Center for Integrative Biology | U Mayor

150 Years of Nature and Chilean scientists who have managed to publish in the famous magazine.




Founded by the Macmillan brothers in London, today the magazine is a benchmark of science worldwide, a place where several Chilean researchers have been part of their legacy.

In 2003, astronomers Mario Hamuy, National Prize for Exact Sciences of Chile (2015), and José Maza, National Prize for Exact Sciences (1999), discovered a novel method to measure the distance between stars. The research, named "An asymptotic giant branch star in the parent system of a type of supernova," and published in the journal Nature, served as inspiration and basis for astronomer Brian Schmidt to obtain the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 to discover that the universe was expanding rapidly.

The significance of the research shows the level of impact of the research published in Nature, a magazine that has just turned 150 years of history, and in which several of the most prominent Chilean scientists have managed to publish.

“Publishing an article in the journal Nature, an English magazine of great prestige, is a tremendous pleasure. I think I have published two or three articles, and every time yhat you have an article in Nature, you certainly enjoy it, it is one of the most important scientific bulletins on the planet, ”says Maza remembering the milestone.

The origin of the magazine dates back to the 19th century and the brothers Alexander and Daniel Macmillan, who owned a bookstore and publishing house in Cambridge, in the university district of London. It was in that place where both established important contacts with men from the world of science, when they came up to concentrate the most important research of the time in a single publication.

On a train trip they met Norman Lockyer, who in 1868 had discovered helium, and who would end up being the first editor of Nature.

The magazine began to grow despite the difficulties of the time, with scientific articles on topics such as HMS Challenger, transits of Venus and eclipse expeditions. They also took advantage of great scientific advances, such as the invention of the typewriter and the batometer, in addition to notes on the telephone, duplex telegraphy and the application of electricity to lighting.

In the first 50 years of history since its creation, there were already more than 100 contributors, many of them eminent men of science.

After Lockyer's death in 1920, and under the edition of Richard Gregory, the magazine changed radically, starting with a style similar to what Nature is today, including social and political issues linked to science.

For example, he also reported war events, such as the First and Second World War. After what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the magazine noted. "Some of the most skilled scientific brains have been dedicated for years to the production of a destruction engine".

In 1921 they published a special dedicated to Einstein's Theory of Relativity. "There is something attractive about presenting the evolution of a sequence of ideas in the shortest possible way," says Einstein himself, while in 1925 they titled one of their editions with the discovery of Australopithecus africanus, a story that caused a sensation.

In the 1970s, several Nature authors won the Nobel Prize, as well as Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel in 1996, due to their article on understanding how the body's T cells kill infected cells.

Nature, which since 2018 is directed by geneticist Magdalena Skipper (PhD, U of Cambridge), since its first publication, in November 1869, the weekly magazine has had hundreds and even millions of frontline publications, many of them even inspiring great recognitions, such as the Nobel Prizes.

“Of every ten papers submitted to the editor, only one finally becomes published, since the publication is required to reveal an important discovery, says Hamuy, for whom the magazine is one of the most influential bibliographic sources worldwide , not only for the scientific community, but for many decision makers. "I have had the privilege of having managed to overcome this filter four times, jobs that have become mandatory references in the field of astrophysics," says the National Science Prize.

According to the book Strangled Reason, by Carlos Elías, he estimates that the publication has 70,000 subscribers worldwide, and that each edition captures the attention of more than 600,000 leading scientists, which causes every scientist who has a discovery to try to publish its.

“A scientific paper published in a good magazine is always a blessing. In my professional life I have had several scientific papers that have had a very good audience and reading, and have been published in various journals, ”adds Maza.

Hamuy explains that a particularity of Nature, is that once the editor approves the publication, the article remains under the seizure of being shared with the press. The idea is that the press release comes out the same day the article is made public. "Nature supports the author with his communications equipment to spread the new discovery as much as possible," Hamuy adds.

Colossan Cover

Among the list of Chileans who managed to overcome the editorial pitfall, is the geologist Manuel Suárez, who in 2004 - thanks to the work of his son Diego, then seven years old - discovered in Mallín Grande, near General Carrera Lake, in the Aysén region fossil remains of a dinosaur that seemed to contradict many of the paleontological concepts that existed by then.

In 2015, after a long review process, this finding was published in the journal Nature. The Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, name that received the new species, would have lived 150 million years ago in the Upper Jurassic. It was described as a mixture of three dinosaur lineages: theropods, such as the tyrannosaurus rex; sauropodomorphs, such as brontosaurus, and ornitisquios, such as triceratops.

