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Magdalena Skipper Is Named New Chief Of 'Nature'


The magazine Nature has a new editor. And for the first time in its nearly 150-year history, that editor is a woman. Magdalena Skipper, a molecular biologist by training, will hold one of the most important positions in science because Nature is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. The ozone hole and the first planet found outside the solar system were all announced in its pages, among many other discoveries. Magdalena Skipper joins us from London. Welcome to the program, and congratulations.

MAGDALENA SKIPPER: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Nature has only had seven editors. I think the man you're replacing held the job for 22 years. Do you have plans to shake things up?

SKIPPER: (Laughter). Yes. Well, it sounds like I should certainly have plans to stay in the job for a while.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Yes.

SKIPPER: I have certainly plans to shake things up but, importantly, to continue many of the great works that have begun already under Sir Philip Campbell, the outgoing editor-in-chief. But, of course, science itself changes, and so the publishing of science needs to change and evolve with it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In what way?

SKIPPER: So, for example, right now scientists themselves are spending much more time and thinking more carefully about how robust, credible and reproducible the science is. And Nature, as well as other scientific journals, has actually led the way in helping scientists very clearly state how research was done, how the data are being generated and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Transparency.

SKIPPER: Transparency, indeed. Transparency to the process, transparency of the results that leads scientists to make discoveries and come to their conclusions.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As we mentioned, you are the first woman to hold the job. I'd like to just talk a little bit about that. In what way is it significant?

SKIPPER: It's significant because I am the first woman in the role. But at the same time, it's a little bit of a shame that we have to make such a big thing of it. So I would like to not to have to necessarily celebrate the fact that I'm a woman in this role. But at the same time, I'm very pleased that I've - people have already told me that the fact that I am a woman in this role essentially constitutes a role model for young girls...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've broken a barrier, clearly.

SKIPPER: I suppose so. I am also the first life scientist in this role, which is also significant.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For many scientists, publishing an article in Nature leads to multimillion-dollar grants, and not doing so can sort of end scientific careers. You have an enormous amount of power. So what do you think makes a scientific discovery important? I mean, what is the criteria that you will use?

SKIPPER: So we take this responsibility very seriously as editors. The things that we look for in scientific discovery's most definitely novelty. We look for research findings which actually are of relevance and importance across many different areas of science. We also look for research which is surprising - maybe a startling conclusion, something which was previously unexpected given what went before previous research and previous knowledge. And so as our knowledge grows, we become aware of new problems to solve, new questions to answer. And that's a very exciting future, I think, that lies ahead of us, a future that I certainly look forward to.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Magdalena Skipper will start as editor-in-chief of Nature magazine on July the 1. Thank you very much.

SKIPPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.