What Editors Want

On Writing, Editing, and Publishing

Jacques Barzun

Telling About Society

Howard S. Becker

Tricks of the Trade

Howard S. Becker

Writing for Social Scientists

Howard S. Becker

Permissions, A Survival Guide

Susan M. Bielstein

e Cra of Translation

John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte, editors

e Cra of Research

Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams

e Dramatic Writer’s Companion

Will Dunne

Glossary of Typese ing Terms

Richard Eckersley, Richard Angstadt, Charles M. Ellerston, Richard Hendel, Naomi B. Pascal, and Anita Walker Sco

e Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography
Luke Eric Lassiter

How to Write a BA esis

Charles Lipson

Cite Right

Charles Lipson

e Chicago Guide to Writing about Multivariate Analysis
Jane E. Miller

e Chicago Guide to Writing about Numbers
Jane E. Miller

Mapping It Out

Mark Monmonier

e Chicago Guide to Communicating Science Sco L. Montgomery

Indexing Books

Nancy C. Mulvany

Developmental Editing

Sco Norton

Ge ing into Print

Walter W. Powell

e Subversive Copy Editor

Carol Fisher Saller

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, eses, and Dissertations Kate L. Turabian

Student’s Guide for Writing College Papers
Kate L. Turabian

Tales of the Field

John Van Maanen


Joseph M. Williams

A Handbook of Biological Illustration

Frances W. Zweifel


Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

Legal Writing in Plain English

Bryan A. Garner

From Dissertation to Book

William Germano

Ge ing It Published

William Germano

e Cra of Scientific Communication
Joseph E. Harmon and Alan G. Gross


Jack Hart

A Poet’s Guide to Poetry

Mary Kinzie

philippa j. benson & susan c. silver

What Editors Want An Author’s Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing

e University of Chicago Press Chicago and London

Philippa J. Benson, Ph.D., is director of education and author services for e Charlesworth Group, an international organization that supports publishers. She has taught science writing and technical communication at Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown, the United Nations, and the National Institutes of Health, and has launched scientific publications for two conservation organizations.

Susan C. Silver, Ph.D., is editor-in-chief of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published by the Ecological Society of America. Previously, she held editorial positions at Academic Press and the British Dental Association and was editor of Biologist and e Lancet Oncology.

e University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 e University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2013 by e University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2013.

Printed in the United States of America

22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13

isbn-13: 978-0-226-04313-5 (cloth) isbn-13: 978-0-226-04314-2 (paper) isbn-13: 978-0-226-04315-9 (e-book) isbn-10: 0-226-04313-4 (cloth) isbn-10: 0-226-04314-2 (paper) isbn-10: 0-226-04315-0 (e-book)

1 2 3 4 5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Benson, Philippa Jane, author.
What editors want : an author’s guide to scientific journal publishing / Philippa J.

Benson & Susan C. Silver.
pages cm. — (On writing, editing, and publishing)

Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn-13: 978-0-226-04313-5 (cloth : alkaline paper) isbn-10: 0-226-04313-4 (cloth : alkaline paper)
isbn-13: 978-0-226-04314-2 (paperback : alkaline paper) isbn-10: 0-226-04314-2 (paperback : alkaline paper) [etc.]

1. Scholarlypublishing—Handbooks,manuals,etc.2. Sciencepublishing— Handbooks,manuals,etc.3. Authorsandpublishers. I.Silver,SusanC.,author. II. Title. III. Series: Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing.

z286.s37b467 2013 070.5—dc23

2012010479 o is paper meets the requirements of ansi/niso z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).

is book is dedicated to our husbands Benjamin Xu and David Currie, for all their support and patience along the way.


Acknowledgments ix

. 1  Who cares what Editors want? 1

. 2  Changing perspective from author to Editor 7

. 3  Judging the newness of your science 12

. 4  Authorship issues 26

. 5  Choosing the right journal 40

. 6  Understanding impact factors 55

. 7  How to write a cover le er 65

. 8  Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 74

. 9  Who does what in peer review 97

. 10  Dealingwithdecisionle ers 111

. 11  Ethicalissuesinpublishing 128

. 12  Trends in scientific publishing 141

Appendix 1: Resources for improving science writing 155 Appendix2:Databaseswithfreeaccesstoarticlesorabstracts 159 Appendix 3: Presubmission checklist 161
Appendix 4: Free and low-cost image resources 164

Appendix 5: e Brussels Declaration 166 References 169
Index 171


We wish to thank all our Chinese hosts, who invited us to give the work- shops in mainland China on which this book is based. Lindsay Haddon (British Ecological Society) and Laura Meyerson (Rhode Island University) were additional lecturers for the workshops and generously allowed us to incorporate some of their material.

We are also grateful to all the authors of the sidebar pieces, which we believe greatly enhance the book. We are similarly grateful to the Editors of the journals that provided data for figure 2.1 and to Bernie Taylor, who designed and produced the illustrations.

Finally, we are grateful to early readers Alex Soars (Brookhaven Na- tional Lab), Marco Sandrini (National Institutes of Health), Susan Ambrose (Carnegie Mellon University), Marie McVeigh ( omson Reuters), Marga- ret Reich (Reich Consulting), and Chang Jie (Zhejiang University), as well as to our Editor at the University of Chicago Press, David Morrow, and to Jennifer Kuhn for administrative assistance.

chapter one

Who cares what Editors want?

Some researchers believe that becoming expert in their science is the only important aspect of their professional development. e reality is that to become a world-class scientist today one must also be able to navigate the publishing process with skill and speed, as well as write with clarity, accuracy, and grace.

monica bradford,ExecutiveEditor,Science

Researchers in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) fields around the world study a diverse array of topics, but they all focus on the same pro- fessional goal: ge ing their science published. Despite efforts in academic circles and elsewhere to develop a broad spectrum of measures to evaluate a researcher’s worthiness for employment or promotion, the age-old dictum still holds true: it’s publish or perish.

Inexperienced authors o en need help as they try to tackle the different phases of the publishing process—and sometimes during the earlier stages of manuscript preparation as well. ey need guidance on how to judge when to write up their research and what kind of scientific papers to write. ey need to learn how to select the journal that is most likely to publish a specific paper and how to submit their work to particular publications. When they receive a response to their submission, whether positive or not, they need advice on how to reply and what steps to take next. Some inexpe- rienced authors turn to research advisors, colleagues, or academic mentors to get this advice. However, some advisors tend to focus more on helping students do the science rather than on how to write it up and submit it for publication. In reality, some advisors have received li le advice and guid- ance themselves, have learned the publishing process by trial and error, and therefore aren’t entirely comfortable leading others down that road. Sadly, a few senior researchers are more concerned with their own publish- ing projects than with those of their students and are unwilling to spend much time on mentoring in this area. Colleagues within the same field are also potential rivals and may be hesitant to share the tips and tricks they’ve learned.

2 chapter 1

In short, the imperative to publish never stops, but only fades slightly with time and tenure. e bo om line is that li le formal training is avail- able for researchers in this vital aspect of career development. As a result, many young researchers have almost no idea of what obstacles they’ll en- counter, and how to get to the finish line—a published paper—as quickly and painlessly as possible.

e aim of this book is to address the needs of these novice authors, whether graduate students, postdocs, young researchers, or faculty, to help them meet the specific challenges they may encounter at each stage of the publishing process. We also hope this book will be useful as a refer- ence for senior researchers, as well as for teachers of science writing and for those who train up-and-coming Editors. However, we must stress here that Editors, and their opinions on how things should be done, are as varied as the journals they work on, a reality that became very clear to us as we heard from editorial colleagues while writing this book. For example, some Editors firmly insisted that authors should include line numbers when sub- mi ing a manuscript, as this saves reviewers a lot of trouble when dra – ing their reports, while others felt that line numbers are unnecessary. In yet other cases, authors are instructed not to add line numbers because the manuscript submission systems of some journals add these automatically. Similarly, one Editor claimed never to read cover le ers, while another be- lieved that it was very important for Editors to do so. (Our advice on these two issues is to always include line numbers on your manuscript unless in- structed not to do so in the instructions to authors of the particular journal you are submi ing to and to always provide a cover le er.) e point is that the opin- ions and preferences of Editors vary widely on many publishing ma ers.


To help young authors understand the publication process, we first explain what Editors are looking for when considering new submissions and then examine the publication process in a logical sequence to reveal the reason- ing behind the many requirements that journal Editors have. Few resources are available that describe what goes on in editorial offices, from who looks at initial submissions, to what criteria are used to separate submissions re- jected without review from those that are sent to peer review, to how the peer review process itself works.

Novice authors are o en not aware of how different behind-the-scenes operations can be from journal to journal. No two journals are exactly alike in terms of the criteria used to select papers or the processes used to assign reviewers. Editorial standards and styles also vary widely, as do the roles

Who cares what Editors want? 3

and responsibilities of Editors, other editorial office staff, and reviewers. Many of the top-tier journals (e.g., Nature, Science, Cell) and their associ- ated families of specialty titles have full-time, professional Editors in their offices, working on their journals and making decisions, while the vast ma- jority of academic journals have an off-site, academic Editor, working in a university or research institute, and doing journal work in his or her spare time. Operations also differ depending on the size, finances, and goals of each journal, and whether it is published by a not-for-profit professional society or a for-profit publishing house. In short, there is no exact formula for predicting what the Editor of a particular journal wants. However, there are ways of figuring this out if you know what to look for and where to look for it.


To provide a broad view of the editorial landscape of scientific publishing, we begin with a few assumptions. We assume, for example, that research- ers have completed their research and have correctly analyzed their find- ings. We also assume that the research is original, that the findings are valid, and that the science has been done properly, adhering to all legal and ethical guidelines, although we do touch briefly on scientific misconduct and ethical issues (see chapter 11). We also assume that some readers will be nonnative speakers of English, since, in recent years, journals have seen huge increases in submissions from international authors, with the great- est numbers coming from countries such as China, Korea, Japan, India, and Brazil (figure 1.1).

We also acknowledge that there may be limits to how widely readers can apply the perspectives and information we provide, since we are drawing on our own experiences working in editorial offices in the US and the UK. In other parts of the world, editorial practices may be different and research- ers living in non-Western cultures may be accustomed to editorial require- ments that differ from those associated with Western English-language journals.

We have also limited the scope of this book to the processes of publishing a manuscript and therefore do not provide specific instructions on how to write a scientific paper. Many excellent textbooks on technical and science writing are available, and many universities and colleges also provide free online resources that offer guidelines and examples of how to write clear and readable technical prose. We do touch on the importance of authors knowing when they are ready to start dra ing a manuscript, but this is in the context of be er understanding what Editors want. In appendix 1, we

4 chapter 1

% 35

30 25 20 15 10


1996 2000









UK Germany Korea India France Japan Brazil

f i g u r e 1 . 1 Linear extrapolation of future publishing trends. With permission from the Royal Society. Source: e Royal Society, Knowledge, Networks and Nations, 2011.

include a list of some of the many resources that are available, including links to online writing resources offered by universities and colleges across the US.

In this book, we also occasionally note information that is specifically for nonnative speakers of English. While writing a paper in a foreign language is an added challenge for authors, we believe that many of the other chal- lenges in publishing are actually the same for both native and nonnative speakers. Certainly, if a manuscript is wri en in clear, concise, and read- able prose, Editors will have an easier time assessing the quality and ap- propriateness of the paper for their journal. However, success in publish- ing comes not only from good writing but also from making sound choices about when, where, and how to submit a paper for consideration.

roughout the text, we have also included sidebars by a variety of ex- perts, including Editors and publishers from well-known journals and pub- lishing houses. ese contributors provide their views on a broad range of topics that are central to scientific publishing and add a variety of explana- tions and opinions that are both interesting and informative.


We begin chapter 2 by explaining how an understanding of an Editor’s per- spective can help authors more successfully navigate the publishing pro- cess. In chapter 3, we discuss how authors can judge whether they are actu-

Who cares what Editors want? 5

ally ready to write a full scientific paper or whether they should consider waiting or using a different channel of communication at a particular stage of their research. e decision regarding when and where to submit a paper for publication is where our story really begins because how that decision is made is crucial. We move on in chapter 4 to discuss issues of authorship and the importance of agreeing on roles, responsibilities, and author order at a very early stage of manuscript preparation.

In chapter 5, we discuss how authors can narrow down the choice of jour- nals to two or three possibilities and stress the importance of thoroughly studying previous issues of each of the short-listed publications, as well as their websites and instructions to authors. Together, these resources should provide not only the form and format that Editors want but also the scope of the journal, the topics it will consider, and the specific approaches to the science that the Editors are looking for. Although a complete and clear set of instructions to authors is perhaps the best resource that authors have, in reality these instructions are not always as coherent and comprehensive as authors might wish. In fact, in the past few years, science Editors are in- creasingly addressing the challenge of improving instructions to authors through their professional organizations, such as the Council of Science Editors (CSE, see http://www.councilscienceeditors.org), the Society for Schol- arly Publishing (SSP, see http://www.sspnet.org), and the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE, see http://www.ismte.org). Chapter 6 discusses how impact factors are calculated and what they really mean be- cause so many authors are influenced by the impact factor of a publication. In chapter 7 we give advice on how to write a cover le er and in chapter 8 we provide guidelines on how to prepare a manuscript for submission to a journal and how to avoid mistakes that authors o en make when submit- ting papers.

Chapter 9 reviews general information about how peer review is man- aged, including brief descriptions of what different editorial staff do and who authors should approach with particular questions or problems. We then explain the range of editorial responses an author may receive in deci- sion le ers from journals, what those responses mean, and how to respond to them.

In the two final chapters, we look at some of the ethical problems that authors and Editors have to grapple with, including plagiarism, copyright issues, and multiple submissions. We conclude with a discussion of various trends in the publishing industry and how they may affect authors—these include open access, new measures of impact, and the way new technolo- gies might change the way publications are produced and read.

6 chapter 1

e appendices at the end of the book provide readers with additional resources that we hope will help them succeed in their publishing efforts.


We titled this first chapter “Who cares what Editors want?” and we hope that by the time you finish this book you will understand why it is that you, the author, need to care what Editors want. We also hope that the explana- tions, tips, tools, references, and resources we provide will help you to bet- ter understand the roles and goals of journal Editors and, in turn, how to publish your research with more confidence and success. at’s what you want, and that’s what Editors want too.

chapter two

Changing perspective from author to Editor

ose who can tell us the most about journal publishing are the editors, whose suc- cess as authors and/or reviewers secured their appointments as editors. With their unique perspective, no other group is be er prepared to advise on how to effectively play the publishing game. k n a p p a n d d a l y , A Guide to Publishing in Scholarly Communication Journals

Competition to publish is stiff, and scientific careers depend on a research- er’s success in publishing papers in well-respected scientific journals. Along with conducting and publishing studies, researchers also have to keep up with new techniques and technologies, go to meetings (o en in faraway places), and learn to use new tools for communicating and collaborating with colleagues. Many researchers are faculty members and so must also develop and teach multiple courses to undergraduate students and perhaps supervise graduate students and postdocs as well. It’s no wonder that most researchers are eager for a set of clear guidelines to help them succeed in publishing their science.

Many scientists become deeply engaged in the complexities of their work and believe that other people are (or should be) equally intrigued by the problems they are trying to solve. is concentrated focus on a narrow area of research can lead to problems in publishing because when research- ers write, they o en assume that readers share their deep knowledge of and interest in the topic of the paper. Unfortunately, neither the researchers’ fascination with their work nor their desire for a clear-cut recipe for success in publishing is of much help in actually ge ing published. Authors face an exploding number of channels for finding and reading information—from print and online publications to blogs and twi er feeds—and an almost equal number of new tools and technologies for writing and publishing. e challenge for authors is to learn how to navigate their options and tar- get the best medium for presenting their new findings. When the chosen medium is a scientific journal, we believe that if authors can learn to see the publication process from the perspective of a journal Editor, they will

8 chapter 2

be more successful in ge ing papers into and through peer review to pub- lication.

e difference between the perspective of an author and that of an Edi- tor can be thought of in much the same way as the difference between a programmer and a user of so ware. e programmer who writes the so – ware understands exactly how the code was wri en, why it was wri en that way, and how the program is supposed to work. Users don’t usually care about why a program was wri en in a particular way or how the code works; they care only that the program helps them achieve their goals and that it makes their work easier along the way. Similarly, authors may do their science meticulously and believe strongly in its importance, but the Editors of the journals they submit to don’t necessarily share the same background knowledge or the commitment to any particular aspect of research. Journal Editors have their own jobs to do and have very specific hopes for each new submission that arrives: “Will this paper interest our readers and advance our knowledge of the field? Will it improve our coverage of this particular topic in the journal? Will it increase the reputation of my journal and help to improve its impact factor?” Authors need to see Editors as their “users,” making sure that the paper matches this particular user’s requirements and that it is clear from the moment a file is opened that the paper is a good fit for the publication.


Many inexperienced authors see the publication process as beginning at the point when they submit a paper to a journal. However, decisions about where and when to publish should start as soon as you’ve completed your research, if not before. Key steps to success involve being realistic in rec- ognizing what you’ve got in terms of new scientific knowledge, identify- ing the audience who will want to know about your work, and finding out which journals are read by that particular audience. Many authors write with the assumption that most (or at least many) of their end readers will be familiar with the concepts and terminology associated with their research, and so write for researchers who have some level of expertise in their field. While this may be true of readers of some narrowly focused journals, it is not so for readers of journals that cover a wider range of topics. Authors o en fail to understand that the Editor is their first reader—the gatekeeper for all the other readers of that publication. Editors know their readers well and understand what they expect to find in the journal. e Editor is the first filter, the person who is responsible for picking the best offerings and discarding the rest.

Changing perspective from author to Editor 9

Authors need to understand that it is the journal Editor who mat- ters, as this is the person who will decide whether the paper should or should not go forward to peer review. Editors cannot be experts in ev- ery area that their journal covers and may not recognize the impor- tance of every paper that comes in. e author’s job is to intrigue the Editor, and later on the reviewers, and convince them of the relevance of their work.


Most authors know that Editors of the most prominent high-impact-factor journals reject a large percentage of papers without review. Even when submi ing to middle-ranked journals with only moderate impact factors, authors know that rejection rates can still be quite high. But the question is why: what are Editors thinking about when they begin to evaluate a newly submi ed paper for possible peer review?

To begin seeing things from the Editor’s point of view, we start with the assumption that the Editor is working in a relatively modern editorial of- fice, using standard technologies, including an up-to-date online manu- script tracking and peer review system. Generally, the person who first pro- cesses incoming manuscripts (o en one of several different types of Editor) sees a paper as an upload to the journal’s online submission system, which has been assigned a permanent manuscript number. e Editor with the job of making a first “cut” will have a number of possible routes they can take in deciding whether or not to send the paper to peer review. Some Editors look at the cover le er first (if there is one), while others will go straight to the title and abstract. From there, some Editors will look at the results section, while others will jump straight to the discussion or conclusions.

Even though the approach may differ, Editors’ initial questions remain the same: is this paper a good match for the journal? Does it fit the specified criteria, as spelled out in the instructions to authors? Is the science novel, relevant, and timely? Is the writing clear and concise? Some Editors may also consider whether the science goes beyond being original to ask if it is actually at the cu ing edge of the field and will contribute to a current hot debate. Fraud in scientific studies is being uncovered more frequently these days and so Editors are also scrutinizing data and figures more carefully in initial review, to make sure experiments seem properly constructed and the resulting data look accurate and plausible. Editors may also take into account what they know about the authors and whether they have a good publishing record.

All of these are common questions that might go through Editors’ minds

10 chapter 2

% 100

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10


Other Published

Rejected w/o review


Science PLoS One



Plant Physiology


f i g u r e 2 . 1 Data on manuscripts from six high-impact-factor journals in 2010.

when they are first deciding whether a paper should or should not go into the reject-without-review pile. Depending on the size of the journal, Edi- tors may have to make this initial judgment for between ten to one hundred manuscripts each week and so must develop a strong and clear idea of what they are and are not looking for in a manuscript.

Surprisingly, many initial submissions don’t meet these basic criteria. O en papers have notable problems: either they are outside the scope of the journal, or they reflect science that is neither novel nor interesting, or they have been sent in the wrong format or are missing important informa- tion (see chapter 7). ese submissions go straight onto the reject-without- review pile or are sent back to the author for revision (figure 2.1).

What happens next to papers that do make it through the first cut de- pends on the editorial office structure and the size of the journal (see chap- ter 9). For small journals, the Editor may send a manuscript that has made the first cut directly to peer reviewers. For larger journals, Editors may instead send it to an Associate Editor (sometimes referred to as a section Editor or subject ma er Editor), who then selects appropriate peer review- ers and sends the paper on to them. Every journal is different, but one way or another, once a paper has made it past the reject pile, the Editor will be faced with a new set of challenges and decisions, from finding suitable peer reviewers to assessing multiple submissions on a similar topic. Some papers fly through peer review while others move at a snail’s pace, for a variety of reasons, ranging from the size of the journal to the availability of appropri- ate reviewers, even to the time of year. At the same time that the reviews are going on, Editors are juggling a multitude of other tasks: ensuring that

Changing perspective from author to Editor 11

enough other papers are moving through peer review and are being read- ied for publication, keeping issues coming out on schedule, assessing and maintaining high publishing standards, se ing and monitoring budgets, dealing with editorial boards, managing staff, and meeting a host of other professional responsibilities.


As an author, anything you can do to make the Editor’s job easier is going to be a positive step in moving the Editor towards deciding that your paper should be sent out to peer review. Anything that makes your manuscript problematic for the Editor—from wrong forma ing to bad writing to un- likely data—will negatively influence the Editor’s decision about whether to send your paper out for peer review. You will assuredly benefit by keeping the Editor’s needs in mind as you embark on the road to ge ing your paper published.

chapter three

Judging the newness of your science

As with computing, so with publishing: the greater the transparency, the be er the scholarship. Scholars should open up as much as they can: data, tools, processes, results, and even paths not taken. Don’t be scared of being wrong: be scared of obscuring your message. And be terrified of saying nothing.

j o n o r w a n t , Engineering Manager, Google

More than anything else, Editors want the manuscripts they receive to con- tain excellent, innovative science. is focus on publishing research that contributes to our understanding of a particular subject is not entirely al- truistic; when a journal publishes a paper with research that will influence the thinking of other scientists, that paper is likely to get cited frequently, leading to a higher impact factor and a be er reputation for the journal. All Editors wants their journals to be influential and well-respected.


roughout the ages, philosophers and teachers of science have recognized the centrality of communication in the scientific process and the fact that sharing ideas is fundamental to the advancement of knowledge in every field. “Publish or perish” is the mantra of scientific success because the pro- cess of peer review and eventual publication, in theory, leads to the weed- ing out of poorly conceived scientific theories and experiments, separating those that can withstand detailed scrutiny from those that cannot.

e need to publish scientific papers puts tremendous pressure on au- thors to get their work into print quickly and o en. ose who publish first get most of the credit for new information or ideas, even if they were not the first to conceptualize or prove a new theory. Researchers also need to publish papers to be viable on the job market, to compete for funding, and to maintain their position at the cu ing edge in rapidly developing fields. Obviously, academic departments and research institutions also look for re- searchers with extensive publication lists, since they are also in competition for funding and want to a ract the most talented researchers on the market.

