Thank you, Gregory, and welcome to the forums.
Fot those of you who are interested, my piece in Nature can be read here (subscription only, alas):
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v4 ... 9269a.html
Your concerns about genre have, as you suspected, touched on a slippery and shifting point that we have been struggling with intensely here at Editorial, mostly because of a number of very intelligent and insightful blog criticisms on various science fiction forums. We in no way want to imply that great scientist characters don't pop up all the time in science fiction (a genre on which I was weaned and addicted from age five) - this is why we have created the 'crossover' section in the List and, as you can tell, have a long way to go in filling it; there must be hundreds of examples, and even now the nominations are pouring in.
The issue at hand is the unreal setting in which these scientists act. In some ways it shouldn't matter, but to many, it does. Science fiction is a joy to me and millions of others, but it does not appeal to everyone. I have friends I've literally begged to read one of my favorite science fiction books, such as 'To Say Nothing Of The Dog', but they flat-out refuse: 'Sorry, I can't read science fiction. Time travel? No thanks.' Science fiction can rarely aspire to prizes like the Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel, Orange, Whitbread, but has to have its own - Hugos and Nebulas; its titles are not as often featured as serious literary pieces for discussion and debate in forums like TLS, LRB or NYRB; its specimens are relegated to special sections in the backs of bookshops, not routinely displayed with fanfare on tables in the front. This does not mean the books are not worthy; only that the genre is associated with something that makes these things not happen. I don't know what it is, but I suspect it is the reason why Iain Banks has created an entirely different persona (and drops his initial) when he writes quote-unquote 'serious literature'. I'd like to ask him someday whose idea this was, his own or his PR people. It was a stroke of marketing genius in my opinion.
Lab Lit is in many ways is nothing like science fiction; it doesn't have to be quote-unquote 'serious literature', but it does feature scientists doing normal things in a normal world, just as thousands of other books feature doctors mucking around in hospitals, office workers mucking around in offices, teachers mucking around in schools, detectives mucking around in police stations. Most people would not say, in picking up a book like 'White Noise' by Don Delillo: 'Sorry, I can't read books about a literature professor in a university. Undergraduates? No thanks.' But somehow, the word 'science' or 'scientist', seen on a back cover, seems to trigger an aversion in the human psyche - of course it is probably partly the science itself, but it could also be ambiguity - 'Isn't this science fiction? I don't like science fiction. Better put it down.' I am deeply interested in this. Of course it is all speculation, but I suspect that distinguishing Lab lit from science fiction could eliminate some variables and help us to focus on other ways to raise these books into the awareness of the public. Science fiction is way ahead of Lab lit in terms of sales and popularity. I advocate learning from successes and failures in SF marketing: the importance of banding together, but also the importance of trying also the cleave to the mainstream. Perhaps this is an impossible task.