Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  
Abbreviated title (ISO 4)
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
Discipline Multidisciplinary
Language English
Edited by Inder Verma
Publication details
Publication history
Frequency Weekly
ISSN 0027-8424 (print)
1091-6490 (web)
LCCN 16010069
OCLC no. 43473694
JSTOR 00278424

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is the official scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences, published since 1915. With broad coverage, spanning the biological, physical, and social sciences, the journal publishes "original research of exceptional importance",[1] alongside scientific reviews, commentaries, and letters. In 1999–2009, the last period for which data are available, PNAS was the second most cited journal across all fields of science.[2] PNAS is published weekly in print, and daily online in PNAS Early Edition.


PNAS was established by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1914, with its first issue published in 1915. The NAS itself had been founded in 1863 as a private institution, but chartered by the United States Congress, with the goal to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art". By 1914 the Academy had been well established.

Prior to the inception of PNAS, the National Academy of Sciences published three volumes of organizational transactions, consisting mostly of minutes of meetings and annual reports. In accordance with the guiding principles established by astronomer George Ellery Hale, the foreign secretary of NAS in 1914, PNAS publishes brief first announcements of Academy members' and foreign associates' more important contributions to research and of work that appears to a member to be of particular importance.[3]


The following people have been editors-in-chief of the journal:

The first managing editor of the journal was mathematician Edwin Bidwell Wilson.

Peer review

All research papers published in PNAS are peer-reviewed.[3] The standard mode is for papers to be submitted directly to PNAS rather than going through an Academy member. Members may handle the peer review process for up to 4 of their own papers per year—this is an open review process because the member selects and communicates directly with the referees. These submissions and reviews, like all for PNAS, are evaluated for publication by the PNAS Editorial Board. Until July 1, 2010, members were allowed to communicate up to 2 papers from non-members to PNAS every year. The review process for these papers was anonymous in that the identities of the referees were not revealed to the authors. Referees were selected by the NAS member.[3][4][5] PNAS eliminated communicated submissions through NAS members as of July 1, 2010, while continuing to make the final decision on all PNAS papers.[6]

Dual use papers and national security

In 2003, PNAS issued an editorial stating its policy on publication of sensitive material in the life sciences.[7] PNAS stated that it would "continue to monitor submitted papers for material that may be deemed inappropriate and that could, if published, compromise the public welfare." This statement was in keeping with the efforts of several other journals.[8][9] In 2005 PNAS published an article titled "Analyzing a bioterror attack on the food supply: The case of botulinum toxin in milk"[10] despite objections raised by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.[11] The paper was published with a commentary by the president of the Academy at the time, Bruce Alberts, titled "Modeling attacks on the food supply".[12]


PNAS is widely read by researchers, particularly those involved in basic sciences, around the world. PNAS Online receives over 21 million hits per month.[13] The journal is notable for its policy of making research articles freely available online to everyone six months after publication (delayed open access), or immediately if authors have chosen the "open access" option (hybrid open access). Immediately free online access (without the six-month delay) is available to more than 100 developing countries[14] and for some categories of papers such as colloquia. Abstracts, tables of contents, and online supporting information are free. Anyone can sign up to receive free tables of contents by email.[15]

Because PNAS is self-sustaining and receives no direct funding from the U.S. government or the National Academy of Sciences, the journal charges authors publication fees and subscription fees to offset the cost of the editorial and publication process.

According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2015 impact factor of 9.423.[16] PNAS is the second most cited scientific journal, with nearly 1.4 million citations from 1999 to 2009 (the Journal of Biological Chemistry is the most cited journal over this period).[17]

PNAS has received occasional criticism for releasing papers to science journalists as much as a week before making them available to the general public; this practice is known as a news embargo.[18] According to critics, this allows mainstream news outlets to misrepresent or exaggerate the implications of experimental findings before the scientific community is able to respond.[19][20] Science writer Ed Yong, on the other hand, has argued that the real problem is not embargoes themselves, but the press releases issued by research institutes and universities.[18]

PNAS Plus and significance statements

In January 2011, PNAS started considering manuscripts for exclusive online publication, "PNAS Plus" papers.[21] These have a larger maximum page limit (10 rather than 6 pages). Accompanying these papers both online and in print was a one- to two-page summary description written by the authors for a broad readership. Since mid-October 2012, PNAS Plus authors no longer need to submit author summaries and are instead asked to submit a 120-word-maximum statement about the significance of their paper. The significance statement will appear both online and in print.[22] Since July 15, 2013, the significance statement is required for all research articles.

Sustainability science

In 2006 PNAS launched a new section of the journal dedicated to sustainability science, an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet's life support systems. See the Sustainability Science portal here.


  3. 1 2 3 Information for Authors
  4. Alan Fersht (May 3, 2005). "Editorial: How and why to publish in PNAS". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (18): 6241–6242. doi:10.1073/pnas.0502713102. PMC 1088396Freely accessible. PMID 16576766.
  5. Eugene Garfield (September 7, 1987). "Classic Papers from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PDF). Essays of an Information Scientist. 10 (36): 247. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  6. Schekman, Randy (2009). "PNAS will eliminate Communicated submissions in July 2010". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (37): 15518. doi:10.1073/pnas.0909515106.
  7. Cozzarelli, Nicholas R. (2003). "PNAS policy on publication of sensitive material in the life sciences". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 100 (4): 1463. doi:10.1073/pnas.0630514100. PMC 149849Freely accessible. PMID 12590130.
  8. Harmon, Amy (February 16, 2003). "Journal Editors to Consider U.S. Security in Publishing". New York Times.
  9. Fauber, John (February 16, 2003). "Science articles to be censored in terror fight". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  10. Wein, L. M. (2005). "Analyzing a bioterror attack on the food supply: The case of botulinum toxin in milk". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (28): 9984–9989. doi:10.1073/pnas.0408526102.
  11. "Provocative report on bioterror online". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. June 29, 2005.
  12. Alberts, B. (2005). "Modeling attacks on the food supply". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (28): 9737–9738. doi:10.1073/pnas.0504944102.
  13. About PNAS
  14. "Developing Countries Initiatives". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2016-04-01. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
  15. "PNAS electronic table of contents". PNAS website for signup and setting management.
  16. "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America". 2015 Journal Citation Reports. Web of Science (Science ed.). Thomson Reuters. 2016.
  17. "Top Ten Most-Cited Journals (All Fields), 1999–2009". 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  18. 1 2 Yong, Ed (2009-08-16). "Does Science Journalism Falter or Flourish Under Embargo?". NationalGeographic. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  19. Liberman, Mark (April 22, 2009). "Debasing the Coinage of Rational Inquiry: a Case Study". Language Log. Retrieved April 22, 2009.
  20. Timmer, John (2009-04-16). "Social Media Threats Hyped by Science Reporting, Not Science". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  21. Schekman, R. (2010). "Editorial: Creating a new option for online-only research articles: PNAS Plus". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (35): 15309. doi:10.1073/pnas.1011179107.
  22. Verma, I. (2012). "PNAS Plus: Refining a successful experiment". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109: 13469. doi:10.1073/pnas.1212313109.
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