Judging the newness of your science 13

Sometimes, the pressure to publish is a positive force, keeping research- ers focused on a clear goal. At the same time, the extreme pressure to pub- lish in today’s scientific arena can have very negative results, including un- ethical behaviors ranging from plagiarism to falsifying data (see chapter 11), But such behaviors are the extremes. A more common, but ill-advised response is to try to publish research before it has advanced far enough to be published.

Young researchers do not always have a clear view of when their work is developed enough to be ready for publication and rely on the advice of supervisors or senior colleagues. O en, knowing when research is ready to be wri en up is based on experience, or, in the case of young research- ers, on the advice of supervisors or senior colleagues. Recognizing when a paper is ready for publication requires becoming familiar with all the pos- sible venues for communicating new science and being able to select the one that will best carry the information to appropriate audiences. Authors also require a thorough knowledge of current understanding of a particular topic and a realistic appraisal of the potential of their work to make a mean- ingful contribution.

In short, you need to recognize when your work is ready to be published or whether it would be be er to wait, or to communicate your progress in other ways, perhaps by presenting at a conference or by submi ing a short communication or research le er. Today, a wide variety of channels are available for you to test the waters, to practice communicating to wider au- diences, and to provide you with feedback that will help you further refine your work and your message.


When you come to a point in your research where you are beginning to think about writing something up for publication, you need to look at your findings objectively and make a thoughtful appraisal of what you have to offer the research community and which journal and which format will work best to carry your research. is kind of objective assessment can be difficult, particularly for researchers just starting out in their career who are eager to publish and who may put a greater value on their results than the broader scientific community might. In this chapter, we look at how to assess your own work in terms of its originality and importance to the field and how to keep up-to-date with the latest information in your field.

When deciding what and when to write, you need to answer some simple but important questions, such as:

14 chapter 3

·  What’s new? Are the results or the techniques you used novel?

·  Are your results complete? (Perhaps a submission as a rapid communi-
cation or research le er would be more appropriate.)

·  Is your data set large? (A data paper maybe?)

·  Will your findings contradict those of other researchers?

·  Are your findings or conclusions going to be controversial?

·  Do you provide or need to provide a detailed study of the literature on
a particular topic, with a broad overview of other papers, with a new synthesis at the end or statistical analyses of the findings of others? (A review paper or a meta-analysis, respectively.)
is list could go on and on. e point is to be sure you are clear not only on whether you are ready to write but, if so, what type of paper you should write. ese distinctions are crucial to success in narrowing your search for a suitable publishing venue (see chapter 5). Editors will be look- ing at your paper with the same key questions in mind. In an initial review of the manuscript, they will be able to fairly quickly determine whether the paper actually provides new information and whether it will be of interest to the readers of their journal. e Editors will also need to assess whether the findings, conclusions, or theories contribute to current understanding of the field. As we discuss in later chapters, several elements of your sub- mission, including your cover le er, abstract, and conclusions, can work to support the main body of the manuscript to convince that first reviewing Editor that your science should go into peer review.
Making sure your science is novel is an increasing challenge. When young scientists write a dissertation, an exercise that is o en their first serious at- tempt at scientific writing, they are usually required to write a literature re- view to display the breadth and depth of their knowledge of the field and to provide the background to the problem their research is trying to address. A er writing their theses, however, some researchers become so absorbed in the daily demands of their jobs that they find it increasingly difficult to cope with the tsunami of information coming their way in journals, blogs, emails, and other professional communications.
In some areas of study, such as geology or physical anthropology, scien- tific progress takes place at a moderate pace and new insights arise over longer rather than shorter cycles of discovery and development. In other fields, how- ever, particularly in the biosciences and biomedicine, groundbreaking discov- eries happening at lightning speed. Researchers are developing new methods, generating new data, and gaining new insights faster than ever before. Re-

Judging the newness of your science 15

searchers in these domains are in a constant race to keep up with the extraor- dinary pace of developments and to ensure that their work incorporates the most current information and is able to contribute meaningfully to the field.

A variety of factors can make it difficult for researchers to keep pace with scientific trends, particularly in fast-moving fields. One problem, of course, is simply time: there are only twenty-four hours in a day for read- ing, research, and family life. Another problem is that “traditional” access to newly published science, through university and public libraries, is be- coming more restricted as libraries around the world cut subscriptions in response to increasing budget shortfalls. Yet another problem arises with the different technologies that are available for fast access and reading and their associated costs.

Researchers in remote areas and less developed nations face additional challenges. Lack of funding for research, equipment, and travel to confer- ences are all major issues, as are limitations in their access to the newest science due to financial restrictions, poorly stocked libraries, restricted or shared access to computers, frequent power outages, and narrow band- widths, making downloading of larger files impossible. Some countries also actively engage in censorship, blocking access to sites deemed “unsuit- able” for various reasons. Although several important initiatives developed over the past decade are making progress in mitigating inequities in access to scientific journals (see sidebar 3.1 on Research4Life), a great deal more needs to be done to help authors in developing countries to compete in the high-pressure arena that is modern-day scientific publishing.

sidebar 3.1

Research4Life: Providing access to developing countries

richard gedye
Director, Publishing Outreach Programs, Inter- national Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM)

Research4Life is the collective name for four partnerships whose aim is to reduce the scientific knowledge gap between industrialized countries and the developing world. ese partnerships provide countries across the developing world with ac- cess to critical scientific research literature in health, agriculture, and the environ- ment. Together, these give researchers at over 6,000 institutions in 106 developing countries free or low-cost access to more than 8,500 of the world’s leading science


16 chapter 3

journals and online books, as well as to databases, indexes, references, and non- English resources. e number of institutions with access to Research4Life re- sources is increasing every year. Research4Life includes:

·  Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI), which pro- vides access to international research journals in medicine, nursing, and related health and social sciences. For more information go to http://www.who.int /hinari

·  Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA), which provides access to international research journals covering agriculture, fisheries, food, nutrition, veterinary science, and related biological, environmental, and social sciences. For more information go to http://www.aginternetwork.org

·  Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE), which provides ac- cess to scientific journals and other information resources in a wide range of disciplines related to the natural environment, from botany to zoology. For more information go to http://www.oaresciences.org

·  Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI), which provides access to international research journals in the applied sciences and tech- nology. For more information go to www. wipo.int/ardi
Developing countries and territories that qualify for access to resources are di- vided into two “bands,” according to their national income. Beneficiary institu- tions in eligible countries include universities and colleges, research institutes, professional schools, extension centers, government offices, local nongovernmen- tal organizations, hospitals, and national libraries. e Research4Life programs constitute a public–private partnership between the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell and Yale Universities, more than 190 science publishers led by the International Association of STM Publish- ers, and technology partner Microso .
For more information about the Research4Life effort and eligibility, see www .research4life.org.
Another reason that scientists have difficulty keeping up with new devel- opments in their field is the sheer volume of information being published both in print and online. Every year, over 200 new journals are launched worldwide and the number of papers being published by existing journals is also growing rapidly. PubMed, the freely available index of biomedical ab- stracts (h p://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) now includes over 20 mil- lion citations, and submissions have been increasing at a rate of about 4%


Judging the newness of your science 17

annually over the past twenty years (Lu, 2011). Authors must also keep up with the ever-growing number of channels through which information is being distributed. e Internet, cellular communication, new reading technologies, social media, and the latest application tools are continually opening up new ways of sharing information.

Part of your work as a scientist is to identify these new systems and tech- nologies, to keep pace with the developments that are critical to your work, and to participate in the discussions and debates that they engender. It’s also important to note that in this age of proliferation of communication channels, it is probable that by the time you’ve go en used to using one set of channels, new ones will already have been developed and will be in common use. At the same time, new technologies and social networks are developing that can help you keep pace (see sidebar 12.1, “ e Evolving Role of Mobile Apps in STM Publishing”).


Researchers have always tried to keep up with the current literature and developments in their field by subscribing to publications or by accessing them through institutional or public libraries. However, these days, per- tinent new information is also found in a number of other formats and venues. For example, many publications contain not only peer-reviewed research papers but additional sections such as le ers, rapid communica- tions, reviews, news, opinion pieces and editorials, and special supplements. All these sections carry important information that reflects new trends and cu ing-edge theories and which you therefore also need to monitor.

One way of keeping up with the latest science is to scour publication data- bases to find abstracts or, where available, full text articles that have recently been published in scholarly journals, particularly open access journals. ese databases are supported by a wide range of providers, from academic institu- tions to for-profit publishers, and some are quite costly to access. Appendix 2 lists some of the most useful and popular free databases and search engines for scientific literature, including Google Scholar, PubMed Central, and the Di- rectory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). You can use these resources to find ci- tations and abstracts to published papers, and sometimes also to access the full text of the article you are interested in. Other subscription-based resources are available to those who can pay to search for and access peer-reviewed journal articles. Some of these resources (e.g., the ISI Web of Knowledge) are widely used by researchers at universities and other research institutions that can af- ford the subscription price. Other appendices provide additional information about resources that can help you to locate papers, hunt for metadata to help

18 chapter 3

you link to publications, and search for other ways to access published content. In addition to free databases of peer-reviewed and gray literature, publishers are also developing tools to help researchers navigate through the increas- ingly complex network of places where scientific information is produced and stored. (“Gray literature” refers to publications such as government re- ports, white papers, and preprints, that are o en considered credible sources of scientific information but are not published by traditional publishers and are o en not easy to find.) One way or the other, when you are considering writing a paper, one of your first tasks is to thoroughly search all the informa- tion resources available to you in order to ensure that you are presenting your work in the context of the newest information and ideas.


One of the newer and more important tools that publishers have developed to help researchers more easily find electronic content is the digital object iden- tifier (DOI). For the purposes of scientific publishing in much of the Western world, DOIs are administered by the organization CrossRef (www.crossref .org), an official registration agency of the International DOI Foundation (www.doi.org). CrossRef, launched in 2000 as a joint effort among academic publishers, is a not-for-profit organization intended to ensure the availability of persistent citation linking in online academic journals over time. anks to this system, even if a journal ceases publication, changes its web address, or updates its servers, papers in that journal can still be accessed via their DOIs.

In the early days of the Internet, publishers would put online versions of the articles they published on their servers, so each article would be as- sociated with a URL. However, over time, servers had to be changed and updated, so the URLs would change as well. Authors who had bookmarked a URL as a link to the online version of a particular article would search for the URL and find that it no longer existed. DOIs solve this problem because each DOI will always be associated with a particular article; if a publisher changes servers, or a publishing company change hands, the responsible parties only need to tell CrossRef. CrossRef will then update the informa- tion in their database, so that the DOI link remains active and accurate.

In simple terms, a DOI is a unique string of numbers and le ers associ- ated with a specific piece of digital information. A DOI can be assigned to any digital object: a scientific article, a data set, a map, an image, a specific tabular display of information, or a piece of music. You probably now regu- larly see DOIs in very small print somewhere near the beginning of each article (see sidebar 3.2). If you have some information about a journal ar- ticle, such as part or all of a bibliographic citation or just the DOI, you can

Judging the newness of your science 19

go to the CrossRef website to look up the full citation for the article. DOIs link directly to the article itself if it is in an open-access publication or to whatever information the publisher will allow you to see for free, together with instructions on how you can purchase a copy of the full paper.

sidebar 3.2

What authors need to know about CrossRef DOIs, CrossCheck, and CrossMark

carol anne meyer
Business Development and Marketing, CrossRef

What if you could ensure that the references in the papers you submit for publica- tion are accurate? Or check that when someone cites one of your papers the reader can always follow a link from that citation to your paper? Or make sure that papers published by other authors do not copy (either knowingly or by mistake) any of your own writings? Or be certain that the research you rely on hasn’t changed since you originally read a particular paper? CrossRef, a not-for-profit associa- tion of more than 1,000 scholarly publishers, provides services to make sure that research can be discovered, linked to, is original, and can be trusted.


e best-known service CrossRef offers is persistent reference linking through the use of digital object identifiers (DOIs). Once a publisher accepts and publishes your paper, you may be thinking about your next big research project, but CrossRef and its member publishers want to make sure that readers can find your last paper for a very long time—in fact, forever. at’s why CrossRef member publishers assign DOIs (persistent links) to the content they publish. at way, even if the journal your article is published in changes its URL addresses or gets sold to an- other publisher, or even ceases publication entirely, a DOI link to it will still work and will still allow readers to access your paper.

You may see DOIs displayed in a few different formats. ey may look like this: h p://dx.doi.org/10.1087/20110202. In this case, all you have to do is put the URL in a browser or click on the link to go to the document. ey might also look like this: DOI:10.1087/20110202 or even like this: 10.1087/20110202. Sometimes, they may be hidden in a reference list, behind a link that says “Cross- Ref” or “Full Text.” Regardless of how a DOI looks, you can always “resolve” it—


20 chapter 3

that is, it will take you to the landing page of the document—by pu ing it a er h p://dx.doi.org in the address bar of your browser.

If you ever find a DOI link that doesn’t work, first check that you didn’t make typing errors or transpose a le er or a number (lowercase el (l) for the number one (1) or the the capital oh (O) for the number zero (0)). To avoid these kinds of mistakes, copy and paste DOIs instead of typing them whenever you can. If that still doesn’t work, please report the broken DOI (h p://www.crossref.org/DOI Complaint) so that CrossRef can contact the publisher and get it fixed. Since CrossRef DOIs are all about persistent links, we take broken DOIs seriously.

You can also play a role in ensuring the persistence of scholarly content—both your own and that of authors you cite. When you prepare your references for pub- lication, make sure to look up and include DOIs for references in your citation list. CrossRef has several tools to help you do this, and they don’t cost individual re- searchers anything. One is the Guest Query form (h p://www.crossref.org/guest query), which allows you to type in the bibliographic information (author, title, journal, volume, issue, page number) for your reference and get back its DOI. An- other is the Simple Text Query form (h p://www.crossref.org/SimpleTextQuery), into which you copy a whole reference list, submit it, and get back a list of DOIs.

You should always use the DOIs for your own articles and those of other re- searchers whenever you reference them, whether on your own home page, in your CV, or in blogs or Twi er posts. Using DOIs is particularly important because publishers are starting to collect article-level metrics from the web to show where individual articles have been referenced. If you don’t use the DOI to reference con- tent, these metrics can’t identify the web citations.


What about plagiarism? Authors should always carefully a ribute any work of others they use in their writing, but unfortunately, not all authors are as diligent, or as ethical, as they should be. To discover cases of plagiarism, many scholarly publishers now use CrossCheck, powered by i enticate, which is so ware that compares submi ed manuscripts with millions of published scholarly and web documents. CrossCheck reports on the percentage of similarity and flags passages that are a match. is screening process protects your published content against those who may copy it, and it helps to prevent cases of plagiarism in published journals that can lead to embarrassment at best and ruined careers at worse.


In its efforts to increase the trustworthiness of published scholarly research, Cross- Ref has recently developed another service, called CrossMark, that helps research- ers identify whether any of the content they find on the web has had significant

Judging the newness of your science 21

updates since it was originally published. When you see a document that contains the CrossMark logo you will be able to tell that the publisher has commi ed to keeping it updated. You will also be able to click on the CrossMark logo to get up- to-date status and publication record information about the document to deter- mine if it is current or whether it has been corrected or even retracted. Clicking on the CrossMark logo could save you the embarrassment of citing research that may have changed since you originally looked at it. It will even work on PDF files that you download to your computer or save in a database.

For more information on CrossRef, CrossCheck, and CrossMark, you can visit these websites:

·  Information for Researchers: h p://www.crossref.org/05researchers /index.html

·  Guest Query: h p://www.crossref.org/guestquery

·  Simple Text Query: h p://www.crossref.org/SimpleTextQuery

·  DOI Complaint: h p://www.crossref.org/DOIComplaint

·  CrossCheck and Researchers: h p://www.crossref.org/crosscheck

·  CrossMark: h p://www.crossref.org/crossmark
e same idea—assigning unique identifiers to certain kinds of objects— is also being applied more broadly within the scientific community. For example, the Open Researcher & Contributor ID (ORCID) Initiative (www.orcid.org) assigns unique digital identifiers to individual scientists and their research, which will help you to identify and track other research- ers who are doing work similar to your own. Identifiers are also now being assigned to data sets, as described in sidebar 3.3.
sidebar 3.3
DataCite: linking research to data sets and content
james l. mullins
Dean of Libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Pro- fessor, Purdue University
Researchers have long wanted a system that would allow greater access to each others’ data sets, as well as some means of archiving data so that it can be shared


22 chapter 3

and reused in future studies. e need for a process that would provide reliable, consistent, and perpetual access to data further increased following a mandate by funding agencies in the late 1990s that required researchers to make data sets available for other users. In response to this need, DataCite was founded in 2009, specifically for the purpose of managing, sharing, and preserving data sets. e DataCite system is based on Digital Object Identifiers (see sidebar 3.2), and uses the same principle of applying a unique identifier to data sets associ- ated with published papers, although in this case DataCite, not CrossRef, works in association with a number of research libraries around the world to issue the identifiers.


Data should be cited in the same manner that articles and books are cited. Cita- tion enables data to be verified and reused, and allows the impact of data sets to be tracked as a means of recognizing and rewarding researchers for their contribu- tions. As a result, impact factors are now being calculated for data sets.


DataCite began in 2006 when Dr. Jan Brase of the Technische Informations- bibliothek Hannover (the German National Library of Science and Technology, TIB) recognized the need for a consistent method by which data sets could be tagged with a unique identifier to ensure accessibility and retrievability. In response to this idea, representatives from six countries came together in London in 2009 to formally inaugurate DataCite as an international not-for-profit organization. e founding members included the British Library, the Technical Information Center of Denmark, TU Del Library, the National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, California Digital Library, Purdue University Libraries, and the German National Library of Science and Technology. Since then, libraries from Australia, France, Sweden, and Switzer- land have also become members and take responsibility for developing services for registering DOIs for data sets in their own country.


Researchers or organizations can work with a DataCite member in their region to obtain DOIs for data sets (see http://www.datacite.org for a complete set of members). In the US, for example, there are three DataCite members: California Digital Li- brary (CDL), which is part of the University of California, the Office of Scientific

Judging the newness of your science 23

and Technical Information in the Department of Energy, and Purdue University Libraries. ese three organizations establish registration policies and procedures for anyone in the US who wants to assign DOIs to data sets. CDL and the Pur- due University Libraries collaborated on the development of Easy ID (EZID), a program that creates, manages, and stores DOIs and the associated metadata for subscribers.


Once a DOI has been assigned to a data set, the associated metadata is registered and will identify both the creator and the content. Although the DOI is assigned by one of the DataCite members, the researcher is responsible for depositing the data in a trusted repository for long-term preservation. However, even if the data set does not survive, there will still be a record of its existence and the associated metadata through the registration of the DOI.


For information on the metadata schema for DataCite, see Starr and Gastl, 2011. See also the following websites:

·  DataCite: h p://www.datacite.org

·  California Digital Library EZID: h p://www.cdlib.org/services/uc3

·  Purdue University Libraries Distributed Data Curation Center (D2C2):
h p://d2c2.lib.purdue.edu.
In addition to communicating scientific progress through print and online publications, researchers have long relied on professional meetings and conferences for face-to-face exchange and discussion about research in progress. A long-standing tradition of scientific communities since profes- sional scientific societies first formed in the mid-1600s has been to gather in person to share information, network, and debate the latest ideas and research results.
In the pre-Internet days, professional meetings were perhaps the most effective way that researchers could engage with their professional com- munity and gain recognition from others. Certainly, participating in pro-


24 chapter 3

fessional meetings provides you with the opportunity for direct discussion with other experts, and with a way to learn who’s who and to see firsthand how senior members of the community present both preliminary and complete findings. By a ending and presenting at meetings, particularly through a less formal medium such as a poster presentation or round-table discussion, you can gain experience in presenting your material and get yourself known by peers and senior scientists. All of these activities will stand you in good stead as you progress up the scientific career ladder.

Discussing your work face-to-face with other researchers is a critical part of becoming an effective scientist. Many scholars in academia make a point of bringing their students and research lab members to scientific meetings for the purpose of introducing them to others and to mentor them on how to make the most of this kind of professional gathering. However, as important as such conferences are, and will probably continue to be for a long time, direct face-to-face meetings are no longer the only way that researchers can discuss issues and interact in real time. e Internet now allows you to communicate remotely through video and audio links, share text and images instantaneously and at no cost, and in doing so lets you participate in an online community. ese virtual communities are grow- ing in importance and are becoming critical resources for communication and debate among scientists.

Journal publishers and others are working to help researchers keep up with all the new information and online communities being formed through the Internet. For example, many publishers are enhancing their journal websites by offering users the opportunity to have information sent (or “pushed”) to them in regular updates or by packaging informa- tion in ways that will entice (or “pull”) users to revisit their websites fre- quently. You can access new content by signing up for electronic alerts, RSS feeds, podcasts, press releases, mobile notifications, or other publication- related news.

Publishers that have sufficient resources—o en the large for-profit pub- lishers—are able to keep the information on their primary websites fresh by promoting new and supplementary content from their publications and affiliated societies, and by allowing users to link to useful portals and data- bases, blogs, newsle ers, and other special features. Some publishers are also trying to help researchers identify trends in their research community by offering innovative networking and search tools, such as Nature Pub- lishing Group’s Nature Network (network.nature.com), and the American Institute for Physics’ UniPHY (www.aipuniphy.org/Portal/Portal.aspx).

Professional societies for Editors and publishers are also trying to help their members to stay current with new topics and trends. For example,

Judging the newness of your science 25

organizations such as the International Commi ee of Medical Journal Edi- tors (ICMJE, see http://www.ICMJE.org) or the previously mentioned Council of Science Editors serve as independent industry watchdogs in ways that for- profit publishers cannot. e ICMJE, for example, has developed policy statements, guidelines, and other materials that publishers, Editors, and authors can look to for guidance on various topics, including ethical con- siderations (e.g., work with human and animal subjects, and conflicts of interest) as well as authorship and peer review.

Blogs, Twi er feeds, social bookmarking services, and other online re- sources allow users to easily recommend papers and share information and opinions. However, becoming aware of and participating in these exchanges remains an ongoing challenge for researchers in the developing world. Re- searchers, young and old, will need to keep their ears open and their con- versations active in the community of their intellectual peers. e job of Editors is to filter the new from the old. As an author, part of your job is to convince Editors that you are ahead of the field and that your science will make a worthwhile contribution to their journals.


Among the key skills that authors must develop are the ability to recognize when a piece of research is far enough advanced to be worthy of publica- tion and what kind of paper will be the best vehicle for the information. Ensuring that each manuscript contains some new information is also criti- cal, but to do that authors need to keep up with all the latest developments in their field, which can be a daunting task. Monitoring both traditional venues (e.g., conferences, journals) and new outlets (e.g., blogs, alerts, RSS feeds) can help authors to keep up-to-date with the newest developments. Authors o en want to know how they can begin writing their manuscripts. We don’t go into that topic in this book, not only because there are many good texts available that address this questions (see appendix 1), but also because if your study is suitably conceptualized, well designed, and prop- erly carried out, your findings will be new and exciting and your data will tell you how to start your writing.

chapter four

Authorship issues

Trust is among the fundamental bases on which scientific communication rests: trust that the authors have fairly and accurately reported their findings and dis- closed all pertinent commercial and professional relationships that could bias those findings, and trust that Editors have exercised sufficient diligence and skepticism to ensure accurate reporting and disclosure by authors.

council of science editors,WhitePaperonPromotingIntegrityin Scientific Journal Publications, 2009

Authorship is a vital part of a scientific career because it is one of the main benchmarks by which scientists judge one another. Your publication list is one of only a very small number of criteria by which you will be judged when it comes to ge ing a job, a grant, tenure, promotion, or any other milestone in a successful career in science.

