals. There is a definite upward trend. From 2000 to 2003, about three or four bottles of champagne were opened in celebration, far more than during the 1980s, when there was never more than one publication per year in Nature or Science. During the entire 1970s there were only three publications.

Top of the list of publishers in Wageningen is molecular biologist Professor Ton Bisseling. He was published six times in Nature and Science during his career and thinks that the increase in frequency is due to the attitude of the graduate schools. They have made sure that researchers are much more aware of the impact of the journals to which they submit their articles. Bisseling himself is on the board of reviewing editors for Science. ‘An article for Science must appeal to a wide public. I review about a hundred articles a year, so I have a good idea of how an article should be presented. You have to be able to see in less than an hour whether something has novelty value or not.’

The entomologist Professor Marcel Dicke, whose group will have a second article published this year: ‘Previous successes have a positive effect. We have been too modest for too long. The article that appears in Science this week was first rejected by Nature. A couple of years ago this would probably have discouraged us, but now we thought, “dammit, we have a good story here, let’s send it to Science”. And that was worth it.’

Wageningen is not the only Dutch university that can claim an increase in publications in prestigious journals. The University of Leiden had ten publications in Science and Nature in 2004, and Utrecht had seventeen. In the 1990s both universities had a score of five to ten publications a year. / KV

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