The journals Science and Nature seem like they are basically the flagship journals for most of the hard sciences, such as biology, physics, or chemistry. Is there an equivalent high-caliber journal for general engineering? For example, if somebody discovers a new algorithm that revolutionizes robotics (and is so profound that it might be of interest to mechanical engineers or computer engineers as well), is there an appropriate outlet for such a thing?
While Nature and Science have high impact factors and are widely read, I would not call them "flagship" journals. That said, while your list of "hard sciences" are on topic at Nature and Science, so are soft sciences, medicine, and engineering. What make journals like Nature and Science so widely read, is that nearly everything is on topic and within their scope if it is "important" enough.
If you do a quick search in their archives, you will in fact find high-profile research from all sorts of engineering fields. I think that Nature does tend to have less breadth and more biology focus. Science, however, is quite broad. For example, here are a few of the top articles that popped up when I searched for "engineering" in Science's archives:
- Robotics in Remote and Hostile Environments
- Environmental Engineering: Energy Value of Replacing Waste Disposal with Resource Recovery
- Searching for a Better Thermal Battery
So the equivalent for Science and Nature in engineering is Science (and possibly Nature). Whether that should be the case is a different question entirely, upon which there is ongoing debate.
For your example, perhaps they'd publish through a robotics journal, or an algorithms journal, or a control theory journal. If it is so profound that it could influence various fields, it would trickle from the individual focus of the project towards other fields over time. Individual specific fields do have their own "flagship journals", e.g. "Experiments in Fluids" for fluid mechanics. Perhaps you could use journal rankings across fields but there's no unilateral engineering journals I'm aware of, which I have ever read. I mean, Nature and Science do publish engineering-related research, there isn't a hard dividing line between science and engineering at that level.
In the US, each branch of engineering has it's respective institute/organization. For instance:
- Electrical: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - IEEE
- Mechanical: American Society of Mechanical Engineers - ASME
These are the ones I'm familiar with - there are others for other branches: civil, materials, computer, chemical, biomedical, nuclear, etc. Of course, the lines often get blurred between the branches.
Each of these publish a number of journals. As an electrical engineer, I recognize the clout of IEEE when looking at papers, reviewing someone's publications, etc.
I have seen a lot of engineering papers in "Nature Communications". Especially when backed up with heavy experimental results. Here are some examples of Fluid Mechanics and Micro-Robotics:
Of course, your topic needs to be a real breakthrough.
The Science journal seems to also put out journals for individual disciplines, but only for some fields. For example, Robotics (http://www.sciencemag.org/journals/robotics) and Immunology (http://immunology.sciencemag.org/), amongst others. I believe that these have similar levels of prestige to the top journals in those fields, although perhaps not as much as Science itself.