As a result of the pressure to publish, authorship can be an extremely sensitive subject and a common cause of disagreements among research- ers—sometimes leading to long-standing hostilities. Many a successful scientific partnership has ended as a result of a dispute over authorship. ese quarrels can have a number of different causes. For example, a scien- tist may want to be first author, or to be placed further forward in the author list, but the other authors may disagree. Sometimes, researchers are le off the author list, even though they feel they deserve to be on it. Occasion- ally, people’s names are added to the author list without their consent or knowledge, and they don’t find out until a er the paper has been published. Senior scientists have been known to insist on being on the author lists of papers wri en by their junior staff and students, or junior scientists are le off the author list, despite having done a major share of the work.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “author” as “one that originates or creates” and “the writer of a literary work,” while oxforddictionaries .com speaks of “a writer of a book, article, or report” and “an originator or creator of something, especially a plan or idea.” All these definitions describe not only the action of writing a text but also of generating ideas, planning, or contributing in some other way. In science, the meaning of the word “authorship” stretches even further, to include all sorts of additional contributions that can lead to a place on that all-important author list at the

Authorship issues 27

top of a scientific paper. e uncertainty about what a person has to do to be counted as an author has been the cause of many problems. Certainly, if authors have done one of the following, they’ll be on the author list:

·  wri en the paper

·  designed the experiments

·  gathered the data

·  analyzed the data

·  contributed original idea(s) to the research

·  obtained the grant that supported the work.
But what about the following contributions, all of which are close to the borderline between named authorship and a grateful mention in the ac- knowledgments? What if an individual:

·  translated the paper into English?

·  substantially improved the English in the paper (originally wri en by a
nonnative English speaker)?

·  took a poor-quality paper and greatly improved it by changing its
structure or clarifying the text?

·  gathered some of the data—how much?

·  carried out some of the analysis—how much?

·  contributed one original idea—how important?
In short, the line between authorship and acknowledged contributor can be very fuzzy, and can therefore easily be the cause of disagreements and disputes (see also sidebar 4.1).
ere are recognized conventions that govern author order, but these vary greatly depending on the subject area (Brereton 2010). In some fields (math- ematics, particle physics, astronomy), authors are o en ranked in alpha- betical order, which prevents a lot of arguments. However, in other areas, such as the natural sciences and biomedicine, the order in which names ap- pear at the top of the paper usually depends on the person’s contribution to the paper itself or to the research on which the article is based. e first name on the list is usually the person who did most of the work. e suc- ceeding names are then ranked according to their level of contribution. e last name on the list in a multiauthor paper is generally understood to be the leader of the lab group or the Director of the department or institute in

28 chapter 4

which the research took place. is senior figure may not have played any active part in the research but probably had to approve the final version of the paper and may have provided advice or guidance, read through one or more of the earlier dra s, ran the facilities in which the work was carried out, or possibly obtained the grant that supported the research.

In the past, many papers had just a single author or perhaps two or three at most. Today, however, we are in the era of the multidisciplinary, multi- institution, multiauthor study, as scientists from different specialties, insti- tutions, and countries pool their knowledge and expertise to address com- plex scientific and medical problems. Sorting out who goes in what order can be a major headache for collaborators, as well as for Editors, who must find space on the printed pages to list all those author addresses. When you submit your paper, you need to be sure that the order in which the authors’ names appear is exactly as agreed among all the coauthors and is as you wish them to appear in the final publication.


In scientific and medical publishing, the first author position is valued most highly, and not only because the person listed first is assumed to have done the most work. First author is the prime position and is given the most weight when your publications list is being evaluated by an employer or grant-awarding body. First authorship also provides the greatest level of visibility. When your paper is cited by journals that use “et al.” (meaning “and others”) which many publications do for papers with three or more authors, all but those first few names become invisible. In the text, citations to papers with three or more authors usually appear as only the first author (e.g., Jones et al., 2010),” even in publications where the first three or four names are listed in the references section (also called the “literature cited” or “citations” section). When a two-author paper is cited, both authors are named in the text.

When two scientists undertake a research project, author order will be based on who did the greater amount of work. However, issues of order are less straightforward when the two researchers share the work and the respon- sibility more or less equally. Both need the boost to their reputation that comes from being first author, so what should they do? Someone has to go second. One way that authors have solved this dilemma is to ask the journal to place a footnote somewhere in the paper (either on the first page or in the acknowl- edgements section), stating that they both contributed equally to the work.

Other problems can arise, for instance when a senior scientist in a posi- tion of authority insists on a place in the author list without having con-

Authorship issues 29

tributed anything much to the paper. Alternatively, an author may offer an “honorary” or “guest” authorship to someone they feel will add weight to the publication, even though that individual made li le or no contribu- tion to the work (see chapter 11). Finally, difficulty in assigning author or- der for a multiauthor paper also arises when each individual had a variety of different roles and responsibilities. Weltzin et al. (2006) suggested a way of dealing with some of these issues, namely to include, with each paper published, a textbox that lists the initials of each author followed by a brief description of what they contributed to the paper (see box 4.1). Not many journals have actually taken up this idea, but in January 2010, three major journals, Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, announced the introduction of a new policy (Alberts 2010), in which authors are asked to describe their contributions to the paper before it can be ac- cepted. In addition, the original data on which the paper is based must be verified by a senior author to ensure that the manuscript correctly represents the data. Where more than one lab or institution is involved, a representative fromeachgroupisaskedtocarryoutthisverification.Inthisway,theEditors of these three top-ranking journals hope to prevent the addition of “honorary authors” and to minimize the risk of various types of scientific fraud.


One of the best ways for a group of researchers to minimize the risk of hav- ing arguments over authorship is to agree at the very beginning what will

Author contributions to this article

JFW co-conceived and co-developed the idea for the manuscript, co- refined the intellectual content and scope, edited all dra s, prepared the final version of the manuscript, and facilitated the gathering of con- tributors. RTB co-conceived and co-developed the idea, edited all dra s, and assessed historic trends in authorship in ecology. LTW initiated the project, co-developed and co-refined the intellectual content, and wrote the first two dra s. JKK co-developed the idea, edited all dra s, and con- ducted the keyword search. ECE co-developed the idea and coordinated the authorship survey. JFW is the guarantor for the integrity of the ar- ticle as a whole.

b o x 4 . 1 Example of a box acknowledging the contributions of each of the authors of a paper (from Weltzin et al. 2006, used with permission). e initials represent the authors, whose full names appear at the beginning of the article and therefore don’t need to be repeated.

30 chapter 4

constitute authorship and what will dictate author order. At this early stage, no one can be absolutely certain about who will do the most work or who will carry out a particular task, but at least a baseline has been established. Circumstances may change and unexpected issues may arise, so that some- one who had planned to carry out a particular part of the research may be prevented from doing so, while someone who had expected to play a rela- tively minor role may end up doing much of the work. erefore, although the members of a research team should agree on a plan, including every- one’s roles and responsibilities and the order in which authors’ names will appear on any resulting papers, all involved should also understand and agree that the original order may need to change as the work progresses (see sidebar 4.1).

sidebar 4.1

Honesty in authorship

monica bradford Executive Editor, Science

Although much has been wri en in the past twenty years about what qualifies an individual to be an author on a scientific publication, authorship disputes con- tinue to occur. Training programs to teach graduate students research ethics have been in place in the US since the mid-1990s, and many journals routinely require researchers to clearly indicate their contribution to the work being presented in the article. All of these resources provide clear guidance on how to determine who is an author and who should be acknowledged. So how does it happen that an article is far along in the publication process before authorship disputes come to a head?

Clearly, the opportunity for preventing such disputes occurs long before a paper is submi ed to a journal. Discussing authorship expectations from the start of the research project is a good way to avoid last minute disputes. Steneck (2010) also advises early-career scientists to study “the standards of research practice in their areas of investigation” before starting a project, or “run the risk of making mis- takes and ge ing into difficult situations.” But discussing roles and knowing the standards may not be enough to prevent conflicts, because research is increasingly multidisciplinary, requiring diverse contributions from individuals o en working in different institutions and different countries. As part of a collaborative effort,


Authorship issues 31

each researcher brings not only knowledge and expertise but also cultural norms and expectations to the research process. As a result, coauthors o en need to navi- gate complex human interactions over time and distance. Further complicating the ma er, authors are far from being equals in terms of independence and career security. And authorship decisions can be inherently complex; more is involved than performing experiments and writing up the results. Strong interpersonal skills, open communication, and a supportive research environment are essential to transform a diverse group of individuals into a team of authors who trust each other and their research results.

Central to this trust is integrity: “intellectual honesty and accuracy in repre- senting contributions to research” as well as “other facets of individual integrity— collegiality, communication, and sharing of resources” (Cho et al. 2006). ese elements seem so fundamental to the practice of science, yet their absence is o en the root cause of authorship problems. Steneck provides an interesting insight into the relationship between authorship and integrity when he notes that the most sig- nificant tests of integrity “are the dozens of routine decisions scientists make every day.” By the time an authorship team starts to write up the research, the research- ers have made multiple decisions, individually and jointly, that impact trust and research integrity. He goes on to point out that the consequences of small decisions to the overall integrity of the research are not immediately evident, “which makes it easier to justify bending rules and cu ing corners” (Steneck 2010).

From the point of view of an Editor, it seems that researchers o en face dif- ficulties during the publication process because senior scientists have not taken the time to create an environment that fosters integrity. C. K. Gunsalus points out that the informal activities that “students absorb in the hallways, laboratories and hospitals” are as formative as the formal academic curriculum (Gunsalus 1997). She posed these questions to senior scientists: “What messages do students pick up about authorship and publication practices? How do they see mentors rec- oncile a desire for a he y publication record with admonitions not to engage in ‘salami science’ or divide work into ‘least publishable units?’ . . . Most important, do the rules apply to everyone in your environment or only to students?” (Gunsalus 1997). As in any endeavor, actions speak louder than words and mentors need to be particularly careful about the examples they set with regard to how they expect students and postdoctoral fellows to behave. When beginning collaborations with another research group, it is important to determine whether they share your ex- pectations with regard to investigator behaviors.

In a research environment devoid of trust, valuable time that should be spent moving research forward is spent arbitrating disputes. In an environment devoid of integrity, the consequences can be significant. As Floyd Bloom asserts, “Au- thorship and collaboration problems are a serious threat to the research enterprise and to the motivation of young scientists, especially when they involve misap-

32 chapter 4

propriation of ideas and data” (Bloom 2000). In the most egregious cases, authors face institutional investigations and/or lawsuits and the public loses confidence in scientific results. It is only natural for a research team to want to be first, or to have their work featured in the press, or to change what is wri en in textbooks. But those outcomes will be temporary if decisions are made along the way that erode the integrity of the research. Researchers at all stages of their careers must be repeatedly reminded that “integrity and reputation are among our major assets as scientists” (Levy 1997). Once lost, it is almost impossible for a scientist to recover these critically important assets. So choose your coauthors carefully and don’t shy away from explicit discussions among the team about protecting the integrity of your research at every step along the way to publication.


As mentioned earlier, people reviewing your publications list will tend to put the greatest value on those papers for which you were the sole or first author, particularly when they are considering whether to offer you a job or a promotion. However, few if any researchers can work entirely alone and, paradoxically, multidisciplinary (and therefore by definition multi- author) papers are widely recognized as vital in tackling many of the most intractable problems we face today. e question then becomes how do you find the right coauthors to share the workload as you pursue your research goals, and who will be able to make the most valuable contributions as you prepare to publish the results.

Of course, you may not need to look further than your own research group or departmental members, but you can also look further afield. Obvi- ous choices for possible collaborators are colleagues working on similar re- search topics from other departments in your institution or from other uni- versities or research institutes. Consider approaching the author of a paper that you have read and admired, or a speaker at a conference you a ended, if you feel they could bring valuable knowledge or a new perspective to your work. You may also want to consider a researcher from another discipline, with different skills or knowledge, or someone familiar with a particular technique that you have no experience in (or someone who has access to the equipment required to carry out that technique). Obviously, before you invite a complete stranger to be a coauthor on your paper, you will want to find out a bit more about that person, so you will need to do some research. But if you are fairly confident that a particular individual could make a valu- able contribution, don’t be shy about asking them—many researchers will be pleased and fla ered to be approached, and the very worst that can hap-


Authorship issues 33 pen is that they say “no.” And of course, you must never add anyone’s name

to an author list without their knowledge or permission.


Provided you are working with the right people, having coauthors can defi- nitely strengthen a paper. Having someone to share the workload and to discuss options and ideas with can also be a huge help.

You may also want to consider inviting a big-name scientist to join the author list, but only if you think the person will provide meaningful input. You should not offer authorship as a “gi ,” and hopefully an experienced senior researcher would refuse anyway. In cases where the individual is your supervisor or the head of your lab, this may be an obvious choice or necessity. One way or another, the possibility of adding a well-known name to your author list is a difficult decision that junior authors have always had to wrestle with. Having a big name as a coauthor may bring extra weight and prestige to a paper and the sight of a well-respected name somewhere in the author lineup may be just enough to save a borderline paper from the reject-without-review pile. However, that same big-name presence may divert some of the a ention away from you, the junior author, at a time when you are trying to develop your own reputation and so need all the recognition you can get.

Leimu et al. (2008) wanted to know whether having a big-name author (whom they called a “bigwig”) on the paper would increase the number of citations, regardless of whether the increased citations were because this senior author improved the quality of the paper or was a racting extra ci- tations just by being there. ey looked at papers in a midranking ecology journal and used the h index (Hirsch 2005) to measure the senior author’s scientific stature. ey found that for papers with up to three authors, hav- ing a well-respected senior author as a coauthor did lead to higher citation rates, but this effect disappeared when there were four or more authors. is result led to a published discussion with Havens (2008) regarding whether the effect was indeed due to the extra quality that such an author would bring to the work or whether senior authors were only likely to be- come involved if the work was of particularly good quality to begin with.


Authors whose primary language is not English are o en strongly encour- aged to seek help with the English in their papers (see sidebar 4.2 on some of the challenges faced by international authors and 8.3 on how to choose a

34 chapter 4

good language-polishing service). One option mentioned elsewhere in this book, and in countless Editors’ le ers to authors, is to seek the help of a col- league or acquaintance (or even a scientist whom you have never met, but who is a native English speaker and an expert in your field) who can work with you to improve the English in the text. If you find yourself seeking this kind of help on one of your papers, you need to make it very clear, right from the beginning and preferably in writing, what you are offering in re- turn. In most cases, a mention in the acknowledgments should be enough. Unless the individual makes a substantial contribution to the intellectual content of the paper, this type of language assistance does not necessarily warrant inclusion as an author. However, there have been occasions when this was not agreed at the outset, leading to arguments at a later stage.

sidebar 4.2

e challenges of publishing as an international author

keping ma
Professor, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences

e basic goal of science is to add to the world’s collective knowledge and this goal compels us to develop and do good science. Scientific publication, in turn, is how we confirm and refine new discoveries to determine what really is new knowledge. International scientists (that is, those working in countries outside those where the majority of science is being published) face particular challenges in publishing, and those for whom English is not a primary language face even greater constraints. e challenges facing nonnative speakers and writers of En- glish are rooted not only in linguistic differences but perhaps more importantly in cultural differences and in the accepted ways of presenting papers for publication.

International authors begin by facing exactly the same challenges as any other authors. First and foremost, they have to do good science, following international standards on research integrity. Once their science is done, they have to select an appropriate journal for their work, write clearly according to standard formats for presenting science, and follow the instructions to authors exactly. However, inexperienced international authors may face even greater challenges than those of their Western counterparts. For example, international authors may not be able to get advice as easily from senior scientists, in part because of cultural differ-


Authorship issues 35

ences that make it difficult to ask for this kind of help. Some international authors may have limited Internet access, may have difficulty ge ing copies of back is- sues of journals to study as possible targets for submission, and may have limited financial resources to pay for page charges or open access fees. ese constraints can hamper the ability of international authors to identify the most appropriate journals to submit to.

Once an international author has selected a journal, other challenges arise. For example, if a journal suggests writing a cover le er, nonnative speakers of English may again be at a disadvantage, in that they may have limited knowledge of how to write any kind of formal le er in English, much less a cover le er to an Editor who will be making critical decisions about their paper. Some journals may ask authors to suggest reviewers, another possible cultural challenge for international authors who may be unfamiliar with this kind of practice and may also be hesitant to recommend someone they don’t know personally.

If an international author does get a paper into review and must then respond to a decision le er, replying to criticisms may also present unique difficulties. For example, in some cultures, authors may be reluctant to publically point out that an expert reviewer misinterpreted something. Without the support of an experienced mentor, a young international author may believe that all the reviewers’ com- ments must be followed, even if they are not completely correct. Of course, non- native writers of English face double difficulties when writing in English, both because they are writing about something highly technical and because they are writing in a language that is not their native tongue. Editors and authors recognize that there is o en at least some bias in the peer reviewers’ reports of papers wri en by nonnative writers of English. Whether reviewers exercise this bias consciously or unconsciously, this prejudice makes it difficult for international authors to compete on a level playing field with their peers who can write English with the confidence of a native speaker.

Despite these difficulties, international authors are submi ing their work to high-ranking journals in ever greater numbers. Journals, in turn, are paying more a ention to the needs of international authors; many are trying to provide resources that address the particular needs of scientists who are doing excellent science and want to share it with their colleagues around the world.


If someone has helped you with any aspect of the paper (though not enough to have earned a place on the author list), use the acknowledgments section to thank them. You must also remember to thank the funding agency that gave you financial support—they may not give you any more money if you


36 chapter 4

don’t offer this simple courtesy. e following list shows some of the many possible contributions that could earn various individuals a place in this section of your paper. ey may have:

·  provided technical assistance, under your direction

·  allowed you to use their graphic illustrations or photos

·  given you some material for use in your research

·  discussed your ideas with you and provided advice or suggestions

·  read early dra s of the paper and made useful comments

·  been the subject(s) of your study, answered a questionnaire, or pro-
vided other information.
Remember, it can never hurt to say “thank you,” but forge ing to do so could certainly lead to problems later on.
As a sole author, you will most likely be doing all the work associated with ge ing the manuscript published. However, when a group of authors col- laborate on a project, at some stage they need to decide who will be the cor- responding author (CA). e CA is not necessarily the first named author on the list, although this is o en the case. In fact, the role of CA can be played by anyone on the author list. Among a group of scientists who are all nonnative speakers of English, the CA may be the person who speaks the best English. Alternatively, the scientist who has had the most experience with the publishing process may be the best person to take on this role, or it could be the most senior or the most junior researcher in the group.
So, what does the CA do? From the time of submission, and to some ex- tent before that, the CA’s job is to carry out various tasks associated with the manuscript as it moves through the peer review and publication process. In addition, no ma er how many authors are associated with the paper, the CA is always the “point of contact,” the organizer, and the representative of the author group in all dealings with the journal. e CA is also responsible for making sure all the authors have read and signed off on the final version of the paper before submission.
Ideally, Editors and editorial staff prefer to deal with only one person on the author list of each paper. e CA’s name and all contact details should therefore appear separately, on the first page of the manuscript, or will need to be provided in a designated section in the journal’s online submis- sion form. e CA’s duties usually begin at an early stage and may include orchestrating the different phases of manuscript preparation, correction,

Authorship issues 37

and approval by all the authors. e CA may also be delegated to research various journal criteria to see which publication is the best match for the paper. However, the main work begins when the paper is sent off to the cho- sen journal. In short, the CA’s job is to relay every communication from the journal to all the other authors, and to gather and collate all the contribu- tions from those authors and send the final result back to the journal.

As CA, you will probably be the person who uploads the manuscript and all the accompanying figures, appendices, and other materials to the online submission system, or the one who packages and posts the required num- ber of copies of everything to the journal offices. e decision le er, when it finally arrives, will come to you, and it is your responsibility to relay copies to all your co-authors as quickly as possible.

If the decision was to reject the paper (with or without review), the group will need to decide where to send the manuscript next, which may involve you in further research into journal requirements. If the decision was a re- quest for major or minor revisions, the authors will have to move into a new phase of discussion regarding how to address all the recommendations and comments (see chapter 10). In any case, the CA may be chosen to do much of the revision work on the text, to circulate dra s, and to incorporate every- one’s corrections before sending it off to the same or another journal.

In cases of major or minor revisions, journals will usually give authors a deadline by which revised text must be submi ed. is may be three months, six months, or more. As CA, it will be your job to find out what the time frame is and to ensure that all the authors provide their input within a reasonable period. If the deadline passes and the revised text has not been submi ed to the journal, the Editors may decide to “close the file” and ar- chive the paper. If a further dra arrives a er the deadline, it will o en be treated as a new submission and the whole review process may have to be started again from the beginning. Ge ing multiple authors to submit revi- sions in a timely fashion can require a lot of tact, as well as equal amounts of begging and bullying. If a coauthor is being very slow, you may need to ask the most senior author or other authors in the group to apply some pres- sure. At some stage in the process, the journal may require signed copyright forms from all the authors—you will be expected to distribute these forms to your coauthors and to make sure everyone gets them back to you or sends them direct to the journal. ere may also be author billing forms, reprint order forms, and other paperwork to deal with.

If the paper includes figures or tables that have appeared in another publication, be it a book, journal, magazine, newspaper, or website, the Editor will also want to see wri en permission to use the material from that other publication. Permissions offices can be notoriously slow to re-

38 chapter 4

spond to these requests and may take many weeks or even months to reply, so start this process as early as possible.

Later, when the proofs arrive, the CA will also need to distribute the materials to all coauthors, and then collate suggested corrections and re- turn the manuscript to the journal. Finally, if at any time the journal staff have questions, it is the CA they will be contacting for the answers.

Being CA can involve a lot of extra work and can make you quite unpopu- lar with your coauthors, as you will constantly be asking them to send back signed forms, return their corrections, and other materials. However, on the positive side, you will gain a new understanding of what to do at each stage of the publishing process, which will stand you in good stead when you are trying to get your next paper published.


One other source of confusion associated with authorship deals with the names of foreign authors. Editors sometimes have great difficulty in un- derstanding and correctly reproducing, archiving, and indexing foreign au- thors’ names, particularly when they are from countries that do not use the Latin (Roman) alphabet or have different naming conventions than those with which the Editor is familiar.

Chinese names are a particular case in point. In China, the usual prac- tice is to put the family name before the personal name (so that John Smith would be called Smith John). Editorial staff who are unaware of this prac- tice, and who also cannot distinguish between first and last Chinese names, o en make the mistake of entering such names in the wrong order in the author database. To further complicate ma ers, some Chinese authors are aware of this problem and therefore enter their names into the manuscript tracking system in the Western style, with the personal name first, only to have the Editor, in an a empt to enter the information correctly, reversing the personal and family names back again! e next time those particular authors submit a paper to the same journal, they may represent their names a different way. As a result, it is quite common to find the same author listed in two or three different ways in the database. Such errors can occur in the case of authors from any country or culture where names do not follow the English conventions of order or spelling. Hungarians, for example, also place the family name before the given name, and authors from Brazil o en have multiple family names. e terms that denote “from,” “son of” (e.g., von, d’, de, bin) and similar relational information can also lead to duplica- tion and other problems in the author database.

