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I am curious about how competitive is publishing a paper in the United States' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in comparison to leading journals in a field. Is PNAS on the same level as Science? Thoughts will be appreciated, but factual materials (i.e., links to research studies or other information on the topic) even more so. Do they consider/publish survey papers?

Additionally, I am interested in answers to the following related question. PNAS defines itself as a multi-disciplinary outlet, while my brief review of their editorial board left me with an impression of a strict field-based classification. Then, the question is: how one would submit a multi-disciplinary paper, in particular within information systems field of study, considering such classification?

The paper that I have in mind is a survey paper (or similar, i.e., position paper), based on my dissertation (its literature review, that is). The paper would cover the following domains: Economic Sciences (via ecosystems), Engineering Sciences (via software engineering), Social and Political Sciences (via ecosystems), Computer and Information Sciences (via software engineering).

Final question: does PNAS accept submissions from unaffiliated (independent) researchers?

  • I would be very interested in seeing your dissertation. Is it posted online somewhere? My dissertation involves modeling innovation using an ecosystem perspective (I'm calling it "ecology-based modeling" EBM). (I found your web site, ResearchGate w/ slides.) – MrMeritology Sep 4 '15 at 19:15
  • @MrMeritology: Thank you for your interest. You are welcome to take a look at my dissertation report - I have been planning to perform a more comprehensive research study, but serious family circumstances forced me to adjust accordingly - I hope to produce more comprehensive and higher quality / more rigorous research in the future. I am aware of ecology-based modeling, but haven't used it my dissertation - it is something that I consider for my future research. (to be continued) – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 4 '15 at 22:24
  • @MrMeritology: (cont'd) As a part of my dissertation, I also have implemented R-based software for data collection and analysis (including structural equation modeling / SEM), inspired by reproducible research paradigm. I published it under an open source license. Good luck with your dissertation! P.S. I am open to collaboration with people, whose research interests intersect with mine, which IMHO applies in your case. So, feel free to connect with me in that regard. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 4 '15 at 22:30
  • Rumor has it that the name says it: Papers Not Accepted at Science. – Dirk Sep 5 '15 at 18:10
  • @Dirk: IMHO, everything depends on the perspective of an observer. I will consider your words as the ones of encouragement :-). – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 6 '15 at 1:12
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You've got multiple questions here, but I'll answer them in turn.

1) How does PNAS compare to Science, Nature, etc: The comparison depends a bit on whether you are interested in impact factor (Science and particularly Nature are quite a bit higher) or reputation. My understanding is that while in the USA Science and Nature are more prestigious, but that in parts of Europe, the converse is true. In my opinion as reader, the work in PNAS tends to be stronger though less flashy, but of course there is huge variance.

2) Is PNAS multidisciplinary? I think you are confusing what PNAS means by "multidiscipinary" with "interdisciplinary". Multidisciplianry simply means that they publish papers from many disciplines, not that they focus on papers at the intersections of disciplines that way that say Journal of the Royal Society Interface does.

3) Does PNAS publish survey papers or position papers? Not really. As far as general submissions from are concerned, they are looking for new primary research papers. The proceedings of Sackler symposia and the occasional position paper from a member of the National Academy are the main exceptions.

4) Does PNAS accept submissions from unaffiliated authors? Of course. But as a highly selective journal, the majority of submissions are rejected without review by the member-editors who handle them. I'd like to think that your affiliation would have little effect on this process, but I'm not sure that's the case. Doubtless this will vary from editor to editor.

  • I appreciate your excellent and clear answer (+1)! Indeed, I got a bit confused by multi-disciplinary vs. interdisciplinary terminology. I initially thought that they refer to the former as a synonym of the latter, even though I realize the difference in language semantics. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 3 '15 at 10:15
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Depends on what you call as level. Its impact factor is less than that of Science but nonetheless it is highly competitive. Publishing in PNAS is not an easy job even if you think your work is good enough. In general Science publishes strikingly novel work while Nature usually publishes extensive work. PNAS papers are not that remarkably novel but some of them present interesting and new ways of analysis.

They have field based classification but publish interdisciplinary articles as well. They feature simultaneously in different sections. For example, if your article is accepted, then it will be listed in Computer Sciences as well as in Social Sciences.

PNAS does have opinions sort of articles such as this from the current early edition. But number of such articles is comparatively less than that in Science.

They do accept articles from freelance authors but I haven't read research article of that sort any yet. There are other articles such as this which is written by a science writer.

  • Publishing opinions, and accepting unsolicited submissions of opinions are very different matters. Is there any reason to think that the opinion piece you cite was not solicited? PNAS does solicit opinion pieces, perspectives, etc., on occasion. – Corvus Sep 3 '15 at 9:13
  • Thank you very much for nice and useful answer (+1). I especially appreciate the links to papers/articles with regard to my specific questions. I am happy to hear that there is a possibility of publishing interdisciplinary papers in PNAS. Not that I plan to do it tomorrow, of course :-), but it is inspirational to know that, nevertheless. – Aleksandr Blekh Sep 3 '15 at 10:22
  • @Corvus most reputed journals do not generally accept opinions from non-experts (i.e. people with not much publications in an area). You can write to the editor and ask them to send you an invite. There are some journals that allow you to publish hypothesis but these are different from opinions. – WYSIWYG Sep 3 '15 at 10:36

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