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Over 10 HGP Papers Submitted; Nature Gets Key Map, Sequence Papers

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In the wake of Celera’s announcement that its human genome paper has been submitted to Science, details about the International Human Genome Project have emerged including where some of its papers have been submitted.

Of the 10 plus papers the public project expects to submit, it has been confirmed that the sequence paper has been sent to Nature. And, John McPherson, lead author of the mapping paper and co-director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis, indicated that his paper was sent to Nature as well. (Although he wouldn’t name the journal it was submitted to, he did confirm that it had not been submitted to Science.)

“I think in general people disagree with the publishing deal with Celera and Science,” McPherson said. “I don’t like double standards. I never have.”

But, he added, that the paper’s authors had originally planned to submit their paper to another journal anyway.

Like McPherson, many people within the public project resented the deal struck by Celera and Science. The outcry likely caused the last minute decision to send the paper to Nature, rather than Science, as was originally planned.

As the controversy surrounding the Celera and Science agreement heated up, Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and other leaders of the Genome Project sent Science a letter stating they would not submit the sequence paper to the journal because it had opened the door for authors to impose similar restrictions on data they submit.

In the letter, which was partially reprinted in the Los Angeles Times, the leaders of the human genome project wrote: “We are concerned that Science has now set the precedent of permitting authors to impose new restrictions on those wishing to see the results reported in a published [scientific] paper. We have repeatedly asked Science to clarify…this bold new policy, but have received no clarification to date.”

George Whitesides, a Harvard chemist who participated in Science’s discussions about how to handle the arrangement with Celera, said the hoopla surrounding the deal was unfounded since such an agreement would likely represent a one-time exception.

“The human genome is a big deal,” said Whitesides. “This is such an unusual event that this is the time when you break your own rules.”

Nevertheless, McPherson stood by the public project’s decision, stressing that the change in plans to publish in Nature was hardly a setback for the organization or a compromise in terms of going to a less prestigious journal.

“The decision on which [journal] to go to is not based on which one is more prestigious. Nature has been around longer, and they are the one that published the structure of human DNA in 1953,” he said. “It’s a disagreement with what seems to be a change in [Science’s] policy.”

Robert Waterston of Washington University in St. Louis, who co-signed the letter to Science, said the papers would run partially electronically and partially in print, since the articles are “a little larger than the normal paper.”

—Marian Moser Jones

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