If you believe that your name might cause some confusion among edi-

Authorship issues 39

torial staff, you should consider explaining the format of your name in a “notes” section of the manuscript submission system or even in your cover le er. If you are the CA, it will be your responsibility to make sure that all the names of your coauthors are correctly transmi ed to the editorial of- fice and that given names and family names are clearly indicated. Above all, however, you need to use the same format of your name every time you submit a paper to an English-language journal, no ma er what your na- tionality. If you publish a paper as Jane Smith and then another as Jane B. Smith, you could very well end up appearing twice in the index.


Scientists can be very sensitive about issues of authorship. Agree on author order as well as roles and responsibilities at an early stage of the process. ink carefully about other individuals who have contributed to the paper to a lesser degree and be sure to include them in the acknowledgments. Some forethought and consideration can avoid unpleasant disputes; your early experiences as an author or CA will lead to a be er understanding of the publishing process—which will make it seem a lot easier the next time around.

chapter five

Choosing the right journal

I am continually amazed at the numbers of papers submi ed to our journal that
are completely outside of our scope. An instant rejection ensues, but I regret the
lost productivity that such submissions cost authors and journal staff. To gauge whether a paper will have any chance of actually ge ing into peer review at a highly competitive international journal, authors must try to honestly assess the novelty and impact of their work and whether or not it provides new insights to the scientific community. c y n t h i a e . d u n b a r , MD, Editor-in-Chief, Blood, Journal of the American Society of Hematology

It seems obvious that choosing the right journal for a particular paper is absolutely key to ge ing your work published, and yet making this critical selection is o en where authors make mistakes. In this chapter, we look at how to go about making that choice in a way that maximizes your chance of ge ing into peer review and ge ing published.


Finding a good pairing between a specific manuscript and a specific jour- nal puts the author into the role of matchmaker. e activities of finding a compatible mate in life and that of finding a match between a journal and a specific paper are based on similar principles. Despite the fact that no two people are “exactly” perfect for each other, successful marriages do happen, usually because there is both a strong underlying compatibility and because both individuals’ primary needs are met. Similarly, for any one particu- lar piece of research there are probably several journals that are possible “mates,” journals in which the paper could be published. Some publications will be a be er fit than others, and initially it is the author’s responsibility to act as matchmaker and objectively assess both the manuscript and each potential journal to decide which match will best allow everyone’s needs to be met, particularly the Editor’s.

All the important components to consider in choosing a journal to sub- mit to revolve around the traditional model of effective communication: who is your audience, what is your message, and why is it important? e more clearly you understand your audience, your message, and your pur-

Choosing the right journal 41

pose in publishing, the be er the match you will make when you target a journal for your manuscript. In addition, having a particular audience in mind—not only when you are selecting a journal for submission, but before, when you begin to write and even when you begin your research— allows you to structure your information into a coherent form to get a spe- cific argument across about what your data mean.

As you are finalizing your manuscript and considering journals for sub- mission, you should be asking yourself:

·  Does the journal publish the type of paper I’m writing (e.g., research paper, method paper, data paper, review paper)?

·  Is this paper really at the right level in terms of innovation and im- portance?

·  Does the journal cover the particular topic I’m writing about?

·  Does the audience I want to reach read the journal I’m considering?

·  How prestigious is the journal?

·  What is the turnaround time for articles in that journal? How impor-
tant is it for this paper to appear quickly?

·  Is there a cost to publishing in the journal? Do I have the funds
Most importantly:

·  Does my paper fit the aims, scope, or mission of the journal I’m consid- ering?

·  Have I thoroughly reviewed the instructions for authors? Can I meet all the requirements stated there?
Most of the answers to these questions can be found in the instructions to authors and scope statements of each journal, and each journal’s require- ments will be notably different. You need to carefully and thoroughly study this guiding information for each journal that you are considering. You should be sure to get several back issues of the journal and review them carefully, not only to study the style and requirements, but also to get a good idea of what topics have been covered recently. At the same time, you also need to be clear about your own goals and constraints because these parameters (including, for example, the status of a journal, its typical speed from acceptance to publication, and the costs of publishing) can bear di- rectly on which journals may or may not be a good match for the particular paper you are writing.

42 chapter 5


Somewhere on the website, or among the pages of the print copies of the publication (if it includes a print issue), most journals have some sort of statement about the range of topics they cover and types of papers they pub- lish. Some journals call this their “scope,” others call it the journal’s “aim,” or even their “mission.” It may be called something else entirely. Regardless of labels, you need to look for language that explicitly states what the jour- nalpublishesandwhy,aswellasstatementsabouttheprimaryreadersand the main purpose of the journal, as this information can be extremely help- ful in understanding what kinds of papers the Editor will consider. A sen- tence that reads, “ e journal is specifically interested in research that has policy implications” is a clear indication that somewhere in your abstract, discussion, or conclusion sections you should include a paragraph or two about the policy implications of your findings. If the main implications of your research do not match the stated requirements of the journal, do not send the paper to that journal. However, if they do match, you should make this clear to the readers, the first and most important being the Editor. If the science has been done properly, you’ll have the best chance of ge ing your paper reviewed if your topic matches the scope and falls within the range of interests of the journal.

Editorial collaboration: the same publisher

Many publishers produce a number of different journals, sometimes all covering one subject (e.g., Ecological Society of America) or else one general journal, covering a broad range of topics, together with a series of specialty journals (e.g., Nature and its family of topic-focused review jour- nals). If there is nothing basically wrong with your paper except that, for instance, you aimed a li le high in terms of importance or novelty, or you chose a journal that is more focused on applied science than your paper really warrants, the Editor may reject the paper but may either strongly en- courage you to resubmit to one of its sister publications or may offer to pass it directly to the other, more suitable journal, via a shared online submis- sion system. In the la er case, you will first be asked whether you agree to allow the manuscript to be passed to the alternative publication.

In some but not all cases, even within the same family of journals, the original Editor may ask the new Editor whether he or she is interested in seeing the paper and obviously won’t suggest this option to you if the an- swer is “no.” However, if you do receive such a suggestion, you need to be aware that this in no way guarantees that the paper will be accepted or even

Choosing the right journal 43

that it will be sent to peer review. Also bear in mind that the situation de- scribed here applies only where the journals are from the same publisher. If the Editor simply suggests that you try submi ing to another journal or another type of journal, this does not mean that the other Editor has been contacted—it is just a suggestion (see also chapter 10).

Editorial collaboration: different publishers

Some journals, usually but not always smaller or less well-known publica- tions with a lower or no impact factor, may allow you to submit a paper that has been rejected from another journal, together with the anonymous reviews you received from that publication (clearly, you will need to have made the changes listed in the reviewers’ reports). is can be a path to rapid publication following rejection, since these journals will not nec- essarily send the paper out to reviewers of their own. It will be up to you to judge whether the advantages of ge ing your paper published quickly outweigh the need to publish in a higher-impact-factor journal. You can find out journal policies on this strategy by checking journal websites and instructions to authors.

In the future, the practice of sharing reviews between journals may be formalized and extended within groups of journals that have agreed to form consortia, and there are already experiments looking at possible mecha- nisms for achieving this type of collaboration. If these experiments are suc- cessful, both authors and Editors could benefit in terms of decreased time to publication and reduced duplication of effort during the review process.


e first place to look for the instructions to authors is the journal website, although some publications also provide a shortened version in at least one print issue a year. Good instructions to authors will include:

·  journal scope statement (although scope, aims, and mission statements may be presented separately)

·  descriptions of the various article types published

·  limits: total manuscript length (word or page limits), number of cita-
tions, number of tables and figures, or other accompanying materials

·  format requirements: type sizes, font preferences, file type require-
ments for figures, instructions on preparation of tables, use of line numbers, what goes on the title page, and other specifics

44 chapter 5

·  style preferences: e.g., use of active or passive voice, particular words or symbols, reference styles (within text and in the references section), and other language requirements

·  information required: e.g., author information, abstract and keyword requirements

·  rules on the use of acronyms and abbreviations in the body text
One important note here is that we say “good” instructions to authors will contain this information. In reality, not all journals include all this infor- mation directly under the heading of “instructions to authors.” You may need to look for it elsewhere on the journal website and you may even need to send an inquiry to the editorial office. Not all instructions to authors are well wri en, complete, or helpful.
Many authors are unaware of, misunderstand, or simply ignore the in- structions to authors, and Editors can usually tell if this is the case as soon as they open a file. In some cases, really blatant disregard of the instructions can result in a paper going immediately onto the reject-without-review pile, although more usually the manuscript will just be returned to the author for reforma ing and adjustment, causing unnecessary delay. Even if the topic and paper type are appropriate for the journal and the paper looks interesting, an Editor may still choose to reject it if it deviates too far from the journal’s forma ing and other requirements. At the very least, disre- garding the journal’s instructions will irritate the Editor and give a bad impression of the author. We cannot stress enough the importance of care- fully studying and following instructions to authors, including authorship requirements, guidelines on conflicts of interest, policies on embargos, and other specifics related to clinical trials registration, data deposition, statis- tical analyses, and other parameters laid out by each journal.
Again, remember that instructions to authors can vary substantially from journal to journal. Every time you send a paper to a journal—whether a first submission, or a submission following rejection by a previous jour- nal—always study the new publication’s instructions to authors and change the manuscript accordingly. Although submi ing a paper in the wrong format may not be grounds for rejection, except in extreme cases, it will annoy the Editor and should be avoided. In many cases, the manuscript will be returned to you with a request to change it to the required format, which is a waste of everybody’s time, including your own. Many authors ask whether it is really necessary to keep changing the manuscript, accord- ing to each new journal’s specifications: the answer is yes, it is absolutely necessary.

Choosing the right journal 45 PRESUBMISSION INQUIRIES

Some journals allow authors to make a “presubmission inquiry” before for- mally submi ing their manuscript; sometimes, though not always, these journals have specific requirements regarding what you should send. Some require an abstract, while others ask for a synopsis of the paper. Some jour- nals want a cover le er that answers specific questions, while others don’t. You may be asked to provide the full introduction to the paper, together with citations and perhaps all the figures. Every journal has different re- quirements, so find out what these are.

Even when the journal does not specifically encourage presubmission inquiries, some authors contact the editorial office of a journal on an in- formal basis if they are not sure their paper is a good match for that publi- cation. Editors have different views on this sort of informal inquiry: some see presubmission inquiries as a chance to save themselves and the authors a lot of time and trouble if the paper clearly isn’t a good match. Others feel they don’t have the time to read or respond to inquiries “outside the sys- tem,” or don’t want to make a judgment based only on an abstract or brief summary. Some Editors are also reluctant to give a positive response to an informal inquiry, knowing that once formally submi ed, there is no guar- antee that the paper will be sent out to peer review.

If you decide to write to an Editor, be sure to indicate how your paper meets the journal’s requirements. Do your best to make your inquiry short and clear, and explain what it is about your paper that is new, interesting, and important to the readers of that journal. e good news is that most journals that do allow presubmission inquiries try to respond to them quickly—o en within a few days to a week. In other words, making such an inquiry will not cause you to lose a lot of time and, with luck, you’ll get some useful feedback.

Remember though, as mentioned above, if you do get a positive response to a presubmission inquiry, it does not mean that a paper will definitely be accepted for peer review. But whether the response is positive or negative, replies to a presubmission inquiry may provide useful information that you can use to evaluate the potential match between your manuscript and that particular journal.


e strengths and weaknesses of the impact factor (IF) system and other metrics of impact are reviewed in detail in chapter 6. However, many au-

46 chapter 5

thors put too much weight on this metric when they are selecting a journal for submission, so it is worth a brief discussion here.

All researchers would like to get their work published in a prestigious journal with a high IF and, as a result, many authors, particularly interna- tional researchers or early-career scientists, regard the IF as one of their most important criteria when selecting a journal for submission. Publish- ing in a journal with a high IF yields all sorts of positive benefits for authors. First, of course, publishing in a high-impact journal is a status symbol for a researcher, one that can give an advantage in ge ing tenure or promotion, can help researchers in the quest for funding, and can help boost general recognition in scholarly communities. In some countries, researchers get sizable financial bonuses for publishing in high-impact journals. Ge ing a paper into a high-impact journal adds to the overall weight of a researcher’s publication list and may help in ge ing future papers published. It is also seen,o enincorrectly,asanindicatoroftheoverallqualityofaresearcher’s work (see chapter 6 for a discussion on the incorrect uses of IFs).

However, pu ing too much weight on the IF when targeting a journal for submission can have a number of disadvantages for authors. First, high-IF- rated journals usually have very high rejection rates—particularly rejection without review. For example, consider the initial reject-without-review rates for 2010 provided by the editorial offices of three well-known, high- impact journals:

· Nature—78%
· Science—74%
· Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—51%.

Even more papers are rejected later in the review process. ese are not great odds. Of course, other high-IF journals are not quite as bad as this, but a 50–75% rejection rate is not out of the ordinary. You need to think carefully and objectively about the relative importance of your findings and the chances of ge ing past that first hurdle—reject without review. Is your paper really important enough to stand out from all the competition? Although we encourage all authors to be optimistic, that optimism must be tempered with realism: the goal is to get your work published in the best possible journal, and that may not be one of the highest-ranking journals in your field.

e point is that high-IF journals usually want to publish truly ground- breaking science. You need to consider—as the Editors will—where your paper fits along the IF spectrum.

Choosing the right journal 47 SPEED TO PUBLICATION

When researching journals, keep in mind the time frame in which you need to publish. For some authors, speed may not be particularly important; in other cases, time to publication will be crucial. For example, if you are hop- ing for a new job or a promotion, you may be eager to add new titles to your publication list as quickly as possible. Similarly, if you are working in a fast- paced field, you may be concerned about time from submission to print because essentially you are in a race with other researchers to publish your findings first. ere may be other reasons to want to publish quickly, such as an upcoming conference or a pending decision by local or state decision makers that you hope to influence.

Publication time has, in fact, become so important to authors and Editors that many journals are changing their internal processes to allow papers to be published more quickly. As recently as ten years ago, ge ing a paper into print within a few months was considered very rapid publication. To- day, it is not uncommon for accepted papers to be published online within a few weeks or even days. Some journals, such as PLoS One and Ecology Let- ters, were launched with the specific mission of rapid peer review and fast publication. Many other journals are adding new sections to their websites that allow accepted papers to be viewed online before final editing (papers in press) or before print (pre-press publication). Yet, despite all these devel- opments, some journals remain notoriously slow at ge ing papers out to their readers.

Many publications post the average time from acceptance to publication on their websites. If speed is an important factor for you, and you cannot find information on turnaround times, you can try writing a quick note to the editorial office to ask. When you submit, you can also include the rea- sons why timing is important in your cover le er and hope that the Editor will make an effort to expedite the paper through the system.


Money is another constraint that you need to keep on your list of potential barriers to publication. If your financial resources are limited, you need to find out all the possible costs associated with publishing in a particular journal, including page charges, color charges, and fees related to submis- sion or open access (see sidebar 5.1).


chapter 5



sidebar 5.1

Choosing open access for your paper

catriona maccallum
Senior Editor, PLoS Biology, and Consulting Editor, PLoS ONE

e almost exponential growth of open access journals and articles since 2002 means that where you choose to publish your research has consequences you may never have considered. e choice between a subscription journal that restricts ac- cess and an open access journal that removes all barriers to access is important to you as an author because it will affect the way your paper and the data associated with it are disseminated. It is also important to understand that free access (i.e., free to read) is not the same as open access. Open access means that your article can be read, downloaded, and, crucially, reused by others without permission, as long as you receive appropriate acknowledgment for the work. It therefore affects how the ideas, figures, data, and analyses in your study can be used in the future as well as how that information can be linked to other relevant literature or incor- porated into databases or websites that can be used by other scientists, policy mak- ers, and the public. e growth of sophisticated search engines and freely available analytical tools can enrich science and research, but only if there are no barriers to the access and reuse of literature and data. Choosing to place your article behind a subscription barrier therefore limits the potential impact of your work beyond just restricting the readership.

In the early 2000s, open access publishers such as BioMedCentral (BMC), the Public Library of Science (PLoS), and Hindawi (an academic publisher that supports more than 300 open access journals) set out to show that a one-time charge for the cost of publication (the “publication fee” model) could provide an alternative and sustainable business model to that of subscription or “‘toll- based” publishing, while still maintaining rigorous standards of peer review. Open access publishing is now an established part of the publishing landscape. More than 6,300 journals are listed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (h p://www.doaj.org), and not all of them charge for publication. PLoS, BMC, and Hindawi are perhaps the best known of the publishers that charge a fee for publication in their journals. Many traditional publishers also provide authors with an open access choice in their subscription journals (e.g., the “hybrid” journals provided by Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and the US National Acad-

Choosing the right journal 49

emy of Sciences). Other publishers have launched their own dedicated open ac- cess journals. In the past year, notable additions include Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, AIP Advances, SAGE Open, BMJ OPEN, Open Biology ( from the UK Royal Society), and the Ecological Society of America’s Ecosphere.


Open access publishing, despite its rapid growth, is still an evolving business model, so if you choose to make your paper open access you should understand the different options that are available. Not all journals that claim to be open access really are open access and, as with subscription journals, the quality of the end product and the services the publisher provides can vary. e following is a brief guide to what you should look out for.

Is the journal or publisher option genuinely open access?

e Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association (OASPA, h p://www.oaspa .org) recognizes a journal as open access if it provides free, immediate, online ac- cess to all original research and allows reuse of the work in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper a ribution of authorship. OASPA en- courages journals to adopt a Creative Commons License (h p://creativecommons .org/licenses) as a standard, in particular the most liberal “a ribution” license (a CC-BY license is the least restrictive license; it allows users to redistribute, adapt, or build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they give credit to the author).

Be aware that there are different creative commons licenses and not all of them are compatible with open access. PLoS, Hindawi, and BMC all use the CC-BY li- cense for their articles, as do journals such as SAGE Open and Ecosphere. Other journals, such as Nature’s Scientific Reports, provide you with the option of two creative commons licenses. Both restrict commercial reuse, and one does not per- mit any other derivative reuse. Under OASPA’s current guidelines above, these options are not open access (see also Carroll 2011).

Check who retains copyright

If your article is published with a creative commons, open access license, then you should always hold the copyright. e license sets out the conditions under which your article can be used by others, whereas the copyright holder determines the terms of the license and can waive any restrictions (e.g., commercial reuse).

50 chapter 5

e practice of copyright transfer used by subscription journals is o en presented as being in the interests of the author, for example to protect the integrity of their work (see sidebars 8.1 on Why Transfer Copyright? and 8.2 on e Permissions Process), when in fact the subscription business model requires that the publisher restrict the rights of the user. Open access, by contrast, releases your work from all restrictions on reuse (e.g., for photocopying or for course packs), although your work will still be protected from misuse (such as plagiarism) by any reputable publisher, whether open access or subscription-based.

Sometimes, it is hard to find the license or copyright holder on a published paper. Most open access journals put the identity of the copyright holder next to the license (as below) while others position the license and copyright holders sepa- rately (e.g., the copyright holder may be found at the bo om of the page in the pdf or online version). e following is an example of what an open access a ribution license looks like when the author is also the copyright holder. is is taken from an article in the journal PLoS Biology:

Husby A, Visser ME, Kruuk LEB (2011) Speeding Up Microevolution: e Effects of Increasing Temperature on Selection and Genetic Variance in a Wild Bird Population. PLoS Biol 9(2): e1000585. doi:10.1371/journal. pbio.1000585

Copyright: © 2011 Husby et al. is is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons A ribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Check that your published article is deposited in a publicly available repository

All open access articles should be deposited in a publicly available repository at the time of publication. is practice complies with the policies of all major fund- ing agencies, including the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, the Wellcome Trust and the Research Councils in the UK, and the Deutsche For- schungsgemeinscha in Germany, all of which request or require deposition of the published articles based on research they have funded into publicly available data- bases. is also ensures that your article is archived stably and in perpetuity (e.g., by being “mirrored” at appropriate sites) and is not held only by the publisher.

Open access publishers, such as BMC and PLoS, or traditional publishers such as Springer that provide some open access options and journals, will ensure that your article is submi ed to PubMedCentral (h p://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc, funded and maintained by the NIH). Because your article is open access, you can also deposit the final version in a repository of your choice, such as one linked to your academic institution.

Choosing the right journal 51 Check the services you will receive from your publisher

As an author, you need to choose the most appropriate venue for your paper and, like subscription journals, open access journals differ in the services they provide. Peer review at some journals, such as PLoS ONE, Scientific Reports, or SAGE Open aims to assess the technical rigor of the work submi ed and to ensure that the conclusions of a paper are supported by the data; however, Editors are not asked to assess the importance of the work. Such journals aim to provide a rigor- ous and fast evaluation process. At other journals, the peer review process aims to evaluate the relative importance of the work for the field, as well as the technical rigor. Because rejection rates are higher at such journals, publication fees also tend to be higher.

You should also check what services the publisher provides once the paper has been published, as this may affect how your article is used or evaluated by others. Because technology and web-based tools are changing rapidly, it is likely that publishers—and especially open access publishers—will increasingly provide different postpublication services. For example, PLoS currently provides a range of metrics about your article, which allow readers to track its usage and citation (h p://article-level-metrics.plos.org). e purpose of such article-level metrics is to encourage readers to judge articles on their individual merits, rather than as part of the journal in which they happen to be published (see sidebar 3.2 on using DOIs to foster article-level citation metrics).

What is the policy of your funding agency in relation to open access?

Most funding organizations now require their grantees to make their papers, and increasingly the data resulting from their research, publicly available within a pre- defined time (note that policies about data and papers are o en different). Policies are changing rapidly and it is therefore important that you check what your funding agency requires before you submit your paper to any journal. It is your responsibil- ity as the grantee to comply with the demands of your funding agency. Generally, agencies will stipulate how long a er publication an article must be made freely available. For example, the UK’s Wellcome Trust requires that authors make their articles freely available within six months of publication, but encourages immediate access by providing additional funds to cover publication fees in open access jour- nals. Others, such as the NIH, currently stipulate free access a er twelve months. e most effective way to comply with such requirements is to publish your article in an open access journal or to choose an open access option where available.

If the publisher charges a fee to make your paper open access, and your funder provides you with the money to pay for the cost of publication, tell the publisher that funds are available when you submit the paper. Most open access journals will also have a waiver policy for those without grants or other means to pay for

52 chapter 5

publication. At reputable open access journals, Editors are not privy to this in- formation—the editorial decision about the suitability of a paper for the journal should always remain separate from an author’s ability to pay.


BioMedCentral: h p://www.biomedcentral.com Hindawi: h p://www.hindawi.com
Public Library of Science: h p://www.plos.org AIP Advances: h p://aipadvances.aip.org

BMJ OPEN: h p://bmjopen.bmj.com
Ecosphere: h p://www.esajournals.org/loi/ecsp
Open Biology: h p://royalsocietypublishing.org/site/openbiology SAGE Open: h p://www.sagepub.com/sageopen/landing.sp
Scientific Reports: h p://www.nature.com/srep/marketing/index.html


Boyle J. 2008. e Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lessig L. 2005. Free Culture: e Nature and Future of Creativity. NY: Pen- guin (non-classics).

Suber P. (n.d.) Open Access News. Available: h p://www.earlham.edu /~peters/fos/fosblog.html. Accessed 27 May, 2011.

