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Short, ‘Intriguing’ Research Articles
Focus of New Feature in Science
Curious about the role of fluorescent plumage in attracting female parrots to males, a scientist slathered male parrots in sunscreen. The results, which showed that the sobered males lost much of their appeal to the opposite sex, first appeared in Brevia, a new feature of the AAAS journal, Science. The parrot research fit the bill perfectly for Brevia, designed by Science to present unique experimental data. "We are looking for pieces that are intriguing, amusing and eye opening, with wide ranging results," says Guy Riddihough, the senior supervisory editor at Science who developed the idea of Brevia.
Described by Don Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science as "short, focused and understandable to non-specialists," the one-page Brevia articles have attracted worldwide media attention. Kathryn Arnold, principal researcher for "Fluorescent Signaling in Parrots," recounts her experience in the hours that followed release of her study. "Wow, mad dayI have done about 14 interviews and have had photos taken. Two camera crews are coming and I'm going on five radio programs!"
Arnold is not alone in drawing attention to her work through an appearance in Brevia. "It's a great way to promote science with a small 's'," Riddihough says.
Brevia, first launched in October 2001, features research findings that are unusually clear, that can be explained in 600 to 800 words and that can be understood by an audience that may lack extensive background knowledge.
"People don't aim for the kind of problems or solutions that are appropriate for Brevia's 'short communications' format," says Kennedy. "These kinds of findings present themselves, and Science now has a way to accommodate and publish them."
Recent Brevia articles have covered silent earthquakes that take place without producing measurable seismic shaking; a statistical analysis of the 2001 anthrax outbreak in the United States; the flight patterns and foraging behavior of wandering albatrosses that have been outfitted with Global Position Satellite tracking devices; the germline mutation rate of families exposed to nuclear fallout in Kazakhstan, and changes in both habitat and prey of the highly endangered North Pacific right whale.
The high standards of the Science editorial and peer-review processes apply to articles submitted to Brevia, and submissions from renowned scientists are common. Scientists interested in submitting articles for Brevia should include no more than one display item. Headlines should contain no more than eight words, and abstracts should be limited to 50 words. The editors ask that authors avoid jargon that is specific to their particular disciplines.
"Shorter is not better. Longer is not better. The same standards apply to all research published in Science," says Kennedy.