My short bio: I have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for my part in revealing the machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in human cells.

Also this week, I declared in The Guardian my decision to no longer publish in luxury journals like Cell, Nature, or Science.

I’m Editor-in-chief of the open-access journal eLife, which publishes the most important advances in the life and biomedical sciences -- as judged by our board of working scientists.

I’ve been professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley since 1976 and strongly believe in the importance of public research universities and public education.

So Reddit, ask me anything! PS Only around for 1hr, still in Stockholm!

My Proof:

Comments: 706 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

curlyhairedsheep591 karma

As a Nobel laureate, you clearly benefited from the glamour publications and now have less to lose while walking away from them. What do you suggest to young postdocs who are frustrated with the current system but are concerned about future job prospects being contingent on publication in these luxury journals? How do your current postdocs feel about this decision and their future career prospects?

schekman540 karma

Yes, good and obvious question. Of course, I have nothing to lose at this point but we all are losing because of the current "luxury" journal system that amounts to a lottery system for work makes it into in Cell, Nature and Science. The most crucial point to understand is that these journals base their decision n what can fit into a print version which artificially limits the number of papers they can publish. Why should we have such a limitation in the 21st century? This tyranny must end and my postdocs are perfectly happy to publish their best work in journals such as eLife where all decisions are made by active scientists. More and more PIs are coming to this conclusion and as a group we CAN change the system!

Dumma172995 karma

Second what /u/XUONO said. Why not support PLoS journals and PLoS One?

schekman167 karma

Yes, these are fine journals but they have not yet challenged the stranglehold Cell, Nature and Science have on the biomedical literature. Thus, I feel we need a another venue where the decisions are made in an open and consultative manner with experts who are practicing scientists making all the decisions about what to review, what manuscript revisions to recommend and ultimately, what to accept for publication

XOUNO62 karma

So why only accept 26% of papers submitted to eLife?

schekman138 karma

Where did you get that number? In any case, eLife must be selective if we are to encourage submission of the most important work. If we accepted a majority of the submitted articles, we would not attract major discoveries. However, we will not make our decisions based on the latest fashion or a desire to improve an "impact factor"!

richvn96 karma

The 26% figure was included in an editorial that you wrote in eLife in April of this year: . You explain that about 43% of submissions make it through an initial stage, and of those that make it through, 40% are sent back at the secondary review stage.

schekman86 karma

This number changes from month to month so we really do not have a meaningful snapshot of where we stand an=t the end of this calendar year.

XOUNO28 karma

Forgive me then for not seeing distinction you are making between eLife and other journals which also screen majority of submitted content.

schekman78 karma

I repeat, we will not use fad and fashion will studiously avoid the use of impact factor in our editorial decisions.

microbialevolution33 karma

It seems like your substantive issue with the status quo may be the use of professional editors over scientists. Is this true? Why do you think this message has been so hard to see in the press coverage?

On a related note, what percent of their working time do you think a junior or senior scientist should spend editing and reviewing papers?

schekman58 karma

The use of professional editors is only one of several crucial differences between the luxury journals and eLife and other Open Access journals. Even more important is the restriction imposed by the print model of the luxury journals. This creates an artificial commodity that should be irrelevant in the 21st century. We will continue to emphasize these distinctions in our press coverage of this issue.

A junior scientist can and should spend some time, but perhaps not as much as a senior scientist, in refereeing papers for journals. It is a useful and collegial thing to do.

NYPhD181 karma

what do you think about the need to publish negative results? Not all science is positive data and discovering new pathways, but the many experiments done to disprove hypotheses deserve to be published, right? They can go a long way in preventing time and money waste by other researchers, as well as guide novel projects away from dead ends. Do journals (like eLife) receive such submissions, and how do they deal with them? Should journals support and encourage such publications?

schekman173 karma

Yes, negative data are important and should have a place for publication. eLife will publish such results if the negative data come to some new and important conclusions

curlyhairedsheep100 karma

How do you define "important"? At the end of the day, that's the real gatekeeper - the trend-based biases toward what is sexy science at that moment. There's lots of meaningful science that isn't trendy, won't get you news coverage today, but yields a better understanding of biological systems that may give rise to something more "exciting" in the future.

schekman100 karma

I define important by the opinions of the members of my editorial board who are experts in their fields. Admittedly, this is a subjective judgement, but I trust the pinion of my board members because they have a proven and ongoing track record of creative and technically excellent research.

InfernalWedgie125 karma

Hi Professor Schekman. I'm a Cal MCB alumna. You were one of my professors for MCB 130. I just wanted to tell you that your section of the course was my favorite, and the things I learned from you led me to my current job. Thank you. GO BEARS!

Edit: Initially got the course # wrong. I graduated more than a decade ago

schekman116 karma

I am proud to represent the University of California and public higher educational in general at this year's Nobel Prize festivities.

JackOfAllCodes99 karma

Which is your favorite cycle: Krebs, Purine, or other?

schekman490 karma


Gravy-Leg__97 karma

How was the food at the Nobel Prize banquet? What dish was your favorite?

schekman127 karma

Superb! Dessert.