Willinsky J. 2006. Access principle: the case for open access to research and scholarship. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Journals published by societies will o en charge lower fees to members, or provide publication grants, so it is worth doing the math to figure out whether it is cheaper to pay the membership fee and get reduced publica- tion fees or not. Some journals offer discounts or waive the fees altogether for authors from developing countries, for students, or sometimes even for early career researchers. If publication costs are beyond your budget, you can approach the Editor before you submit, explain your situation, and ask whether the fees could be waived or reduced if the paper is accepted. (Make it clear that you understand that an agreement to reduce or dispense with the fee is not an agreement to publish the paper.) If the answer is “no,” then you probably should take that journal off your list of potential targets.


Choosing the right journal 53 OPEN ACCESS

Consideration of cost is by no means the only reason to think about pub- lishing in an open access (OA) journal. As discussed in detail in sidebar 5.1, publishing in an OA journal is an important option to consider because these differ significantly from traditional journals in the ways they allow readers to access and use their content. Your primary concern as an author is to get your work published, whether in a subscription-based or an open access journal. At the same time, you need to consider who will be able to access your paper and how they will be able to use the information. As the venues for scientific publishing evolve, and with them the restrictions on use and reuse of information, researchers need to fully understand the pros and cons of publishing in OA journals so they can make informed decisions about whether this kind of journal is a good match for their paper and their goals for publication.


A number of possible problems related to authorship requirements may prevent a paper from going forward to peer review. First, some journals have restrictions on the number of authors allowed for each paper—if the number of coauthors exceeds this limit, you will need to write to the Editor and ask whether an exception can be made.

Many journals are also asking authors to acknowledge that they have followed the journal’s requirements concerning potential conflicts of inter- est. Such requests have become much more common in journal publishing over the past several years, in part because instances of scientific miscon- duct are increasing and have serious implications, particularly in the area of medicine.

Some journals, particularly those published by professional societies, have developed their own policies that define what constitutes a conflict of interest. ese publications o en specify how potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed. Others defer to professional standards set out by global organizations, such as the International Commi ee of Medical Journal Ed- itors (ICMJE) or the Council of Science Editors (CSE). For more information on the important issues related to ethics in publishing, see chapter 11. Re- member that the author or authors of a paper are responsible for ensuring that all the conflict of interest and disclosure requirements of a journal are met when a paper is submi ed. If you cannot get all your coauthors to ful- fill the terms related to conflict of interest and ethical conduct, again, you should probably contact the Editor and seek guidance before you submit.

54 chapter 5


In some fields, publishers are increasingly requiring researchers to make their data or their source materials (for example cell lines, DNA, or anti- bodies) freely available to other researchers in storage facilities or in data repositories. At the very least, authors may be required to register their data in a database, detailing where the original data can be found. ese efforts may require institutional support and authorization, so before sub- mi ing to a journal with supplementary data requirements, make sure that you have the technical support and institutional permission to fulfill them. (Also see sidebar 3.3 on DataCite.)


e important message here is that every journal is different and what each Editor is looking for is different. Because of this reality, you should never send exactly the same paper to different journals. You need to care- fully study all the possibilities for submission, even while you are still doing your research. A er you select the journal that you think is the best match for a particular paper, you should study several recent issues of the journal, review its scope, instructions to authors, and then prepare your manuscript and supplementary materials to meet its requirements.

e only bad result in scientific publishing is being rejected without re- view, as this outcome usually provides li le or no guidance on how to do be er with the next journal you try. If your paper is sent out to review and you receive feedback, even if your paper is rejected, the comments you get should help you to make your paper be er and therefore help you to chart another, and one hopes more successful, path to publication.

chapter six

Understanding impact factors

I first mentioned the idea of an impact factor in 1955. At that time it did not occur to me that impact would one day become a subject of widespread controversy. Like nuclear energy, the impact factor has become a mixed blessing.

eugene garfield (2000)

If you are pursuing a career in science, you should know what an impact fac- tor (IF) is and what it really means. Every author of a scientific article des- tined for a peer-reviewed journal needs to understand where these num- bers come from, how they are calculated, what they can tell us, and even more importantly, what they cannot tell us. e truth is that many people are using impact factors in ways that their inventor never intended, to an- swer questions that this metric really cannot answer.


To understand IFs, it helps to know a bit about why they were originally developed. In 1960, information scientist Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), launched the Science Citation Index (SCI), a database that allowed researchers to trace pa erns of citations to important scientific papers—in other words, to see who was citing these papers and in which journals the citations were appearing. Garfield and his colleague, Irving H. Scher, needed to decide which of the many available scientific journals to include in the SCI. ey needed a way to judge which scientific journals were the “best” or most important, and what being “best” actually meant. e answer, they realized, was that the best journals were those publishing the “best” or most important science. e clearest mea- sure of importance of a piece of scientific information is based on how much and how o en it influences the work of other scientists—in other words, its impact on other people’s ideas and research. As all readers of this book should know, if a scientist uses someone else’s scientific findings or ideas in their own work, they must cite that scientist when they come to publish

56 chapter 6

their own findings or ideas. So, reasoned Garfield, if one counted how many times research published in Journal X was cited in other people’s published papers over a set period of time, and compared that with how many times research published in Journal Y was cited in other people’s publications over the same period, one would get some idea of which of these two jour- nals was publishing the more influential science; therefore, one could rank them in order of importance.

In addition to numbers of citations, three factors need to be taken into account when calculating a journal’s impact: (1) the number of papers pub- lished in each journal, (2) the differences between subject areas, and (3) the time frame.

Number of papers

Let us assume that two journals, X and Y, both have twelve issues a year, and that they both publish papers on marine biology. If X publishes thirty papers in each issue and Y only publishes ten, then X will have a distinct advantage, since it has many more papers that could be cited than its rival, Journal Y. Garfield solved this problem by simply dividing X’s citations by 360 and Y’s by 120 (that is, by the number of papers each publishes in a year), to level the playing field.

Subject ma er differences

Some scientific areas progress extremely rapidly and involve many more scientists, publishing many more papers than some less “vigorous,” more slow-moving topics. You could not, for instance, make a fair comparison between an immunology journal, whose contents are in danger of being su- perseded by new discoveries before the ink has completely dried on the cur- rent issue, and an ecology journal, where the experiments being described can take many years to complete and where findings will likely still be valid and relevant many years later. e IF system deals with these disciplinary disparities by grouping journals covering similar topics together; journals in different subject areas are kept on separate lists and are compared only with others on the same list.

Time frame

To make the new ranking system work, there also needed to be a set unit of time within which to count citations to papers within each journal. Two years was chosen because this time frame would show any rapid develop-

Understanding impact factors 57

ments in terms of citation of a paper, even though most papers actually take five years or more to collect their maximum number of citations. Neverthe- less, it was felt that two years would provide a more responsive measure, and would be be er able to track any changes in the journal, with respect to the other journals in the same category.


With all the necessary elements in place, we can now look at the actual impact factor calculation. Within a group of journals, for example on cell biology, the system looks at a specific year, say 2009, and counts the num- ber of citations to papers published in Journal X in the previous two years and divides them by the total number of papers published in X in those two years (as described above). e resulting number is the “impact factor” of that publication. If the same process is repeated for all the journals in the cell biology category, then these can all be compared. e greater the im- pact factor, the more influence a particular journal’s papers are having on the work of other researchers.

Here is an example of the impact factor calculation for Journal X in 2010:

citations in 2010 to papers published in X in 2009 = 168 citations in 2010 to papers published in X in 2008 = 293 total = 461

citable papers published in X in 2009 = 54 citable papers published in X in 2008 = 54

total = 108 Journal X’s 2010 impact factor: 461/108 = 4.268

e top impact factors for journals in different subject areas tend to dif- fer widely. e highest impact factor recorded to date has been 87.925 for a cancer journal, CA-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. However, this is excep- tional; the next highest impact factor is around 50 and belongs to an immu- nology title; the top medical journals tend to score around 20 to 25, while Science and Nature jockey for position in the 30s. By comparison, the top ecology journal has an IF of about 14 and there is quite a large gap before the next title on the list. Clearly, it is important to keep journals segregated into their own subject ma er categories.

Impact factors for each year are published in June of the following year. In other words, 2010 impact factors are published in June 2011. e reason for the delay is that all the citations appearing right up to the end of 2010 have to be counted and the various calculations made.

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Today, the SCI is published by a multinational corporation, omson Reuters. Every June, they publish the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), which lists the new impact factors for the science and social sciences journals in their Web of Science, a huge index and database that provides access to many of their other products. e JCR also displays a number of other met- rics, some aimed at judging the relative influence of the “average” article in each journal and others looking at the way each journal is integrated into the other journals in its category through the network of citations (fig- ure 6.1).

In 2009, omson Reuters included 9,162 journals in the JCR database. New ones are added each year, and others are discarded if they cease pub- lication or no longer conform to omson Reuters’ criteria. About 2,000 new or refurbished journals are sent to omson Reuters every year in the hope that they will be accepted into the indexed lists, but only about 10% are chosen. If a new journal is among the rejected 90%, then it will not be given an impact factor, which is a major handicap for a young journal just starting out to make its fortune.

If a journal is accepted, it will be assigned to one or more subject mat- ter categories (e.g., a journal may be listed in both the “biochemistry and molecular biology” category and the “cell biology” category.) and then the counting begins. All the reference sections in every peer-reviewed paper in all 9,162 journals are scanned and the citations to each journal are recorded. Once the year ends, figures are checked and rechecked, and in June the new lists are published, giving the impact factor and subject ranking for each journal for the previous year.


Remember that impact factors were invented to provide a measure of the relative importance of different journals in a field—they reflect the average number of citations to papers in a particular journal. ey were never in- tended to be used to make judgments on a particular paper or an individual author. How could they? If you pick out any one paper in a journal, how do you know whether it was cited once, ten times, or fi y times? (Actually, a certain amount of research using Google Scholar or free so ware called Publish or Perish [Harzing 2011] can provide a rough idea of how many times a paper is cited.) But you still cannot tell, just by looking at that paper, whether it will have a major impact on the thinking of other scientists or not.

Gargouri et al. (2010) were looking at the effects on citation numbers of


f i g u r e 6 . 1 Various metrics for the top twenty journals in the cell biology category from the 2009 Journal Citation Reports—Science Edition, a omson Reuters product.

Total Cites: total number of citations in 2011 to papers published over the previous two years.

Impact Factor: See definition and calculation in the main text.
5-year Impact Factor: numbers of citations in 2009 to papers published over the previ-

ous five years instead of the usual two years (measures the journal’s influence over a

longer period).
Immediacy Index: number of citations in 2009 to articles published in 2009 divided by the

number of articles published in 2009.
Articles: e total number of citable articles published in the journal in 2007 and 2008. Cited Half-life: the number of years, going back from 2011, that account for 50% of the total

citations received in 2009.
Eigenfactor Metrics: measures the journal’s influence by looking at how o en it is cited by

other influential journals.

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open access versus non-open-access publication, but in doing this research, they generated some interesting data on citation rates. Between 2002 and 2006, they collected citation data on 27,197 papers in 1,984 journals listed in the JCR and found that:

23% received 0 citations 51% received 1–5 citations 12% received 6–10 citations 8% received 11–20 citations 6% received 21+ citations

ese numbers clearly show that many papers receive few if any citations; in other words, the appearance of a paper in a particular journal provides no evidence about the actual importance or future impact of that paper or or its authors.

Employers choosing between candidates for a job opening o en take into account the impact factors of the journals in which the applicants have published. e arguments against this practice are the same as above. You cannot tell from the impact factor how influential (or not) a particular set of papers from a certain author were. Happily, some employers are beginning to change this practice. If you do an Internet search, you will find a num- ber of articles and reports on this subject across the fields of medicine and the life and social sciences. e message is slowly spreading that IFs should not be used in this way (for example, see Marder, Ke enmann, and Grillner 2010) and Monastersky (2011).

Various groups of people use IFs for different purposes; some use them correctly, others do not (see table 6.1).


Of course, all Editors are keen to improve the IF of their journal, and there are some legitimate ways to do this. When asked what the best method is for improving a journal’s IF, Eugene Garfield, developer of the system, usually replies, “publish the best possible science,” and of course that is every Edi- tor’s aim. Sadly, however, some Editors have been known to try unethi- cal strategies to increase the IF of their publication. For instance, authors might receive decision le ers from an Editor, strongly encouraging them to cite the journal they have submi ed to more frequently in the paper. Or they might be asked to include fewer citations to a rival journal. If you ever receive requests like this, our advice is to withdraw your paper and submit it elsewhere.

t a b l e 6 . 1 .

Who uses impact factors (IFs)?


Authors of scientific papers


Grant-awarding institutions


Editors and publishers

Information analysts and bibliometricians

Information drawn _services/science/free/essays/impact_factor/


To choose which journal to publish in

To help decide which journals to read

To compare candidates for a job opening, promotion, or tenure

To help decide who should be awarded grants

To identify the most useful journals for their collection

To identify journals to cut from their collections

To monitor the success of their publication

To assess the effectiveness of editorial policies

To compare their publication’s influence to that of competing journals

To look at bibliometric and citation trends and pa erns


is should only be one among many factors taken into account— submission to a high-IF journal that is not a good match for the paper is a waste of time.

Again, this should be only one of a number of factors.

is practice is slowly changing as more and more articles are published pointing out the flaws in this strategy, but it is still a widespread practice.

See Employers, above.

is practice is also changing; increasingly, librarians are studying usage statistics and requests from patrons to make these decisions, although IFs may still be taken into account.

is is a legitimate use of IFs; Editors and publishers can track the progress and improvement of their journals and mark changes due to adjustments in journal policies.

Another legitimate usage, provided the analyst is aware of the limitations and caveats connected with IFs.


from ompson Reuters: h p://thomsonreuters.com/products

62 chapter 6

e IF system can be used (and abused) in a variety of different ways, and a number of papers have been published over the years describing these issues and calling a ention to various alternative metrics of impact that are being developed and used by the scholarly community. Below we list some drawbacks of the IF system and briefly describe some of the best-known alternatives to it.

·  Scientists may be tempted to choose hot research topics, in the hope that this will increase their reputation as “high-impact authors.” How- ever, just because a subject is not hot doesn’t mean it is not important. In the long run, picking research on this basis could have a negative effect on the whole body of scientific research.

·  Editors may suffer from the same temptation, publishing only highly citable papers that are more likely to have a positive effect on the jour- nal’s IF, and thereby excluding important but not particularly citable or exciting research.

·  Only about 25% of the world’s journals are covered by omson Reuters, and a high percentage of journals that are included in the
JCR are in English, which excludes large numbers of foreign-language journals; this is hardly surprising, since the international language of science is English. Nevertheless, this can lead to duplication of research effort around the world and underplays the importance of research reported in non-English-language journals.

·  Journals covering small, specialized subject areas in which few scien- tists are involved will have lower citation rates, giving the impression that these topics are unimportant, which may be far from true.

·  Journals that are published in languages other than English, even when included in the JCR, may a ract fewer citations because fewer scientists around the world will be able to understand and cite them.

·  Authors o en make mistakes when pu ing together their reference lists. Although omson Reuters has a number of systems in place to try to catch and correct these errors, if a citation includes the wrong year, it may not be counted.

·  Dare we say it? omson Reuters can make mistakes as well.

·  For some of the more slow-moving subjects, a three- or four-year win-
dow would reflect citation pa erns be er.

·  Most important of all, IFs can only measure, on average, how in-
fluential the papers in a particular journal are on the work of other scientists, but this says nothing about how useful a particular piece of research is in solving real-world problems.

Understanding impact factors 63 OTHER METRICS

Given all these issues, it is not surprising that various researchers have tried to come up with be er metrics to judge the comparative importance of journals, of individual authors, and of the papers they publish.

Probably the best known of these newer metrics is the h index, developed by physicist Jorge E. Hirsch (2005), which considers the impact of individual researchers by looking at their publication record, or in other words, their “scientific productivity.” e h index is defined as the number of articles published by an individual that have a racted citation numbers that are equal to or slightly higher than the number of papers they have published. So, if an author has published fi een papers that a racted fi een or more citations, that author’s h-index is 15. e h index therefore looks at both productivity in terms of numbers of papers and impact in terms of numbers of citations to those papers. It is even possible to aggregate scores for all the authors in a journal or all the researchers in an institution and so calculate an h score for that journal or institution. For more details on this method, see Hirsch (2005).

Another metric, the eigenfactor, ranks and evaluates the importance of the journals in the Web of Science index and also looks at the influence of individual articles within five years a er publication. A free listing of eigen- factors is available at http://www.eigenfactor.org/index.php.

Finally, the SCImago Journal & Country Rank looks at the rankings and visibility of journals within different subject areas as well as scientific in- dicators in different countries; rather than being based on the omson Reuters database, the journals ranked by this method are all in Scopus, an abstract and citation database published by Elsevier B.V. (SCImago 2007).


If you want to know more about the development and use of IFs than we have had room for here, there are plenty of materials you can refer to, start- ing with their creator’s perspective (Garfield 2006).

e omson Reuters website carries information on impact factors: h p://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/impact _factor/. For a history of citation indexing, see h p://thomsonreuters.com /products_services/science/free/essays/history_of_citation_indexing/.

For a basic overview of some of the other measures of the influence of journals, scientists, and publications, go to the HealthLinks website at h p://healthlinks.washington.edu/howto/impactfactors.html

64 chapter 6


Authors o en place great importance on the impact factors of journals when deciding where to send their paper. Impact factors are also factored into various other important choices, such as which applicant gets a job, who gets tenure or grant money, and so on. It is therefore important to un- derstand how these numbers are calculated, what they mean, and the cor- rect way to interpret and use them.

chapter seven

How to write a cover le er

We are well aware of the word limit at Frontiers and we did our best to stick as closely to this as possible, but we feel we can only do the subject justice by writing a some- what longer paper. We hope you will give us some leeway . . .

Unsuccessful Frontiers author

You might imagine that the Editor of the journal to which you have sent your manuscript pores over it for a considerable length of time before mak- ing that first, vital decision about whether or not to send your paper to peer review. e truth is, however, that in many cases Editors make that initial determination quite quickly. ey will check the basics for each incoming submission, such as whether the topic falls within the journal’s area of in- terest, whether it is the right type of paper for the publication, and whether the manuscript conforms to the criteria specified in the instructions to au- thors. If a paper has too many problems, the Editor may send out a reject- without-review notice and move on to the next manuscript without delay.

However, if this initial “quality check” reveals no obvious problems, then the Editor still has to decide whether the scientific content merits further a ention. Your first goal as an author is to convince that first Editor that your paper should survive this initial cut, and this is where a good cover le er can help swing the decision in your favor. In this chapter we explain how providing a well-cra ed cover le er to accompany your manuscript can help an Editor understand the importance and relevance of your paper to their journal, so that they are more likely to send it out to peer review.


Going back to the metaphor of author as matchmaker, as described in chap- ter 5, you can think of your cover le er as the first introduction between the Editor and your paper. Everyone knows how important introductions are in everyday life. Your first impression of someone, and the initial information you receive about them, can greatly influence your a itude towards them

66 chapter 7

and whether you want to get to know them be er or not. In the same way, if you can catch the Editor’s interest right from the start with a strong cover le er, you may be able to persuade that Editor to try to get to know your paper be er. In addition, the cover le er provides you with a rare oppor- tunity to communicate directly with the Editor, to explain the importance of your work, and to lay out the reasons why the paper is a good match for the journal.

Another consideration in the Editor’s mind when assessing a new sub- mission is the scarcity of a very precious resource: good peer reviewers and the limited time they are able to spend evaluating manuscripts and writing reports. Editors are therefore extremely reluctant to waste the time of their peer reviewers by sending them papers that don’t seem very interesting. is means that you only have a narrow window of opportunity to a ract the Editor’s a ention and prevent your paper from being consigned to the reject-without-review pile. A cover le er can help you make the most of that opportunity.

It is true that some Editors don’t read cover le ers at all, but others do read them, so you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by writing a clear, short, informative cover le er to accompany your manuscript.

Too short or too long is just as bad as no le er at all

If there is no le er a ached to your manuscript, then its fate will depend on the initial Editor’s level of expertise in the subject, his or her recognition of the importance and relevance of the information in the paper, how many other papers are under consideration that day, and a number of other, un- predictable variables. If you include only a short note, such as

Dear Editor,
I am submi ing this paper, entitled [Title], and hope you find it to be of interest and will consider it for publication.
Sincerely, e Author

this tells the Editor nothing useful, other than the fact that you don’t know how to write a good cover le er.

On the other hand, since most Editors don’t have much time to spare, they won’t want to spend almost as much time reading the accompanying le er as they would spend on the manuscript itself. ey may therefore move straight on to reading the paper. In other words, a very long cover le er will probably not be read, so you should not waste time writing one.

How to write a cover le er 67

Editors who read cover le ers prefer them to succinctly offer useful in- formation that will help them make a decision about whether to send the manuscript out for peer review. ere are a number of possibilities regard- ing what that useful information might be, and only a small number of the possibilities listed below will be relevant to your paper. Your task is to choose which two or three of these points will best describe the most signif- icant aspects of your paper and then to build your cover le er around those.

A good cover le er should not exceed one page and should consist of no more than four or five paragraphs. One and a half pages is the absolute limit, and this is acceptable only if all the names and addresses of the authors take up a lot of room. Don’t try to cheat by using a smaller font size to squeeze more information onto the page. Remember, the finite quantity in this equation is the Editor’s time and patience—once either of these runs out, you have lost your opportunity to make a good impression and to explain why your paper would be a valuable contribution to this particular journal.

e following basic information should always be included somewhere within your initial submission documents:

·  the title of the paper

·  the names and addresses of all the authors

·  the contact information of the corresponding author

·  the correct journal name.
Don’t be surprised by the last bullet point on this list. Editors quite o en see submissions in which the wrong journal name is mentioned in the cover le er or on the first page of the manuscript. is unfortunate mistake can happen in one of two ways. First, the authors think they know the journal name and don’t bother to check. us, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environ- ment incorrectly becomes Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution or the journal Blood becomes the Journal of Blood. is kind of error tends to annoy Editors and immediately gives the impression that the author is careless or lazy. If the author makes an error in something as simple as the journal title, the Editor can’t help but wonder whether that carelessness extends to the con- tents of the paper.
e second way in which incorrect journal titles get into submission documents is when another journal has already rejected the manuscript. Without thinking, the corresponding author copies and pastes the uncor- rected cover le er into the online submission system of the next journal on the list. Again, an error in a journal title will not impress the new Editor. No Editor likes to think that their journal was the author’s second choice, even

68 chapter 7

when the first choice was Science or Nature, or the top-ranked journal in the field. In short, you should always change your cover le er when you submit your paper to another journal, no ma er how many times that might be.

Below, you will find a list of possible categories of useful content-based information that could be included in a cover le er. Use only the two or three points that are most relevant to your paper—the ones that you believe will be most helpful in persuading the Editor that your paper should be sent to review. e le er could:

·  provide background information on the paper (workshop, interdisci- plinary collaboration, or other details that provide a useful context to your work)

·  givescientificbackgroundinformation(brief)

·  explain the article contents (brief)

·  list what is new in the paper

·  explain why the new information is important

·  explain why the paper is being sent to this journal

·  explain why the paper is important now
When dra ing the le er, you need to take a step back and look at your work, as described in your manuscript, as impartially as possible. You must not exaggerate the importance of the research (“this paper will completely revolutionize the treatment of disease X”), nor should you be too modest or ingratiating (“it would be a great honor if you would consider including my paper in your excellent journal”). Instead, be brief and businesslike, and put forward the two or three points that you think are most likely to a ract the Editor’s a ention.
Below we provide a few excerpts from cover le ers that contain some key elements, underlined, that you might consider including in your own le er, where relevant.
Background information on the paper
is manuscript was the product of a workshop, which took place at the Society’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
e basis for this paper is a white paper, produced by the Working Group on . . .
is kind of information tells the Editor something about the context in which the work was initiated.


