Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The nature of Nature

We published an essay on John Maddox last week, which many people have written to me to say they enjoyed. In researching this piece I spoke to a lot of my journalist colleagues about Maddox. It was a real privilege to be able to write this story. A couple of people mentioned something interesting about Maddox that got eliminated from my story by my editors.

Henry Gee a senior editor at Nature said that Maddox really admired The Economist. He said, "he wanted Nature to be like the Economist, he wanted Nature to be like a newspaper, to do for science what The Economist did for business, crsip tightly edited, utterly authoritative, he told me this several times."

This little aspect of Maddox's intentions didn't make it into print, I suppose because it would have seemed to much like boasting, and seem a little self-serving. But equally by editing it out, we did actually intentionally cover up a bit of the story.

Maddox's independence still runs strong through Nature, something that is helped by the fact that it doesn't have an editorial board as Science does. But during tough times, it is the commercial ventures like Nature that are usually faced with the most difficult decisions. So it will be interesting to see how Nature weathers the economic storms. (Related to this, I read that the owners of Nature, Macmillan, have decided to bring Scientific American closer into the Nature fold.)

So to read my essay about John Maddox, which is a sort of anti-obit, follow this link.