OmegaArcadia88 karma

In layman's terms, what does your discovery entail, specifically?

schekman137 karma

My work revealed the genes and proteins required for the export (secretion) of proteins from cells.

wellthread57 karma

Dr. Schekman, publications in prestigious journals are often used as the yardstick to measure faculty candidates, which seem to get more competitive each year. If you think that these journals aren't necessarily a great measure of good science (which I would agree), how do you judge faculty candidates? How would you encourage faculty search committees to judge candidates?

schekman132 karma

Have job candidates write a brief - no longer than 250 word - self assessment of their most important discoveries. This is exactly how candidates for election to the National Academy of Sciences are evaluated and not where the work is published.

greenlibrarian54 karma

I noticed your stance on luxury journals, and applaud your efforts in the open-access arena. What are your thoughts on other science-based publishing in Elsevier or Wiley journals?

schekman86 karma

I have nothing against commercial publishers per se. If they make a better product that people wish to purchase, more power to them. However, I prefer the Open Access format which allows anyone to read the literature without respect to institutional affiliation. Commercial publishers have been slow to adopt Open Access in its most permissive form.

Juxxtaposition46 karma

Go Bears!

schekman58 karma


rkt88edmo44 karma

Are you in VLSB? How much competition will you have for the nearest parking spot?

Congrats!!! Go Bears!!!!

schekman47 karma

No, I am n the Li Ka Shing building. Fortunately, there are usually enough spaces in the garage in which I park that the addition of my NL spot will have little to no effect on the freedom of others to park in this garage.

Juxxtaposition11 karma

I think he is in Li-Ka-Shing

schekman12 karma


Gravy-Leg__36 karma

Do you know who nominated you for your Nobel Prize?

schekman54 karma

No, although I believe I was nominated by many independent people.

KaylaChinga36 karma

Thanks, Dr. Schenkman. What applications do you foresee from your research?

schekman113 karma

My work has already yielded practical applications. When we found that yeast cells use a pathway of secretion similar to animal cells, the biotech industry engineered yeast to express and secrete useful quantities of human proteins such as insulin.

XOUNO33 karma

How do you classify a journal as being 'luxury' and, for example, is PNAS one?

schekman77 karma

Luxury journals are those that limit publication to an artificially low number, just as fashion designers limit the production of particular models of clothing. The luxury journals Cell, Nature and Science do this by restricting articles to those that can fit into a print run. The Executive Editor of Science, Monica Bradford admitted as much in her response to my editorial in the Guardian. I do not classify PNAS as a luxury journal. When I was Editor of PNAS, my policy was to publish everything that met our high standard irrespective of the number of pages we printed.

slip_shod27 karma

Do co-receipients split the fortune rewarded?

schekman63 karma

Nobel prizes generally are split equally among the co-recipients. However, on occasion, the prize is split in half with one half given to a single person with the other half shared by two individuals.

JackOfAllCodes269 karma

I have a math minor, so let me help break this down for everyone:

Person A: 50% Person B: 25% Person C: 25%

schekman198 karma

How perceptive!

actually_a_cucumber25 karma

2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Well, which was it?

But I also have a serious question: What are your thoughts about bibliometrics, rankings of institutions and researchers based on citation counts and the like. I am afraid that this could lead to similar developments like the ones you criticize about the big 'luxury' journals. Do you allow/accept/promote such methods to be applied to articles published in elifesciences?

schekman30 karma

We have altmetrics available for each of our published papers, but I believe the only way to judge the scholarly impact of published work is to read the paper!

stationtracks24 karma

As a professor at one of the best public universities, how do you see public education evolving with regards to tuition and the job market within the next 5-10 years?

schekman76 karma

I certainly hope that tuition ceases to increase at the pace we have seen during the past 10 years. No idea how the job market will develop. But our job is to teach people to think critically and not necessarily to train them for a particular occupation. Critical thinking can come from a vigorous curriculum in the humanities or sciences.

zaikanekochan23 karma

What is your preferred way of cooking eggs?

schekman43 karma

Over well

zaikanekochan68 karma


Step 1. Eat over-well eggs.

Step 2. ?

Step 3. Win Nobel Prize.

schekman84 karma

  1. Years of work!

Illbjammin22 karma

Hi Professor,what was your inspiration for your research?

schekman36 karma

A desire to understand the basic principles of protein secretion. I was inspired by many teachers and other scientists who pioneered the study of macromolecular biosynthesis in bacteria, yeast and mammalian cells and tissues.

sterben20 karma

You describe eLife as publishing the "most important advances in the life and biomedical sciences". Other than journal reputation / historic presence and accessibility (open access), how does this differ from the goals and current status of CNS? Specifically, when you start judging science based on some level of "significance", aren't you falling into the same trap as other publishers or are you planning on publishing -everything- that meets your significance criteria? Is there anything you are doing different to judge this criteria, or is more of the standard pre-publication peer review type of system?

schekman28 karma

I've answered this in my responses to other questions. Basically, I prefer to have active and critical scientists in key decision-making positions. I believe active scientists are in the best position to judge novelty and technical excellence.