How to write a cover le er 69 Scientific background information

In this manuscript, we a empt to explain why, although the ecologi- cal processes that create treeline pa erns across the mountain ranges of North America are mechanistically similar and are linked to climate, actual pa erns differ greatly. We discuss what this means in terms of treeline shi s in response to climate change.

Here, the authors are telling the Editor, in two sentences, what the paper is about, with just a tantalizing hint about why this might be topical and timely.

Explanation of article contents

Charcoal is generated in all biomass burning events and is one of the lega- cies of forest fire. However, to date, it has received very li le scientific at- tention. In this manuscript, we summarize the existing literature on char- coal deposition, ecological function, and storage in forest ecosystems. We also provide an analysis of how forest management influences charcoal formation and discuss the implications for long-term carbon storage in forest ecosystems of the Rocky Mountain region.

What is new?

Interaction of light with ma er is fundamental to science and technology and has led to the development of lasers and optical fibers which form the backbone of modern communication systems. Significant advances in nanofabrication techniques have now made it possible to fabricate sophis- ticated optical devices with greater functionality. However, active control of light propagations at subwavelength scales still remains a challenge. In this manuscript, we demonstrate an electro-optic switch based on absorp- tion modulation of light with high contrast ratios and record switching speed. is approach should open up novel avenues in the area of active plasmonics and blasmonics and subwavelength photonics.

Here, in one paragraph, the authors tell the Editor how the research fits in with the existing body of research and what new applications and im- plications the findings might lead to. Of course, you should not claim that something is new or has never been done before if that is not the case, as that would just signal ignorance of the literature and will have the opposite of the desired effect.


70 chapter 7

What is important?

Our findings demonstrate that these techniques are safe to use in all pa- tient populations and have direct implications for healthcare manage- ment and reimbursement.

Providing a sense of the importance of the work and how it might affect decision making, and that it may have financial implications, is a useful strategy, and might just catch the Editor’s eye.

Why this journal?

ese findings should be of great interest to both surgeons and nursing staff as they have important implications for post-operative patient care. We therefore believe e European Journal of Surgical A ercare would be the ideal forum to highlight this new information.

is text not only tells the Editor that the authors know who reads the jour- nal but also explains why the information will be directly relevant to that readership.

Why now?

Species A, which has recently been discovered in Lake Mead, is highly invasive, causes enormous damage to underwater pipes and other struc- tures, and is very difficult and expensive to eliminate. e new, more cost- effective management methods we describe here are urgently needed to prevent this invasion from spreading further. We think this work is timely and will be of interest, both to researchers and to resource managers.

Here, the authors indicate that they know who reads the journal, why this information will be of interest, and why it is important to publish this in- formation quickly.


e cover le er is an ideal place to let the Editors know that there are ethi- cal issues (e.g., a conflict of interest) that they should be aware of, related to the study or the manuscript. Again, only include such information if it is relevant to your manuscript. e le er should:


How to write a cover le er 71

·  declare conflicts of interest

·  assure the Editor that ethical guidelines have been followed (study the
journal’s instructions to authors)

·  suggest peer reviewers you think could review your paper knowledge-
ably, and mention those you would prefer the Editor did not approach to review your manuscript.
Declare conflicts of interest
e only potential conflict of interest is that I am the author of one of the textbooks being discussed in the paper. is authorship does not result in significant monetary gain.
is is a mild conflict of interest that would not be likely to worry an Editor.
My supervisor is the recipient of a grant from the company that manufac- tures the drug used in this study.
is is a more serious ma er; the level of concern may depend on the find- ings of the study. e important point is that you have carried out your re- sponsibility in alerting the Editor to this issue, so that any decisions can be made in context.
Whatever conflicts of interest do exist, it is important to explain them honestly at the time of first submission. e Editor is far less likely to be concerned about something that you have openly discussed in your cover le er, as opposed to something that is discovered by accident from a dif- ferent source at a later date. e la er suggests that you have tried to hide the information, which will immediately arouse suspicion.
Assure the Editor that guidelines have been followed
All authors have seen and approved the final version of this manuscript.
e text is under 3500 words in length, as specified in the Instructions to Authors.
e first example is useful, since this is something Editors cannot find out just by looking at the manuscript. ey occasionally learn that this im- portant step has not been carried out a er the paper has been published, when an angry author telephones to tell them so. is can result in bad feel- ings and various unfortunate consequences.

72 chapter 7

Although Editors appreciate it when authors save them some time and effort,thesecondexampleisunnecessary,sinceacoupleofclicksofamouse will provide this information. If your cover le er is very short, it might gain you a slight advantage, but if you have already covered most of a page with useful information, it is probably be er to stop there.

Suggest peer reviewers to invite or avoid

Dr. X, Dr. Y, and Professor Z have all done a considerable amount of re- search in this area and would be very well qualified to review our paper.

I was co-author on a paper with Dr. X, but this was eight years ago and we have had li le contact since that time.

Some journals actively encourage authors to include suggestions for suit- able peer reviewers and are also open to requests not to send the manuscript to certain individuals. Other publications give no indication as to whether they welcome such suggestions. In the la er case, it does no harm to add a short list of names, if you feel confident that you can pick suitably knowl- edgeable, unbiased individuals, as shown in the first example above. How- ever, you need to be careful not to suggest anyone with whom you have a personal connection (that includes supervisors, close colleagues, significant others). If you have anything more than a tenuous relationship with some- one you are suggesting as a peer reviewer, you must declare this in the cover le er or somewhere in the online submission form, as shown in the second example above (see also the discussion of conflicts of interest, earlier, and in chapter 11 on Ethical Issues in Publishing). Researchers specializing in a narrow field of study can be a very small group, and the longer you work in that field, the more difficult it may become to suggest reviewers that you have had li le or no connection with. Be honest and open about your rela- tionship with your proposed reviewers and let the Editor decide whether to follow your suggestions or not.

Dr. X and his research group are working on a similar system to my own and there is a certain amount of competition to be the first to publish the results of this new technique.

Professor Z has heavily criticized my work in the past and disagrees with my approach.

How to write a cover le er 73

If you are asking for a particular individual to be excluded, the Editor will find it helpful if you briefly explain the reason for your request, as shown in the first example above. However, you should be careful not to sound pe y or accusatory; instead, try to state the facts as tactfully as possible.


Although some Editors ignore or only glance at the cover le ers that come with manuscripts, others read these le ers carefully. You should write your cover le er assuming that the Editor who first sees your paper is one of those who read them. Your le er should be concise and should include relevant, useful, and important information that could a ract the Editor’s a ention and improve the paper’s chances of ge ing into peer review.

chapter eight

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew”

Dear Editor,
We are excited to be submi ing our manuscript to Journal of Applied Ecology.

Cover le er to the Editor of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

When airplane pilots climb into the cockpit of their aircra and get ready for takeoff, they begin by running through a number of preflight checks to make sure that all the mechanical and electrical parts of the plane are in good working order, that there is fuel in the tank, and so on. Before launch- ing your paper down the runway, you will need to do much the same thing. And just as the pilot cannot afford to be ina entive when making those fi- nal preparations, neither can you. (See appendix 3 for a basic list of these “preflight” checks.) You can also use the pages of this and other chapters to create your own list and make sure that everything has a checkmark ( ) next to it before you click the “submit” bu on (or before you seal your man- uscript into its stamped, addressed envelope).

Although every journal is different, some of the advice given here and elsewhere in this book may be common knowledge to experienced authors, and many of the suggestions may seem ridiculously obvious. Nevertheless, Editors see these same mistakes every week, sometimes every day, which can be very irritating—and the last thing you want is an irritated Editor looking at your paper. In some cases, neglecting your editorial preflight checks will cause the paper to crash at an early stage: in other words, it will be rejected without review.

Some of these preparations can be done while you are writing your paper, particularly if you have a specific journal in mind. As your work pro- gresses, keep checking that what you are doing is in line with the journal’s requirements and then check everything again at the end, once you think the paper is ready for submission. If your paper has been submi ed to and then rejected by a journal, you will need to change the paper to conform to

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 75

the requirements of the new journal. In this chapter, we also pay particu- lar a ention to two areas of manuscript submission where authors o en make mistakes: submi ing correct copyright and permission information regarding materials (e.g., graphs, photos, tables) that have been published previously and providing figures in the correct formats and at the correct resolution.

Look at issues of the journal before you submit

As discussed in chapter 5, you should always try to study a couple of issues of the journal you are targeting, even if ge ing access to back issues is not always so easy. Ideally, you should try to review the most recent issues of the journal so you can assess the types of papers being published. If you can’t get access to recent issues through your institutional library or from colleagues, you can always try emailing the publications office (contact de- tails can be found on the journal website) and request a sample issue or at least a few pdfs of recent articles. Explain why you need them: “I would like to submit a paper to your journal, but first need to make sure my paper is a good match.” Many, though not all journal offices will respond positively to this kind of appeal. Don’t direct your request to the Editor-in-Chief but, where possible, to the secretarial, administrative, or editorial staff. e website will o en provide contact details. You can also try writing to au- thors directly to ask for a pdf of their recent paper from the journal you are interested in. Finally, many journals now make their content open access a er six months or a year, so you may be able to get free access to older is- sues. Check on journal websites to see if and when back issues become freely available in electronic formats.

Instructions to authors: find them, read them, and obey them

is is probably one of the most important pieces of advice in this book, which is why we repeat it here. e instructions to authors, together with scope statements and other information that is normally associated with the instructions, are a vital resource. If you ignore the journal’s instructions, or neglect to do your preflight checks, and some of the errors described below creep into your submission, you will give the Editor the impression that you are careless, or that you produced your manuscript in a hurry and didn’t check it properly. Again, this is not the sort of impression you want to give.

76 chapter 8


ese days, there are a number of possible financial costs involved in pub- lishing a paper. You need to find out if the particular publication you are interested in has page charges, open access fees, an extra charge for color figures, or any other costs. If so, can you afford to pay these costs? And if not, is there a possibility that the fee will be reduced or waived altogether? Some journals will do this if you let them know that you do not have a grant that includes publication costs or if you are a researcher from a developing country.

If the journal is published by a nonprofit society or association that has individual members, it is possible that members pay lower publication costs than nonmembers when publishing in the society’s journals. Some societies also offer page grants to their members. If so, do the math—you may find that it is cheaper to join the society and pay the reduced pub- lication fees than to pay the full cost as a nonmember. Of course, there may be other benefits of membership that make joining the society even more worthwhile. Generally, if a journal is published by a big for-profit publishing house (e.g., Elsevier, Springer Verlag), you are less likely to be required to pay page charges than you would with a society publisher. However, this isn’t true of open access journals, since these publications are usually based on an author-pays business model, no ma er who the publisher is.


Editors frequently receive manuscripts that are longer than the upper limit specified in the instructions to authors. Usually, this is because the author has failed to look at the instructions and is simply not aware that such limits exist. Occasionally, however, authors submit manuscripts that exceed the specified word or page count because they believe that the information in their paper is so important that the Editor will make an exception and al- low the extra length. Unfortunately, the Editor very likely won’t, for two reasons. First, journals have fairly strict page budgets (the number of pages per year that the journal is allowed to publish). If your paper takes up con- siderably more than the normal number of pages, then there will be less room for the rest of the papers in that issue; fewer papers than normal in the journal may be perceived as less value for money by subscribers—a per- ception Editors try to avoid. Second, if other authors see that the Editor has allowed one paper to be noticeably longer than normal, they will demand to know why they cannot be given the same leeway. You’ll always be safe

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 77

if you keep your paper within or at least close to the limits specified in the instructions to authors.

Depending on the overall size of the journal, there may be a certain amount of flexibility in the permi ed length—a few hundred extra words added to a total of several thousand will probably be allowed. However, if the journal specifies a maximum of 4,000 words and your manuscript is 6,000 words, the Editor will likely either reject your paper without review or, at the very least, will send it back to you for shortening prior to peer review.

Unless the instructions to authors say otherwise, the manuscript should always begin with a title page. is should include the title of the paper, the name and contact details (including email, phone, and fax numbers) of the corresponding author, and the names and addresses of all the other authors, as well as the date of submission.


You will need to look for any special instructions on writing style. For in- stance, unless submi ing to a very narrowly focused journal, you should avoid or explain all specialized terminology. ere is usually an instruction to write clearly and concisely, but very few authors seem to understand what that really means, so here are a few tips:

·  Avoid long, convoluted sentences—reasonably short, clear, straight- forward sentences are always appreciated by readers, even when the subject itself is complex.

·  Don’t be tempted to use long or fancy words when short, everyday ones will do just as well—this will not impress the Editor.

·  Use active voice. Unlike days of old, when passive voice was thought to be a necessary characteristic of technical and scientific writing, most Editors now prefer that manuscripts are wri en in the active voice when possible. Active sentences also usually end up being shorter than sentences wri en using passive verbs. (See appendix 1 for online writing resources where you can learn more about active and passive voice.)

·  Paya entiontogrammarandspelling—again,youdonotwanttogive the impression that you are careless and ina entive to detail.
If your English is poor, you should try to get help from someone who speaks and writes very good English. If you do not know anyone who can help you, perhaps your supervisor or other faculty members can suggest

78 chapter 8

someone they know. Ask them if they would be willing to write on your be- half, asking for help. If the English in the manuscript is poor and the Editor has difficulty understanding the text, your paper may be rejected without review or returned to you with a request to improve the English. is is not because of any language bias, but simply because the manuscript is so hard to understand that no accurate judgment can be made about the scien- tific content. Make every effort to get the English in your paper to as high a standard as possible, to ensure that Editors and reviewers can focus on the science in your manuscript rather than having to struggle with the English. You might consider sending your paper to a commercial language-polishing service. Some journal websites or instructions to authors now provide links to one or more of the many companies that help authors with their wri en English, for a fee. See sidebar 8.1 for information on how to go about choos- ing a good language-polishing service.

sidebar 8.1

Choosing a good language-polishing service

mary anne baynes
Director of Sales and Marketing, e Charlesworth Group

For many authors who are nonnative English speakers, writing papers in English can be difficult. If you have an English-speaking colleague or friend who can read through your manuscript to make sure it is wri en correctly and clearly, that’s one way to get help. However, not everybody has such a colleague nearby, and not all native speakers of English are necessarily good writers ( far from it!).

To get help with your wri en English, you can also send your manuscript to a professional language-polishing (or language-editing) service. Using a profes- sional service can provide a quick and accurate language review and revision of your manuscript and can usually do this be er and more quickly than a colleague. However, you need to choose a service that guarantees high-quality work at a rea- sonable price.

A good language-polishing service should guarantee that they will not only correct your spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but also that they will review sentence structure, overall paper structure, flow, and consistency—those are the characteristics of language that allow the science to be read and understood clearly. High-quality and reputable language-polishing services should also guarantee


Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 79

that they will not make edits that will change the meaning or the science in your paper and, importantly, not guarantee that your paper will be published.

Some publishers provide lists of polishing/editing services on their websites and this is a great place to start. Some publishers actually closely review these companies and know that they do good work. More o en, however, publishers state that the services they list are not ve ed and that the author is responsible for checking the quality and reliability of the editing service they select. Whether you select a service from a list the publisher provides, or from doing an Internet search for “language-polishing” or “language-editing” services, you should always study the websites carefully to see what they say they will do and what they won’t do.

When you are selecting a language-polishing service, ask the following ques- tions:

·  Exactly what will I be charged for the work?
Reputable companies use a number of options for pricing. Some will list their charges clearly on their website. Some charge by the word, while others price according to ranges (e.g., 1,000–5,000 words will cost a certain amount). Other companies will ask that you send your paper in for an estimate and will then quote a price. Costs can vary greatly, so make sure you understand the pricing structure and know what you will be charged before you agree to let them begin work. Don’t agree to work before you know the cost.

·  How long will the edit take? What is the turnaround time? Are week- ends and holidays included in the turnaround time?
Some companies have preset turnaround times, so you know when your paper will be returned; other companies will provide a turnaround time once they’ve had a chance to look at your paper. Some companies will charge a pre- mium for a fast turnaround. Make sure you know what the final turnaround time will be and that it will work for your schedule.

·  What is included when editing? What is done?
Make sure you understand what is included with the service before they start the work—what will be done to your paper and what will not be done. Will they check the format of references, or the labels or captions of figures and tables?

·  Are all the Editors native English speakers?
If you are trying to publish in English, select a service that employs only native English-speaking Editors.

·  Do you need American or British English?
Make sure the editing service edits in the style you need for the particular journal you are submi ing to and that the Editors are able to handle the style you require. American and British English have different rules for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

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·  Where is the editing done? e US? India? e Philippines? Language-polishing services may use Editors from all over the world. Some of the Editors may be native speakers of English but may not live in a country in which English is the primary language. Knowing the country where your Editors are working will give you a be er idea of their language level.

·  Are the Editors trained to degree level or above in the manuscript subject?
e best language-polishing/editing services employ Editors who have de- grees in the subject ma er of the papers they are editing. You should select a company that can offer Editors who have some academic training in the area you are writing about.

·  Do the Editors go through a qualification/training process?
e best language-polishing/editing companies test and train their Editors to make sure their editing skills are at a very high level. e company web- site should clearly state that all the Editors are trained and highly qualified. High-quality editing by professionals who are familiar with your subject is what you are paying for!

·  Is there a guarantee? What if I don’t like the result of the service?
A good language-polishing company will offer a guarantee of their work.

·  Is my research secure?
Make sure the service has a secure submission system and that the Editors have nondisclosure agreements in place to keep your research safe.

·  How good is the online submission system?
Check out the online submission system of each company that you are consid- ering. Is it easy to use? Is it available around the clock?

Language-polishing services can vary in their offerings, but with a li le re- search and the right questions, you should be able to find a good service that fits your needs and is within your budget.
Appendix 1 includes lists of websites as well as excellent textbooks on science and technical writing. Some of the websites provide tutorials on writing and editing. If you are not confident in your writing skills, whether you are a native or a nonnative speaker of English, exploring these writing resources would be well worth your time.
Here are a few more things you can do to please the Editor. ese are all related to problems that Editors see regularly.


Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 81 Line numbers

Most Editors and peer reviewers strongly prefer to see line numbers in a manuscript. To do this in Word, go to the “page layout” menu and click on “line numbers.” Note, though, that you should always follow the journal’s submission guidelines, as some journals differ on this ma er.

Latin and other proper names

You need to check that all spelling is correct and consistent throughout the text. For instance, check that all genus and species names are spelled cor- rectly each time they are mentioned. Authors o en misspell Latin names or spell them correctly the first time and then wrongly elsewhere in the manu- script. e same goes for chemical names, drug names, and place names. Errors of this kind give a very bad impression.


Check that numbers are consistent throughout the manuscript. For in- stance, if 560 plots (or patients, or plants, or experimental animals) are described in the materials and methods section, make sure this is also the number given in any associated tables and figures, and that the same num- bers are discussed in later sections of the paper. Always account for any dis- crepancies (e.g., 500 patients were enrolled in the study, but 18 failed to fill out the questionnaire correctly and so were not included in the analysis).


You must remember to spell out all acronyms when they are first used in the manuscript, followed by the acronym in parentheses, as follows: Bu- reau of Land Management (BLM), human papillomavirus (HPV). A er that first mention, you can use the acronym alone. When authors use particular acronyms on a regular basis at work, to the point where these become part of their everyday language, they can sometimes forget to explain what the le ers stand for. Occasionally, the authors themselves forget what an ac- ronym stands for or, more frequently, what the correct spelling should be (e.g., World Health Organization, with a “z,” not an “s,” or United Nations Environment Programme, not Environmental and with “mme” instead of a single “m”). Remember also that journals differ in their rules on the use of acronyms. Some publications forbid their use in the abstract, preferring that the words be given in full. Even if you are allowed to use acronyms in

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the abstract, you will still need to give the full term, followed by the ac- ronym, at its first use in the main text. e same process may need to be repeated in the figure captions because the abstract and the main text of a paper, and sometimes the figures, may be seen in isolation by readers.

Presenting citations

Make sure that the citation style is correct for the journal you are submit- ting to, both within the text and in the references section. Some so ware packages (e.g., Endnote, ProCite) can help by automatically changing ref- erences to follow the correct style of many well-known publications. How- ever, when using this type of so ware, it is important to check your refer- ence section manually, since these programs can introduce errors.

Authors o en ask, “Why do I have to change the reference style every time I send the paper to a new journal? It’s a waste of my time—the journal staff can change the style a er they have accepted the paper.” Now look at it this way: do you really want the Editor to know that your paper has just been rejected by another journal? Or that you didn’t see his or her jour- nal as the best possible match for your paper, but instead chose a different publication? Is that going to make a good first impression? Many journals have quite distinctive citation styles, and Editors who recognize that their journal was not the first publication you thought of when you wrote the manuscript are likely to start wondering what it was about the paper that the previous Editor didn’t like.

Here are some other extremely common but easily avoidable errors that authors make in reference sections. Before you submit, but a er all other changes have been made, check your references carefully. Failing to do so wastes the journal staff’s time and annoys the Editor. In particular:

·  Make sure that all your citations are correct by checking the details against the original papers; don’t simply reproduce the citation that you see in another publication, since it could be wrong.

·  Make sure that each DOI (digital object identifier) is correct; it is very easy to make mistakes when typing out these long strings of le ers and numbers. Use the DOI resolver on the CrossRef website (h p://www .crossref.org/05researchers/58doi_resolver.html ) to check that they are correct. If the paper has a CrossMark symbol, check that the paper you are citing has not been amended or even retracted (see sidebar 3.2 on CrossRef and CrossMark).

·  Ensure that citations in the main text all appear in the references sec- tion and that all the citations in the references section also appear in

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 83

the main text, and that spellings of the authors’ names and the dates of

the citations are the same throughout your manuscript.
· Make sure that all Internet links are correct and functional. Some jour- nals will request a “viewed” date (i.e., the date you last checked that the

link was working).


Editors see a lot of easily avoidable mistakes related to figures and tables. ese o en have nothing to do with the scientific content but are mostly connected with forma ing and submission requirements.

Are all figures present and correct?

Problems o en arise because of the many dra s that a paper goes through before it is submi ed. For instance, let’s say you write a paper that has six figures. Your colleague or supervisor suggests that Figure 4 is unnecessary, so you remove it but forget to also remove all references to it in the text (the mention of a figure or table in the text is sometimes called a call-out). You must be careful to renumber all the subsequent figures and their call-outs so that everything is in the correct order and all call-outs refer to the cor- rect figures.

Another common error arises when paragraphs and sections of text are moved around during all the dra ing and redra ing of a manuscript, par- ticularly when the dra is being passed among multiple authors. As a re- sult, figures can get out of order so that, for example, figure 5 is mentioned in the text before figure 4. One of your very last preflight checks should be to make sure that numbering of figures and tables is correct and that everything appears in the right order. e easiest way to do this on a com- puter screen is to highlight each Figure so that it stands out clearly within the text and you can easily check numbering and order (just remember to remove the highlights before submission). On paper, use a light-colored highlighter pen for the same purpose, but don’t send the highlighted copy to the journal.

