Timmy in Nature

So I appear to have a piece in Nature. Here. It\’s under \”correspndence\” when it\’s really a letter to the editor. Here\’s, for it\’s paywalled, what was the agreed final draft:

No shortage of
mineral reserves

Jeremy Grantham sounds
an unnecessary alarm about
the “impending shortage” of
phosphorus and potassium
fertilizers (Nature 491, 303;
2012). With phosphorus
constituting 0.1% of the
lithosphere and potassium 2.5%,
supplies are likely to outlast our
species, possibly even the planet
Grantham assumes that
mineral-reserves numbers
are indicators of resource
availability. However, ‘reserve’ is
an economic and legal concept
that has nothing to do with the
quantity of material available
(see go.nature.com/2zhzqf).

A reserve represents the amount
of an ore or element that has
been drilled, tested, measured
and defined, and which can
be extracted using current
techniques and at current prices.
It costs a great deal to confirm
all those points for a particular
mineral deposit, so it is done
only for those likely to be used in
the coming decades.
‘Resource’, by contrast, denotes
the amount of the same ore or
element that is out there, with
prior knowledge of roughly
where it is, how much there
is and what it will be used for.
Resources are transformed into
reserves by spending money —
and only when that is necessary.

Every generation exhausts its
reserves of almost all minerals,
because the tendency is to
convert only enough resources
into reserves to last for a
The resources of phosphate
and potassium fertilizers are
sufficient for many thousands
of years of current usage. On
that timescale, total element
availability is probably more
important as a limit.
Tim Worstall Adam Smith
Institute, London; and Messines,

I did offer them a chopped down version of this and what we ended up with was this letter.

So, the question now is, \”correspondence\” in Nature. Does this equate to \”being published in Nature\” in the technical sense of that word? Does this now mean that I have two scientific publications to my name? Or is that much too grand for what is, after all, just a letter to the editor?

27 comments on “Timmy in Nature

  1. Yes, you have a DOI and you can be cited as Worstall, T. (2013) Nature 493:163

    The real test is that you get indexed in Pubmed, which I assume will be happening soon

  2. Wouldn’t this depend on whether the scientific databases index the correspondence or not? I had correspondence published in the BMJ, but it’s not indexed so I wouldn’t count it as a ‘publication’.

  3. It’s rotten luck that your era of publishing in Nature should happen also to coincide with the era when its reputation has declined because of its weakness for publishing Global Warming propaganda.

    A friend of mine is pissed off that his FRS should coincide with that august institution’s loss of reputation for much the same reason.

  4. On the other hand, I congratulated an acquaintance on his recent knighthood: what luck, said I, that you didn’t get it under Blair so that there’s no need to put your Sir in inverted commas. Do you know, the bugger just scowled: some people, eh?

  5. Grumpy Old Man – “It depends whether the editor is forced to resign over the publication of your letter or not.”

    Let’s hope some Greens angry reject this bit of common sense. Then the correspondence might carry on for a few editions. TW will end up being highly cited – and so a poorly paid, under appreciated, overly bureaucratic Academic career will await!

  6. Nope. That is not “publishing a letter in Nature”. Sorry but doing that takes a bit more work ;-)

    Claiming so would put you on a similar level to those with honorary doctorates who insist on being called “Doctor”.

    Still if it winds up Giorgi Monbiot, I am all in favor.

  7. I’m sure the answer was no, so I’m not sure why I bothered ask.

    The real question is: does this represent a real contribution to knowledge, the result of your research? The answer is clearly No. This is well-known stuff. All you’re doing is telling people what ought to be the bleedin’ obvious.

  8. A quick look up

    Phosphorous reserves from currently producing high grade ores are about 37 years. There are of course lower grade and unexploited mines which haven’t been counted though known.

    Potassium production is about 15 million tons per year, and reserves are about 10 billion tons. That’s over 600 years supply.

  9. Yes and no. A letter to Nature and a Letter to Nature are not the same thing at all despite both having a DOI.

    In the normal case a Letter to Nature is a contribution to new science e.g. Crick & Watson on the structure of DNA. This “counts” as a publication in Nature.

    Correspondence with the editor, although still a Letter to Nature is not the same thing at all and despite it being citable would not count as a publication in the usual sense.

  10. All you’re doing is telling people what ought to be the bleedin’ obvious.

    Well yes, but if Tim, or someone like him, doesn’t, then the opposite will rapidly be taken as solid and incontrovertible fact.

  11. Yes, a letter to Nature is not the same as a Letter in Nature.

    However, letters to Nature can still be peer-reviewed. I know, because I once had a letter to Nature published which was peer-reviewed.

  12. Tim, I’m afraid that you’ve been published in Nature in the same way as Michael Mann is a Nobel Prizewinner!

  13. William M Connolley’s obviously just jealous that his nemesis can contribute to Nature whereas he himself can’t even contribute to wikipedia any more.

  14. William: You obviously don’t read many sociology journals. The whole field is premised on restating the obvious.

  15. If it’s so perfectly obvious did little Willy write a letter?

    Oh no silly me! He will have written it in Wikipedia his main method of ‘publishing’ nowadays which is as we all know a ‘real contribution to knowledge’.

  16. Always funny to see WMC demonstrating that he doesn’t actually know what peer review is. Here’s a hint for you, Billy: peer review is not only the limited basic error checking pre-publication, but also, and more importantly, what happens after publication when one’s ‘peers’ ‘review’ one’s work and either use it, ignore it, or rebut it.

  17. Peer review is not science. Bruce Charlton wrote a whole book about that, called “Not Even Trying”.

  18. William,

    I’m afraid that Tim has clearly been published in Nature, although he would not be able to cite this as a publication in a proper academic CV.

    It is also worth noting that publication is valid even when, as here, it is simply presenting what is knowledge probably widely held in one sphere to those in another – because the idea of academic publication is to spread knowledge, so transferring said knowledge from those who know it to those who apparently (in this case Jeremy Grantham, who hopefully has had the chance to read the letter) do not is exactly what academic publishing does.

    So in summary, Tim is published in nature, but not ‘published’ in nature – unusually I can actually agree with William that this is not peer reviewed (for what that is worth – and I say that as a peer reveiewer…).

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