Dr. Patrick T. Brown, a climate scientist, has openly admitted to editing his research paper on the impact of climate change on wildfires to fit “preapproved narratives” for publication in prestigious scientific journals like Nature. In an article for The Free Press, Dr. Brown expressed that he omitted certain aspects of his study to ensure its acceptance.
He wrote, “The paper I just published—’Climate warming increases extreme daily wildfire growth risk in California’—focuses exclusively on how climate change has affected extreme wildfire behavior…it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell.” He emphasized that high-profile journals often determine career success in academia, and their editors have clear expectations for climate papers to support specific narratives.
Dr. Brown criticized this approach, stating it impedes broader societal knowledge and discourages scientists from recommending pragmatic solutions. Instead, researchers are pushed to emphasize the damage caused by climate change over offering practical solutions. He claimed, “climate science has become less about understanding the complexities of the world and more about serving as a kind of Cassandra, urgently warning the public about the dangers of climate change.”
In response, he called for the media to critically evaluate these papers and for editors to broaden their focus beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He urged his fellow researchers to challenge editors or seek alternative publishing platforms. He wrote, “What really should matter isn’t citations for the journals, clicks for the media, or career status for the academics—but research that actually helps society.”
Responding to these assertions, a spokesperson for Nature defended the journal’s review and publishing processes, stating, “All submitted manuscripts are considered independently on the basis of the quality and timeliness of their science…Intentional omission of facts and results that are relevant to the main conclusions of a paper is not considered best practice with regards to accepted research integrity principles.”
The journal’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Magdalena Skipper, further stated that the journal expects researchers to use the most appropriate data and methods when assessing these data, and include all key facts and results relevant to the main conclusions of a paper. She highlighted that Nature doesn’t have a preferred narrative and makes decisions based on whether research meets their publication criteria.