You should also make sure that all the figures and tables you refer to in the text are provided together with the manuscript and that all the figures or tables you provide are mentioned in the text. e Editor and peer review- ers will not appreciate finding a stray figure that does not appear to be refer- enced anywhere in the paper, nor will they be pleased to read an interesting description of figure 6 when figure 6 is nowhere to be found.

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Are you sending the correct version?

You and your coauthors need to make sure that the figures or tables you submit are the latest versions. Many an Editor has received a frantic phone call from an author, usually just before or just a er the paper has gone to press, because an earlier dra of one of the figures was submi ed by mis- take. Since all authors must see and sign off on the final manuscript and all its associated figures and tables, someone should have spo ed that the wrong version had been a ached. In fact, authors will o en see what they think should be there rather than what actually is there.


One section of the instructions to authors that seems to confuse a lot of authors is the one about the required formats for photos and graphic illus- trations and, in particular, the specifications on resolution. Journal staff seem to spend more time helping authors with this aspect of the submis- sion process than any other. Explanations about resolution (which can be found all over the Internet), can get rather technical, so this description of the subject is going to be very basic—a brief overview of what authors need to know about submi ing photos and graphics with their manu- scripts.

e term “resolution” refers to the output quality of a photo or graphic image (in other words, what it looks like on a computer screen or on the printed page). Different measures are used to describe the resolution of an image, depending on what medium is being used to view it. On a printed page, resolution is measured in “dots per inch” (d.p.i.), since im- ages on almost all printed materials (books, magazines, leaflets, and scientific journals) are made up of thousands of tiny dots of ink. You can use a magnifying glass to examine a photo in a magazine or a figure in a journal (figure 8.1a); the dots that make up newspaper images are quite large and can o en be seen with the naked eye. Good quality printing usually requires images that are 300 d.p.i. For an image on a computer screen, resolution is described in terms of “pixels per inch” (p.p.i.), since a screen image is made up of thousands of pixels. On screen, 72 p.p.i. will look fine. However, journals may require online figures to be at a higher resolution for optimum quality.

The important thing to bear in mind for print journals is the size of the final image as it will appear on the journal page. A photo that is made up of a single one-inch square containing 300 × 300 dots will look great if printed on the page at that size. However, if the picture is to be displayed



f i g u r e 8 . 1 (a) Photos and graphics printed in books, journals, and magazines are made up of a “screen” of ink dots. A view at a high magnification (inset) shows the dot pa ern that creates the picture. (b) Pictures on a computer screen are made up of pixels. At a high resolution (le side) these are invisible, but if a low-resolution image (right) is shown at a large size, the pixels become visible.

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on the page at a width of four inches, it will looked unfocused, since the same 300 × 300 dots are now spread out more widely. Similarly, if you have an onscreen image that is one inch in size, made up of 72 × 72 pixels and you increase its size on screen, you are just making the existing pixels bigger so that you start to see them as jagged lines making up the image (figure 8.1b).

The instructions to authors of print journals will usually specify whether they want low-resolution files (small file sizes, usually of 1 MB or less) at first submission or whether authors are expected to provide high- resolution versions (large file sizes, of 2 to 5 MB or more) straight away. Small files are quicker to open and take up less room on a computer hard drive. Peer reviewers o en prefer to work with low-resolution files for the sake of speed and convenience. However, when the journal is printed, a high-resolution image will be required. If the journal is an online-only publication, then medium- and low-resolution photos and graphics will look fine, although the higher the resolution the be er the quality, even on the computer screen.

If you have a low-resolution image, there are some so ware packages that may help you to enlarge the size with only minimal loss of quality, but only up to a certain point. e best course of action is to ensure that you have high-resolution images to begin with. Adjust your camera to a high- resolution se ing or, if using a graphics package, make sure you reproduce or render the illustrations at a high resolution. One other alternative you can try, for graphics and photographs, but not for photos out of journals or books (figure 8.2), is to create a good quality print of the figure and then rescan it at a higher resolution.

Check the instructions to authors to find out the file types and resolu- tion required for figures. If you are submi ing to a print journal and you are providing low-resolution figures for peer review, make absolutely certain that you have, or can easily obtain, the high-resolution versions. Researchers taking photographs during fieldwork sometimes make the mistake of adjusting their digital cameras to take pictures at a low resolu- tion so that more pictures will fit onto the camera’s memory card. Unfor- tunately, low-resolution picture files cannot be used in print journals, even though they may look fine on a computer screen; if the original photo is low resolution then not much can be done to improve this. Do not try to save these low-resolution photos at a higher resolution—this simply creates high-resolution, low-quality images that will look awful in print. If you are taking photos that may one day be published, whether you are out in the field or in your lab, make sure the camera is adjusted to take high-resolution photos.

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 87

f i g u r e 8 . 2 A moiré pa ern, caused by the “screen” pa ern of dots from the first print- ing interfering with the pa ern of dots from the second printing. is will only appear in the reprinted photo.

Do not use scanned material

Never submit photos or graphics that have been scanned from a book, jour- nal, or other printed material. First, this is illegal without proper permis- sion from the original publisher (see sidebar 8.2 on transfering copyright and sidebar 8.3 on the permissions process). In addition, if you submit materials that have been scanned from previously printed material and submit it to another journal or print publication, there is a serious danger that when it is reproduced on the printed page it will appear with an ugly interference pa ern all over it, known as a moiré pa ern (figure 8.2). is effect can only be seen in the final printed version, so the Editor will not know what you have done until it is too late. is is one way to make your- self very unpopular with that particular Editor.

Check copyright and permissions

Copyright law is extremely complex; indeed, whole books have been writ- ten on this subject. What we cover here are simple but absolutely vital rules that you must follow. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “copyright” as “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the mat-

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ter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” As the author of an as yet unpublished manuscript, you hold the copyright to your own work; in other words, you have the right to publish it, sell it, distribute it, or use it in any other way you want. However, when your manuscript is accepted by a journal, you are usually asked to sign a document in which you consent to pass ownership of copyright to the journal’s publisher. Some of the newer types of publications, such as open access journals, are an ex- ception to this rule (see sidebar 5.1 on open access and the section below on Creative Commons licenses). Unless specified otherwise, the copyright to the entire content of the journal rests with the publisher—this is normally nonnegotiable. (See sidebar 8.2 on transfering copyright).

sidebar 8.2

Why transfer copyright?

eric s. slater, esq.
Senior Manager, Copyright, Permissions & Licensing, American Chemical Society

Most scientific and scholarly publishers require that authors transfer copyright to them as part of the publication agreement between the publisher and authors. In this context, the publisher becomes the rightsholder for purposes of copyright and, in return, many publishers grant a number of rights back to authors (more on this below). It is important that authors understand why they are required to transfer copyright, which includes the legal formality involved in the process. As discussed in sidebar 5.1 (Why Choose Open Access), some publishers do not re- quire the transfer of copyright, but at present most scientific publications do have this requirement.

First, with respect to the legal aspects, under US Copyright Law, it is a require- ment that copyright transfers be done in writing. To facilitate this process, most publishers have forms for transferring copyright (sometimes referred to simply as a “copyright transfer agreement,” a “publishing agreement,” or something similar). Most publishers require authors to submit a completed form (meaning a fully executed or signed form) before they will begin production or schedule publi- cation of a manuscript. It is therefore crucial that authors fully understand what is required by the publisher at the outset.


Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 89

Second, authors are not always clear as to why a publisher requires the transfer of copyright. Although transfer of copyright to the publisher is the standard prac- tice in scientific and scholarly publishing, this still does not really explain why it is necessary. e following list highlights some major reasons for transferring copyright, reasons that hold true for both for-profit and not-for-profit publishers and societies:

·   e prestige factor. While the Internet has made it relatively easy for au- thors to “self-publish,” it is more advantageous from a professional stand- point to publish with an internationally known and well-respected publisher in the author’s particular industry or field of study. In scientific publishing this would entail publishing with organizations such as the American Chem- ical Society or the Royal Society of Chemistry, or commercial publishers such as Elsevier or Wiley-Blackwell, to name a few.

·   e permissions process. e publisher provides a single, central contact for those who are requesting permissions or licenses. ose activities requiring such permissions include, but are not limited to, photocopying full articles or excerpts of articles, the reuse of previously published figures and tables, and the use of abstracts or other contents of a published paper. is process al- lows for a consistent policy to be enforced and ensures efficiency in assisting a publisher in fulfilling its mission to make the work available to the widest possible audience. At the same time, the burden of handling such requests is removed from the author, and the publisher can ensure that only legitimate requests and uses are approved. e permissions process has become much easier in the Internet age, mainly due to the Copyright Clearance Center’s (CCC) RightsLink service; this essentially allows for a one-stop process and virtually instantaneous permission as many publishers have partnered with CCC to permit use of content.

·  Protection against copyright infringement and other legal protection. Publishers are best positioned to protect the author’s work, both domestically in the US and internationally, against copyright infringement, libel, or pla- giarism. e publisher has the resources to protect the work against unauthor- ized copying and distribution, and has the ability to enforce these rights so as to prevent unauthorized use. is would likely involve the sending of cease- and-desist notices and takedown le ers to stop unauthorized use once discov- ered and to enforce publisher-centric ethical guidelines, among other things.

·   e final version of the paper. e publisher is in the best position to ensure that the final version of a manuscript is the “official version of record.” Pub- lishing on the Internet potentially allows any number of versions or dra s of a manuscript to be posted; in this context, the publisher becomes the official source of what represents the final version of a paper.


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e integrity of the work. e publisher, whether this is a scientific society or a commercial publisher, accepts the responsibility for promoting the in- tegrity of the published work, as described above. e publisher takes on all of the tasks associated with the publication of the work from start to finish, including the peer review process, editing, production and layout, and dis- semination of the work. e publisher should also be positioned to market and promote it.

Finally, it is important to note that most major publishers will grant numerous rights back to authors, allowing them to use and exploit their wri en works on their own. Publishers are concerned with and fully recognize the rights of authors from this perspective, and will typically permit the author to reuse the work in a wide variety of ways (including but not limited to reprinting the work, creating derivative works, distributing the work to colleagues, and more). is also ex- tends to the employers of authors, when works are wri en under a work-for-hire scenario. Editors and authors alike should make certain that they fully understand any such agreement by reading it carefully before signing, and should consult with legal counsel if necessary.

Copyright on figures and tables

If you take photographs or create graphics to illustrate an article, the copy- right on the images also passes to the publisher when the paper is published. However, if, for example, you work for an organization that sells its photos online, you may be able to negotiate with the publisher to retain the copy- right on those photos. If the publisher agrees, the copyright sign, followed by your name (as the photographer) or the name of your organization, will ap- pear in close association with the figure itself, when the journal publishes it.

If you wish to use a photo or graphic that has already appeared in another publication, it is your responsibility both to find out who owns the copyright for that item and to get their wri en permission to use it as part of your paper (see sidebar 8.3). Copyright and permission policies vary among journals and publishers, so you need to check carefully each time you come across this issue. Don’t assume that what was true for a previous publication will also be true for anewone.Youwillneedtopassthatwri enpermissiontothejournalinwhich you are publishing, so they know they can legally republish that item. To find out who owns the copyright on a photo or graphic, carefully examine the figure and its accompanying caption in the original publication. Look for the word “copyright” or a copyright sign (©) somewhere in the figure caption or along one edge of the figure (examine the top, bo om, and both sides). If you cannot find this next to the figure or in the caption, then it is probable that one of the authors took the photo or created the graphic and the copyright passed to the


Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 91

publisher. If this is the case, you will find the copyright sign, linked to the name of the publisher of the journal or to the name of the journal itself, somewhere on the page, or on one of the early pages of the journal. In books, copyright in- formation may appear on a page near the very beginning or somewhere near the back.

sidebar 8.3

e permissions process

carol edwards
Publishing Manager, TESOL International As- sociation

As you read an article in a journal, say, TESOL Quarterly, you may see wording like this: “Table adapted from Table 6, in Davison (2004), copyright © 2004 by SAGE Publications. Reprinted by permission of SAGE.” is statement tells you that the table is copyrighted by another publisher (SAGE) and that the TESOL Quarterly author has received permission from SAGE to reuse it.

When you write a paper for a journal, or any publication, you must give careful consideration to any content that is not your own original creation, including text, tables, figures, charts, photos, and drawings that you want to quote, adapt, or use in the format in which they originally appeared. If the material is copyrighted, you must go through the process of ge ing permission to use it in your paper. e pro- cess is not difficult, is legally required, and is necessary to allow your publisher to get your paper into production without delay. Note, however, that you do not need to request permission to use or adapt material from an open access article, as long as you give the original author appropriate acknowledgment for the work. (See sidebar 5.1 for more about the open access option.)


To determine who owns copyright, look for a copyright sign (e.g., © 2004 SAGE) in the publication where the table, figure, or graphic originally appeared. If you are considering using such materials from a publication, look carefully for the copyright symbol, particularly at the beginning of the book or issue. An individual artist or photographer may mark their material, for example, “Not to be copied without permission” or “Do not use without consent.”


e first step towards ge ing permission is to contact the copyright holder; in the example above, the copyright holder was SAGE. Every copyright holder should


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list a Permissions Manager or similar person to contact, either within the pub- lication or on a website. Each copyright holder has its own rules for granting permission, so you cannot assume that the process you follow for one copyright holder will work for all the others. e copyright holder may ask you where the material will be published, how many copies will be circulated, and other ques- tions. It is important to contact the copyright holder as soon as you know you want to use the material in your article because the permissions process can take months and ideally should be finished before you submit your own paper for pub- lication. Otherwise, your article may be delayed and may have to go into a later issue of the journal.


When you contact the copyright holder, you may find there is a fee for using the copyrighted material. Most publishers put the burden on the author to pay any fees required. Alternatively, some copyright holders will have a policy that will allow you to use a portion of the material at no cost. For example, you may be allowed to use up to 150 words with no permission or fee involved. However, this policy varies for each copyright holder, so you must check each time you want to use previously published material.


When the original creator of the material has transferred copyright to the pub- lisher via a signed document, the publisher, not the original author of the material, owns the copyright. You need to be sure you ask the legal owner of the copyright for permission to reuse the material. To learn more about transferring copyright to the publisher, see sidebar 8.2 on Why Transfer Copyright?


If you do not receive permission to use copyrighted material, the copyright holder can force the publisher to take the material out of circulation. is means an online article will be taken off the Web and a print publication will no longer be available to subscribers or libraries.


In the US, the Copyright Clearance Center (www.copyright.com) manages the permissions process for publishers and users. e pamphlet Copyright Basics (h p://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf ) clearly explains copyright and the

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 93 law. Copyrighted material is protected by the Copyright Act in the US and by

similar laws in most other countries as well.

You must obtain wri en permission from the named individual or orga- nization that appears immediately following the word or sign (e.g., Copy- right 2010 Smithsonian Institution or © M. Baker). It is not sufficient to get permission from the author of the paper or book chapter in which the figure appeared, unless it is his or her name that appears next to the copyright sign. However, it is highly advisable to obtain permission from the author as well, not for legal reasons but as a courtesy. You could damage your reputa- tion among researchers in your field if word gets around that you are using other people’s figures without asking.

You also need to find out whether there is a fee for republishing the photo or graphic. Many publishers will charge you for reproducing a figure, table, or any other part of one of their publications, as will some nongov- ernmental organizations. If it is discovered a er publication that you have published a figure or other copyrighted material without permission and without the required payment, this may be a serious ma er, with possible legal repercussions.

If the figure you want to use is in a journal, consult the journal website to obtain the contact details of the Permissions Editor or of the permissions department of the publisher. Contact them as soon as possible, giving all the details about the figure (name of publication, volume, issue, and page number, name of author, title of paper, and figure number) and also explain where and how you want to reuse it.

Once you have received the necessary permission, make sure that you clearly acknowledge the source of the material and the copyright details in the figure caption. e original publisher will o en provide instructions on how they want to be acknowledged in your paper. If not, there are some standard styles you can use, such as: “Reproduced by permission of [name of journal]” or just “© omson Reuters 2010.”

Because permissions departments can be very slow to respond to re- quests, don’t wait until your paper has been accepted for publication before you contact them. Once you have received wri en permission to reproduce the photo or graphic, send this to the Editor, together with your manu- script, as part of the original submission, or as soon as possible therea er.

e rules for reproducing a table or any other material that has already appeared in another publication are the same as for figures. Obtain wri en permission to reuse the table and submit this to the journal you wish to publish in, just as you would for a photo or graphic.


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Photos and photolibraries

Many print journals charge a fee for the use of color in figures. However, this is not true of many online-only journals, so if you are publishing in an electronic publication, you may not have to pay to include color images. In many cases, and particularly when the manuscript deals with very spe- cialized research, you will have to provide these images yourself or ask a colleague or another author for something suitable. However, if you need high-quality, high-resolution images of landscapes, animals, plants, or people, there are a surprising number of websites where these can be found. Appendix 4 provides a list of websites where you can find a wide selection of low-cost or free images. You probably won’t be able to get highly special- ized or technical photos, but it is well worth investigating some of these sources, as there is an amazing variety of material available, if you know where to look. It is useful to know where to obtain good photographs, not just for papers, but also for use in PowerPoint presentations, as well as re- ports, websites, or blogs.

Many US federal agencies have their own photo libraries, and much of the material in these is in the public domain (not protected by copyright) and can therefore be used free of charge. Images with filenames that end in “.gov” o en fall into the category of public domain material. ese agencies require only that you acknowledge them as the original source of the photo. Some make high-resolution versions directly available for downloading, while others only post low-resolution photos online, so you will need to contact the relevant agency to get the high-resolution version. However, if you find an image you want to use on one of these websites, always check the website carefully and make sure there are no restrictions on what you intend to download and use. If you find a notice on the website that says “Copyright © 2011 US Geological Survey. All rights reserved,” then obvi- ously you need permission to use the images.

Internet material

e Internet is full of beautiful photos and graphics; in fact, there is so much material out there that you are bound to find something on somebody’s website that will fit perfectly in your paper, and so you may be tempted to just download it straight from the Internet and use it. You must not do this for two reasons:

(1) Unless stated otherwise, it is illegal. Much of the material on the Inter- net is protected by copyright in just the same way as it is in a journal

Preparing for manuscript submission, or “What Editors wish you knew” 95

or book, so you cannot use it without permission. Of course, you can contact the organization or individual who owns the material and get permission, in the same way as described above.

(2) Photos and graphics on the Internet are usually at low resolution (72 d.p.i.), unless stated otherwise and are therefore not suitable for use in a print publication, which requires much higher resolution (normally 300 d.p.i.). Just because a photo looks wonderful on a computer screen does not mean it is usable in a print publication.

Creative Commons licenses

As discussed earlier, whenever you create something, whether it is a scien- tific paper, a graphic, or a piece of artwork or music, you automatically own the copyright to that piece of work. All rights to the work belong to you. If anyone else wants to use it, they have a legal requirement to get your per- mission first. However, if you do want people to reuse your work, a rela- tively new form of copyright licensing is now available for this purpose, called the Creative Commons (CC) license (h p://creativecommons.org).

Although a number of well-known entities and organizations use CC li- censes (e.g., Flickr, Wikipedia), the majority of scientific journals do not. e exceptions to this are some of the open access journals, such as those pub- lished by the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Unless your chosen journal al- ready uses CC licenses, do not expect to be allowed to do so. If you want your paper to be free for everyone to see and use, you will need to publish it in one of the new generation of open access journals (see sidebar 5.1 on open access).


Some inexperienced authors become discouraged a er they have been re- jected by multiple journals and so decide to save time by sending the same paper to two or more journals at the same time. Do not do this. If the Editors of these journals find out—and they very likely will—your paper will most probably be rejected immediately. e Editors involved may even refuse to consider manuscripts you send to their journals in the future.

Submi ing manuscripts simultaneously to multiple journals wastes the Editor’s time and that of the peer reviewers. Furthermore, since the num- ber of peer reviewers within a particular field of study may be relatively small, if you send your paper to two journals, it is quite possible that both Editors will send it to the same reviewer. at reviewer will quickly contact thetwoEditorstotellthemwhathashappened.Alternatively,ifyourpaper is accepted by two publications, you will need to withdraw the manuscript

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from one of them. In either case, everyone will know that you have broken one of the basic ethical principles of scientific publishing.


If your science is unoriginal or poorly executed, this book probably can- not help you much. However, if the science is sound, and will make a clear contribution to the collective knowledge in your field, then don’t give up. Even if your paper has been rejected, tailor your manuscript to fit each new journal’s requirements, do all your preflight checks, and send the paper out again. Remember that ge ing your paper into peer review counts as a suc- cess, even if it is later rejected. You will have the peer reviewers’ comments to help you improve the paper or the science it describes. Eventually, it will get published.

chapter nine

Who does what in peer review

Peer review is such a fundamental element of critical scientific thinking that the entire scientific and scholarly community should arguably take on the responsibility for improving and maintaining its quality—a major, long term commitment.

f r a n k d a v i d o f f , Editor Emeritus, Annals of Internal Medicine BMJ. 2004. 328: 657 doi: 10.1136/bmj.328.7441.657


For some authors, sending their manuscript off to a journal and then re- ceiving a decision le er some time later is rather like pushing their paper into a black box and waiting for something to come out at the other end. ey have no clear idea of what happens inside the box. Who is making the decisions? How are those people chosen? Can anything be done to hurry the process along? e aim of this chapter is to li the lid off the black box and take a look at what goes on inside.

Peer review—which in the context of this book is the consideration of your manuscript by a number of experts in the same field—is an integral part of the process of science publishing. Having your work criticized and, in some cases, rejected as substandard can be a painful ordeal that every scientist must face, but the end result is that when you look at a paper in a peer-reviewed journal you know that one, two, three, or even four subject ma er experts have considered it, requested any necessary changes, and now deem it to be scientifically sound.

In the past, authors typed out their manuscripts, made two or three cop- ies (as specified in the journal’s instructions to authors), packaged them all up, and posted them to the journal offices. Nowadays, you are more than likely to find yourself grappling with an online submission system, which acts as a web interface for everyone involved in the peer review process. ese systems allow authors to submit manuscripts electronically and track them as they move through peer review, while also allowing Editors, edito- rial staff, and reviewers to upload and download manuscripts and reports, and view the status of articles (see sidebar 9.1 on Online Manuscript Sub- mission and Peer Review Systems).


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sidebar 9.1

Online manuscript submission and peer review systems

lyndon holmes President, Aries Systems

Peer review systems are like plumbing for scholarly publishing. ey manage the flow of scholarly manuscripts from submission to acceptance and beyond. Like good plumbing these workflow systems should be invisible and reliable, and they should afford some luxury.

While most of us could theoretically do our own plumbing, we usually dis- cover that it’s be er to have a professional build and maintain the system. It’s the same with online peer review systems. Most scholarly societies, publishers, and university presses could develop and host their own workflow systems but have discovered that it’s easier and more efficient to adopt a commercial solution.

e evolution from paper-based workflows to electronic processes began in the 1970s, with DOS-based systems, and those paved the way for the Windows desktop systems and web-based peer review that were popular in the mid-1990s (Tananbaum and Holmes 2008). Today’s peer review systems are the result of tens of millions of dollars of investment, and leading vendors typically invest in excess of $5 million a year to keep their web-based platforms at the peak of functionality and up-to-date.

Today, the vast majority of scholarly journals offer online submission and peer review, using one of a handful of commercially available systems including Bench>Press, Editorial Manager, eJournalPress, and ScholarOne. Some organi- zations use open-source so ware, but these systems cannot compare with those that are developed and maintained by full-time professionals.