falafelwafflerofl20 karma

What is the one piece of advice you would want to give a female entering a science-based field?

schekman152 karma

Work hard, stay focused and do not be become discouraged by the daily frustrations of your research. Keep your eye on the big picture. This is the same advice I would provide to a male entering a career in scientific research.

stack_cats19 karma

Do you have any feelings about the publications Cell or Nature?

schekman39 karma

These journals publish many fine papers and I have published in them myself over the years. However, I have now decided not to publish in what I call the luxury journals because I believe their editorial policies, such as limiting publications to what can be accommodated in print version, cause unnecessary delays and restrictions in the publication of the most important work in the life sciences.

keeleyjim17 karma

Understandably, you've been very busy this week. But I'm wondering if you have had any direct discussion or email from any of the editors of Cell, Nature and Science since your op/ed ran in The Guardian? Can you give us any hint of their response directly to you?

schekman27 karma

I did a live interview on BBC4 on Tuesday morning. Andrew Sugden of Science was also on the line. the Editor of Nature declined to participate in this radio discussion.

johnpharmd13 karma

Professor Schekman, mazel tov! Q: Michael Eisen at Berkeley has suggested that scientific journals be done away with altogether. What's your opinion of that?

schekman19 karma

I would not favor that, but journals will surely evolve in ways that meet the needs of investigators. Some will fail if they do not adjust to the increasing reality of Open Access or the movement away from a print basis.

XOUNO-1 karma

Eisen isn't suggesting that.

johnpharmd5 karma

Oh really? "As I’ve written elsewhere...we need to dispense entirely with journals and with the idea that a few reviewers – no matter how wise – can decide how significant a work is at the time."

XOUNO1 karma

OK so he's advocating an end to PLOS1 and other PLOS journals, cool

schekman2 karma

I'm sure he is not advocating an end to any of the PLOS journals.

scientistintraining11 karma

I understand that Nature and Science should be more accessible, but with articles such as this: it makes me nervous in accepting articles from open access sources even if they are "peer reviewed". I just got out of undergrad so I don't really have the ability to spot fake papers as easily as others might. Suggestions?

schekman44 karma

This so-called study of Open Access journals failed to include junk commercial journals. And even such vaunted journals as Cell,Nature and Science occasionally publish nonsense (e.g. the claim that arsenate can replace phosphate in the DNA of a microorganism).

Grogg111 karma

How do you enjoy sweden?

schekman30 karma

Beautiful country, friendly people.

microbialevolution11 karma

If you could go back in time and resubmit your Cell, Nature and Science papers to another journal, which journals would you send them to? For the purpose of this question, lets pretend eLife is not an option.

schekman33 karma

I prefer journals where all editorial decisions are made by active scientists and where artificial restrictions, such as the size of a print run, have no role in the decision process. There are many such journals such as PNAS, J. Cell Biol., J. Biol. Chem, Genetics and Ml. Biol. Cell, to name a few.

Shaeos8 karma

What is the one thing you want to get out and the one message that you feel that you MUST get across?

schekman19 karma

Do not publish in journals that impose an artificial restriction (e.g. the size of the print run) on the number of papers and pages they will publish

Unrelated_Incident7 karma

I don't understand how it affects science that luxury journals limit the number of articles they publish. Wouldn't any other good article just get published in a different, less prestigious journal? It isn't like they are suppressing progress by not letting people read articles.

schekman21 karma

The luxury journals delay the publication of much outstanding work by imposing endless cycles of review and rereview.

Aleksander735 karma

What type of cells did you use in the majority of your vesicular transport studies?

schekman15 karma

yeast cells, but now mammalian cell culture.

XOUNO5 karma

Are you disappointed with how eLife achieved early PubMed indexation? Many have criticized its early acceptance in contravention of NLM process.

schekman7 karma

Not at all. We fulfilled all of the requirements the NLM asked of us and were delighted they chose to index us promptly.

tomholder5 karma

Do you feel that animals remain an important part of biomedical research?

schekman13 karma

I answered this one already. Yes!

epidemiologist2 karma

The scientific process involves a lot of failure for each success. How do you keep yourself going through the tougher parts of your research?

p.s. Thanks for taking a stand against the big journals!

schekman3 karma

Stay focused and keep your eye on the big picture.

mastersun0 karma

Congrats! I think you should put your medal on a chain and use it to get priority access to all the nightclubs, like Three 6 Mafia did with their Oscars. Then, please, post pics.

schekman2 karma

No thanks!

DudeFaceofAmerica-7 karma

Do you believe in intelligent design, and if not why do you use the word "machinery" and what would you say concerning irreducible complexity? Based upon everything we know, isn't this most logical, that there is a point in supposed random (or unintelligent) assembly of say, a protein, that demands intelligent design?

schekman13 karma


Zalupix-8 karma

How awesome was it to have received a Nobel Peace Prize?

schekman8 karma

I shared the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine, not the Peace Prize. In any case, the experience has been overwhelming!