The significance of the finding not only earned him to publish in the magazine, but also to be the cover.

Felipe Court, director of the Center for Integrative Biology (CIB) at the Universidad Mayor, he was 29 years old and was finishing his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh when his work with a group of researchers was also published. “It was part of what I had done in my doctoral thesis. We discovered a characteristic, a parameter of the neuron unknown until then that had to do with the speed of information transmission, ”he explains.

Publish in this prestigious magazine, recognize, open many doors. “It has relation with the knowledge you are producing. You are delivering key pieces for the understanding, in this case, of neuroscience and biology ”and the magazine somehow certifies that contribution. “These types of publications later go to textbooks, universities incorporate it. There is a lot of recognition for that, there are more researchers interested in working with you, in receiving you in their laboratories, for example, ”says Court.

Specialized Magazines

In the 1990s, the journal joined the Internet and also launched a series of specialized journals, such as Nature Genetics in 1992, followed by Nature Structural Biology in 1994 (now Nature Structural & Molecular Biology), Nature Medicine in 1995, Nature Biotechnology in 1996, Nature Neuroscience in 1998 and Nature Cell Biology in 1999, Nature Immunology in 2000 and Nature Communications in 2010.

“Nature's publications are more general, more of public interest. The specific magazines that were created today have as much impact as Nature. Publishing in the complete series is very difficult, they are very rigorous magazines, very competitive. For any scientist, publishing in the Nature series is a great prestige, ”says Claudio Hetz, director of the Millennium Institute of Biomedical Neuroscience (BNI) and Academician of the Faculty of Medicine, of the University of Chile.

This new range of journals expanded the universe of Nature even further, which also amplified the range of Chilean researchers who entered its pages.

Among these local scientists are Susana Eyheramendy, Felipe Martínez, Federico Manevy, Cecilia Vial and Gabriela Repetto, who in 2015 published in Nature Communications the paper "The characterization of the genetic structure of Chileans reflects historical patterns of immigration."

In 2019, Gino Casassa, Jorge Carrasco and Roberto Rondanelli, among others, together with other researchers, published in Nature “Sedimentary record of Patagonia, southern Chile supports the unleashing of the cosmic impact of biomass burning, climate change and the extinctions of megafauna at 12.8 ka ”. This research was published in Scientific Reports, belonging to Nature Publishing Group.

Felipe Court, Alejandra Catenaccio and Paula Díaz, led the publication “Molecular analysis of axonal-intrinsic corregulation and associated with the glial of axon degeneration”, revealed in 2017 and Sergio Ferreira, who published together with a group of researchers “La FNDC5 / Irisine linked to exercise rescues synaptic plasticity and memory defects in Alzheimer's models ”.

Francisco Pozo Núñez is another national who has published in Nature (Astronomy). The Chilean came to the magazine for his publications on black holes. “Nature magazine valued our study because we work with small telescopes (46 centimeters, belonging to the Wise Observatory of the University of Tel-Aviv). This opens the door for other researchers, with the same resources, to make explorations like the ones we did, ”he told Qué Pasa in March.

Also published was the study by scientists Francisco Altamirano, Elisa Villalobos and Sergio Lavandero, on heart failure and a paper by Hetz, entitled “Editor's correction: the non-canonical function of IRE1α determines the composition of the endoplasmic reticulum associated with mitochondria to control calcium transfer and bioenergetics ”. The latter in Nature Cell Biology.

"Nature is a scientific journal, the most read, with the most impact and transversal to many fields of science," says Hetz.

The work of hetz and his team was covered this year by the journal Nature Cell Biology. Together with his team and Belgian, French and American researchers, they discovered a new and potential therapeutic target to stop the progression of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.

Alexis Kalergis did the same in 2017 with the work entitled “THEMIS, the new boy in the block for the development of T cells”, published in the specialized journal Cellular & Molecular Immunology.

This researcher from the Catholic University and director of the Millennium Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy (Imii), has also published three articles in Nature Immunology in 2001, 2002 and 2008. “The first two articles described the mechanism of lymphocyte activation T, first with cellular and molecular experiments and then with a mathematical model. It was a key moment in the field of immunology, and together with colleagues from Albert Einstein College, the Ludwig Institute and Los Alamos, we published those two articles. The third is an evaluation of the important development of immunology in South America, with colleagues from Argentina and Brazil, ”explains Kalergis.


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