One of publishers’ key objectives in using an online peer review system is to im- prove their services to authors. For example, most systems allow authors to quickly check the status of their submission, review prior correspondence, or review online submission instructions that will help them meet editorial and mechanical sub- mission requirements.

Some publishers configure their system to provide early, automated feedback to authors concerning the quality of their manuscript. For example, Springer SBM’s

Who does what in peer review 99

system automatically links the author’s submi ed bibliography to PubMed and CrossRef. is is a valuable service to authors since it provides early warning of bibliography problems and suggested responses. Similarly, some peer review systems automatically compare the characteristics of uploaded image files to the journal’s publication standards. Again, the author gets an early warning of any image corrections they need to make to move their submission forward, towards publication.

Publishers can also use their peer review systems to help them quickly find reviewers for papers. ey do this by maintaining subject domain keywords in a structured hierarchy and encouraging authors and potential reviewers to identify their area of expertise from the keywords in this list. e system can then match authors and manuscripts to potential reviewers.

Authors can expect to see further innovations in the interface and functionality of manuscript submission systems that will make the submission process easier and more responsive to their needs. For example, leading systems now allow a language “toggle” so that authors can view the interface in their own language, including simplified Chinese, Japanese, French, and German.


While most peer review systems are developed and maintained by vendors, many specific aspects of the workflow are highly tailored and customized to meet the specific requests and requirements of each individual journal. For example, while most peer review systems can technically accept submissions in PDF format, some do not allow this because once a paper is accepted, Copyeditors want immediate access to the original files for editing with the goal of speeding time to publication. is illustrates how journals try to balance the need for up-front author conve- nience with meeting an important downstream objective of early publication.

To take full advantage of the power of manuscript submission systems and keep the Editors who receive the manuscripts happy, authors should:

·  Carefully read and comply with the online instructions included at each stage within the manuscript submission system. Journals and systems designers have worked hard to tailor the systems to collect information from authors that Editors and production staff need to keep their production workflow moving forward with the greatest efficiency. In other words, all the steps the authors must follow and all the information the system asks for are neces- sary, and authors should not skip or overlook anything.

·  Correspond with the editorial office through the peer review system rather than through email once your manuscript has been submi ed. e system


chapter 9


creates records of all communication, and both authors and editorial staff can easily access these messages. Using the tools within the system helps ensure that no important information is lost.
Explore and make full use of the many useful features that well-designed manuscript submission systems provide—these allow authors to check the status of submi ed manuscripts; inform the editorial office of times when they’ll be unavailable; register temporary email addresses; integrate with bibliographic searches; use automated forma ing and quality checks.

Some systems also provide features that are useful a er papers have been ac- cepted, such as allowing authors to update files or review and submit final page proof edits.


Changing needs and technologies (such as new browser capabilities) will allow authors to benefit from many innovations that will be introduced during the next few years. New tools such as scholar identification systems (e.g., Open Researcher & Contributor ID, ORCID; http://www.orcid.org) may help address the chronic author need for a single sign-on between different journal and publisher systems. e widespread adoption of tablet computers, especially the iPad, by scholars may fa- cilitate new ways to interact with peer review systems that go beyond the browser interfaces currently supported on tablet computers. From a technical point of view, authors can look forward to greater speed, convenience, and access options during scholarly manuscript submission and peer review.


e first place to look for information on who is deciding the fate of your manuscript is on a page near the front of the journal, known as the mast- head page. In larger publications, and those with numerous issues per year, masthead information will take up a whole page or more. In smaller jour- nals, it may just take the form of a small panel. e masthead usually lists the permanent staff in the journal office, including editorial, production, marketing, and other staff.

When it comes to peer review systems, every journal is different. In some cases, permanent editorial staff play key roles in the process, in others all the administration, reviewing, and decision making is done by “volunteers”— usually scientists who do this work in addition to their regular day jobs as researchers, lecturers, or other science-related employees. e titles given


Who does what in peer review 101

to the people who fill different positions in the journal hierarchy also dif- fer widely among journals, and this variety can confuse novice authors or others who are trying to figure out who they should talk to in order to get an answer to a particular question. Big weekly or monthly publications usually have a full-time Editor-in-Chief or Editor and a large permanent staff; these larger publications also use a small army of academic volunteers, usually known collectively as the editorial board. A small annual, semiannual, or quarterly journal, on the other hand, may have just one Editor, who must try to identify relevant reviewers for each submi ed manuscript and make most if not all the decisions, with or without secretarial or editorial support. Editorial structures may also differ, depending on whether the journal is published by a not-for-profit academic society or association or by a for- profit commercial publisher. For more detailed descriptions of the different individuals who work in, or closely with, the editorial office, see the section on journal staff and volunteers later in this chapter.

Finally, journals differ in the degree of anonymity that characterizes their peer review process (see the section below on different forms of peer review).

Peer reviewers

Peer reviewers are subject ma er experts who are invited by the journal Edi- tor or staff to review papers on subjects about which they are considered to be very knowledgeable. ey can refuse, of course, if they are too busy or if they feel that they are not sufficiently knowledgeable about a particular aspect of the topic. Unfortunately for editorial staff, refusals are fairly common, so that it can take several days, or even weeks, to find the necessary one, two, or three (depending on the journal) suitable peer reviewers for each paper.

Once a peer reviewer has accepted the task, he or she is expected to read the paper carefully and write a detailed report, not only pointing out any flaws and omissions in the work but also making thoughtful, constructive suggestions on how to improve the manuscript. It is important to note here that peer reviewers don’t make decisions about the papers they review; they can make recommendations, but the final decision regarding the fate of the manuscript does not rest with them, but with an Editor or Associate Editor.

A good peer reviewer will o en be in the database of a number of jour- nals and will be called on frequently to review papers. ey usually have to do the reviews in their spare time, which means evenings and weekends, and they normally get no reward and li le thanks. ey do this work be- cause it is an expected part of a scientist’s career and because they hope that someone else will do the same for their papers. Of course, a few individuals

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“cheat” the system; they always find a good reason for not accepting the papers they are offered: “too busy,” “heavy teaching load this semester,” “not really my area of expertise,” “just leaving for an extended fieldtrip.” Worse still, from an Editor’s point of view, is the reviewer whose report is five weeks overdue, and who finally sends back a three-line report, stating that the paper is good, bad, or indifferent but providing no detailed guid- ance for the author regarding how to improve the manuscript.

As an author, however, you need to remember that even the most consci- entious reviewers may be tired, stressed, or in a bad mood when they finally find the time to sit down with your paper. ey may get irritated by poor presentation, poor English or, worst of all, poor science. As a result, review- ers are sometimes not as tactful or as polite as they should be when writing their reports (see chapter 10, “Dealing with Decision Le ers”).

When you have the opportunity to suggest peer reviewers for your paper, you should mention people whose area of expertise qualifies them for this role and whose work you respect. However, there is no point in sug- gesting very high-profile scientists, since they probably won’t have time to do the review. You should also avoid recommending former supervisors or close colleagues and friends, or anyone that could be perceived as having a conflict of interest. In other words, don’t recommend individuals whose past or current professional or personal relationship with you might bias their judgment of the paper.


A well-known and much-repeated saying in the scientific publishing world is that the peer review system is flawed, but it’s the best we’ve got. is is perfectly true. Peer review is carried out by human beings who cannot help but bring their own beliefs, biases, and prejudices to the task. Even so, the vast majority of Editors and peer reviewers take their task very seriously and do their best to make a balanced and fair assessment of each paper and to provide the authors with useful feedback.

Over the years, various author groups have felt that they were at a dis- advantage when it came to publishing their work, and were convinced that Editors were biased against their submissions, even before reading the ab- stract. is belief has led to many published papers on “a itudinal biases” in science publishing—that is, biases that influence editorial decisions or citation rates and that have nothing to do with the scientific merits of the papers. Factors that have been investigated include gender bias (are papers with male first authors more likely to be accepted for publication or more frequently cited than papers with female first authors?), language bias (are papers whose first author is a native English speaker more likely to be ac-

Who does what in peer review 103

cepted for publication or more frequently cited than papers whose first author is a nonnative English speaker?), and bias against country of origin (are papers from certain countries less likely to be accepted for publication than those from other countries?).

Many women have felt at a disadvantage in terms of gender bias in the peer review system and non-English-speaking authors have also felt that they are at a major disadvantage when trying to publish papers in English- language journals. e accusation of language bias in particular cannot en- tirely be denied. Editors do not like to admit it outside their own circle of colleagues, but their hearts sink every time they note the arrival of a new manuscript, wri en by a nonnative speaker of English, and see almost in- comprehensible text that will be a struggle to read and which they suspect (not necessarily correctly) will yield badly designed experiments, dubious results, and unfounded conclusions.

If you are a nonnative English speaker and you want to get your work into the international arena, ge ing your papers past the English-language- based peer review system remains a challenge that must be overcome (see sidebar 4.2, “ e Challenges of Publishing as an International Author,” and appendix 1 for a list of resources that may prove helpful).

Editors and publishers are extremely aware of the dangers of bias and other inequities within the peer review process, recognizing that a fair and effective system is a fundamental part of the development and dissemina- tion of new scientific information. To address the potential inequities in the review system, about twenty years ago Editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association and the BMJ (British Medical Journal) Group formed a collaboration to launch an international congress on peer review. is meeting has since taken place every four years. e Congress focuses exclu- sively on the results of research on peer review and on ways to improve the peer review process. Many hundreds of publishers and researchers a end these meetings and take the information reported there back to their work- place to try to improve their publishing practices. Extended abstracts or full text of most of the papers presented are freely available on the Congress’s website at http://www.ama-assn.org/public/peer/peerhome.htm.


ere has been much discussion and debate, among Editors and within the scientific community in general, regarding the different models of peer review and which one is least prone to biases and other inappropriate influences. Most journals use one of three models of peer review: single- blind review, double-blind review, or open or community review. Each of these models has advantages and disadvantages, so that the system used by

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each journal depends on the beliefs and biases of the publisher, the Editor- in-Chief, or the Editorial Board.

Single-blind review

e single-blind model is the most commonly used among life science and biomedical science journals. In this system, the peer reviewers remain anonymous to the authors, but reviewers are able to see the names of the authors. Reviewers can therefore be openly critical about a scientist’s work without any fear that the recipient of these criticisms may, sooner or later, retaliate in some way. Many reviewers prefer a single-blind system since it can be embarrassing to meet colleagues or future collaborators a er you have heavily criticized their latest manuscript. Proponents of the single- blind system believe that if the reviewers’ names were visible to authors, those reviewers might end up providing weak or incomplete reviews, be- cause they would be afraid of causing offense or making enemies.

When Associate Editors (see “Journal staff and volunteers” later in this chapter) play a role in decision making, they are not normally anonymous and o en correspond openly with authors on behalf of the journal. Associ- ate Editors have less of a problem with being out in the open since a lot of the criticisms of the manuscript will be coming from the reviewers, leaving the Associate Editor to put these into a constructive framework, sometimes adding further comments and suggestions, as well as presenting possible options for the authors to consider.

Double-blind review

In the double-blind review system, the reviewers’ names are hidden from the authors and the authors’ names are hidden from the reviewers. Propo- nents of the double-blind model point out that a particular author’s name on a paper (e.g., a very senior researcher) or a geographical location (e.g., a country whose authors have a reputation for plagiarism) may influence the opinions of the peer reviewers, either positively or negatively. e presence of a highly respected author at the top of the paper may lead the reviewers to be more lenient or, conversely, to judge it by a higher standard than if it were a first a empt at publication by a young postgraduate student. A name associated with a particular nationality or problem may also engender posi- tive or negative biases (e.g., reviewers from the same country as the author may be tempted to help out their countryman, or an Associate Editor may react negatively to a paper from an author with whom they had difficulties in the past), leading to inequities in the peer review process.

Who does what in peer review 105

One of the main arguments against the double-blind system is that since science is quite a “small world,” unless you can completely eliminate all pos- sible clues to the authors’ identity within the text (which is o en hard to do), the peer reviewers may be able to make a good guess at the identity of the authors. A specific approach to the research, a particular study area, or a certain technique can all act as clues. If you are working in a fairly special- ized field, you are probably familiar with most of the other researchers in that field and may know many of them personally, as well as being familiar with their work. Peer reviewers may waste time studying these clues in an a empt to guess the identity of the authors. Having arrived at a satisfac- tory conclusion (whether right or wrong), they may then proceed to sub- consciously apply all the biases they would have done had everyone’s name been visible in the first place.

Open peer review or community review

As the name suggests, in open peer review neither the authors nor the re- viewers are anonymous; instead, everyone’s name is visible. is trans- parency o en means that reviewers will be more tactful and polite, since they have to be ready to justify their criticisms the next time they meet the author whose paper they recently slammed. Unfortunately, they may also choose not to accept the task of reviewing the paper at all, which makes life more difficult for the Editor.

Community-based peer review is an extension of open peer review, in which papers are posted online and the scientific community is invited to comment on and criticize the paper. In these systems, both authors and those posting comments are known to each other. e authors can respond to the comments and, in theory, will be able to improve the paper to a high enough standard for publication through this open dialogue with peers.

Probably the best example of community peer review can be seen in some physics, mathematics, and computer science journals, where this system has been in use for many years. As soon as a manuscript is ready, the author may choose to submit it for posting as a preprint on Cornell Uni- versity’s arXiv (pronounced “archive”). Editors check to make sure that it is of a suitable scientific standard, but otherwise make no judgments about the manuscript. Members of the scientific community are free to provide feedback on the paper, which is then sometimes (but not always) submi ed for publication to a peer-reviewed journal. Otherwise, the paper remains on the arXiv site as an “e-print.”

Different disciplines and various publishers, including the Public Library of Science, have instituted variations on the theme of open and community

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peer review, sometimes termed “interactive public discussion,” but these systems are still rarely found among the life sciences and medical journals. In 2006, Nature invited authors of newly submi ed papers to take part in an experiment (Anonymous 2006), in which they posted papers on a public server and invited signed comments from the readers, while at the same time carrying out normal, single-blind peer review on those papers. During the four-month trial, the authors of 71 papers (out of a total of 1,369) agreed to take part. Of these, 33 (46%) received no comments at all, while 38 (54%) a racted a total of 92 comments. Of these, 49 comments were directed at 8 papers. Although there was quite a lot of interest in this experiment at the time, Nature’s Editors were disappointed by the small number of authors who agreed to participate and the small number of comments received on the papers that were entered into the trial. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Editors decided not to adopt open peer review.


Authors sometimes wonder what happens when there are two peer review- ers looking at a paper and they disagree with each other. In other words, what happens when one reviewer suggests that the paper requires only mi- nor revision to be acceptable for publication while the other feels that the paper is deeply flawed and should be rejected or, at the very least, that it requires an extensive overhaul?

In such cases, Editors basically have two options. First, if they are ex- perts in the subject, they may read the paper again and cast the deciding vote themselves, adding extra comments of their own if they feel that the two original reviewers have missed important points. If they are not suf- ficiently familiar with the topic, they may solicit a third review and let this decide the issue.

Unfortunately, no peer review system is perfect and, being human, Editors and peer reviewers do make mistakes, although not as o en as ag- grieved authors, staring at their rejection le ers in anger and disbelief, might think. You need to study the reports on your papers carefully and then try to look objectively at your work. Invite colleagues whose opinion you trust to do the same. If you still feel that there has been a serious error, see chapter 10 on how to appeal the decision.


If peer reviewing is so time consuming, then why, you might ask, should you bother? What do you get out of it? e answer is “quite a lot.” First and

Who does what in peer review 107

foremost, as mentioned above, peer reviewing is a recognized part of being an engaged and successful scientist. It is also a ma er of quid pro quo—you will be doing this service for other scientists in the hope that they will do the same for you. Having a line on your résumé saying that you serve as a regular reviewer for one or more journals in your field can be helpful when you are seeking a new job or a promotion. Serving as a peer reviewer also provides you with the opportunity to see the latest results from your fellow researchers. at being said, every paper you see as a reviewer is confiden- tial and privileged information, and you cannot use the knowledge you gain in any way until a er it has been officially published.

Peer reviewing is also an opportunity to exercise your critical faculties and to think about what makes a good paper (or a bad paper). Exercising these skills can help to improve your own writing and may also make you more familiar with the requirements of the journals you are reviewing for. is knowledge may, in turn, help you when you are considering these journals for your own papers.

Finally, good peer reviewers are worth their weight in gold to Editors. If you do a good job reviewing for a journal in your field, you may eventually find yourself being invited onto the editorial board. is will put you on good terms with Editors and staff of the journal, which can also give you a small advantage when submi ing your own papers. When Editors see a familiar name at the top of a newly submi ed manuscript (a name they as- sociate with excellent critical thinking skills, thoroughness, and a ention to detail, and punctuality in returning work), well, let’s just say that it can’t do you any harm if the name they recognize is yours.


As mentioned earlier, authors do sometimes wonder who exactly is making decisions in the editorial office (or elsewhere) and how they got to be in a position to do so. Understanding a li le more about the main players in the editorial process can help answer these questions.

Editor-in-Chief or Editor

e buck has to stop somewhere and it is on the Editor-in-Chief ’s (EiC) or Editor’s desk that it usually comes to rest. Although many of the biggest and best-known journals in the world have full-time, professional EiCs or Editors, for the great majority of publications that you will be submi ing papers to, the EiC is a practicing academic, involved in research, teaching, or high-level administration, and is o en a big name in the scientific field

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that the journal covers. is individual is usually responsible for the over- all editorial philosophy, direction, and content of the journal during his or her tenure as EiC and sometimes also for the overall design of the pages. Although some academic Editors may get a small stipend for their editorial work, or perhaps get a reduced teaching load, many get no compensation for the journal work they do. In addition to leading the journal direction and philosophy, an EiC may look at all the submi ed manuscripts and de- cide which should be rejected without review, may choose the Associate Editor who will oversee the passage of a particular paper through the peer- review process, and may make the final decisions and write the decision le ers.Alternatively,theEiCmaydelegatemoreoftheseresponsibilitiesto an Associate Editor, sometimes called a Subject Ma er Editor, or to a paid staff member, o en called a Managing Editor, Senior Editor, or Assistant Editor. e EiC is usually responsible for appointing the Associate Editors or Subject Ma er Editors to the editorial board and probably makes final decisions about the hiring and firing of the paid staff. e Editor-in-Chief is also almost invariably the final arbiter when it comes to appeals.

Associate Editors or Subject Ma er Editors

As mentioned above, the Associate Editors (or Subject Ma er Editors) are usually volunteers—scientists or other specialists who form the editorial board. ese individuals are chosen for their in-depth knowledge of a par- ticular topic within the overall subject area that the journal covers. e bigger journals, and those with multiple issues per year, require a greater number of Associate Editors to deal with the large number of papers sub- mi ed for publication. ey will be approached by the Editor-in-Chief or by journal staff and invited to oversee the peer review process for those papers that fall within their area of expertise. Once they have read the man- uscript, they are o en required to pick relevant peer reviewers, since they are likely to know most of the other experts in their field. e Associate Edi- tor receives the peer reviewers’ reports and either writes the decision le er or writes an overall recommendation that the Editor-in-Chief (or a journal staff member) then relays to the author.

e editorial board

Some journals are run by an editorial board, headed by an appointed chair- person, rather than by any one individual. In such cases, the day-to-day running of the journal is usually in the hands of a paid staff member, whose title is o en Executive Editor or Managing Editor (see below).

e editorial board meets at regular intervals, usually once or twice a

Who does what in peer review 109

year. e chairperson, who may be the Editor-in-Chief or someone chosen from among the Associate Editors, sets the agenda and runs the meetings while someone else, o en a staff person, takes minutes. ese board meet- ings are an opportunity for the Associate Editors to meet their fellow board members, discuss new plans for the journal, exchange views, give general feedback to the staff, and make decisions about future content.

Executive Editor or Managing Editor

In journals where the EiC is a practicing scientist, based in a different insti- tution or even in a different city from the editorial offices, there will o en be a member of staff with the title Executive Editor or Managing Editor. is is a very senior position, held by a highly experienced publishing pro- fessional, who answers directly to the EiC, or to the chair of the editorial board, and who is in charge of other journal staff and of the day-to-day running of the journal, and usually has responsibilities in connection with the peer review process as well. Executive Editors are likely to have been scientists themselves at an earlier stage in their career, though not neces- sarily in the same field. Having made the decision to switch from science to publishing, they will probably have started at a junior staff level and worked their way up through the ranks, becoming familiar with all parts of the pub- lishing process along the way.

Assistant Editor or Senior Editor

In the offices of a large weekly or monthly journal, a number of Assistant Editors will be administering the peer review system and keeping manu- scripts moving through the publication process, from submission and peer review, through copyediting and proof checking, to final publication. ey may also play a role in the decision-making process. If you have a general question about the journal, or about the progress of your manuscript, an Assistant Editor is the best person to contact. Assistant Editors may also be involved in the editing and preparation of your manuscript once it has been accepted, so if questions arise in the journal offices regarding your paper, it is probably an Assistant Editor who will contact you for information.


Where present, usually only in the larger journal offices, Copyeditors edit papers to improve grammar, punctuation, and clarity, and to ensure that

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the text conforms to journal style. ey are not usually involved in peer review or the decision-making process.

Editorial Assistant

Editorial Assistants are the most junior staff members in the team. ey may do administrative work on the journal, and possibly some copyediting and proofreading. Occasionally, especially on smaller publications, it is the Editorial Assistant who administers the peer review system, though they will not be involved in any decision making.


Peer review ensures that the information published in scientific journals has been examined by a number of experts in the field who have judged it to be scientifically sound. All the current models of peer review have advan- tages and disadvantages, and it is advisable to have a good understanding of these. Having your papers peer reviewed, and performing this service for others, is an integral part of most scientific careers and will help to im- prove both your critical thinking and your writing skills. When you are a re- viewer, you should perform the kind of thorough, constructive, and timely review that you hope someone would do for you.

chapter ten

Dealing with decision le ers

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success. bo bennett,businessman

One of the hardest parts of the publication process for many authors is the period between submi ing the manuscript and the arrival of the decision le er. In the past, of course, it actually was a le er, so that the waiting time was increased by days or even weeks of progress through the postal sys- tem. Now, the Editor’s decision is usually delivered in the form of an email, which can travel from one side of the world to the other in less time than it takes to actually read it.

Different journals will vary in terms of timing and details, but the deci- sion le er will deliver one of the following verdicts:

·  rejected

·  major revision

·  minor revision

·  provisionally accepted

·  accepted.
It is vital that you read the decision le er carefully and interpret it cor- rectly. Here, we review each category and try to help you to consider your options in each case. If you are the sole author, you will undoubtedly get advice and suggestions from supervisors and colleagues but the final deci- sions will be up to you. However, where you are one of many authors, the whole group will need to reach a consensus—if you are the corresponding author (see chapter 4 for details on the roles and responsibilities of corre- sponding authors) it will probably be your task to gather everyone’s ideas and summarize them, to help the group in coming to an agreement.

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We have already discussed the rejected-without-review category in ear- lier chapters and described ways to avoid this highly undesirable outcome. However, since every author’s primary objective is to get past this hurdle, we discuss the topic briefly again in this context.

If you receive a short le er, telling you the paper has been rejected with- out any form of peer review, and with no other explanation, you can contact the Editor and politely ask for more information. Many, though not all, Edi- tors will respond to such a request, particularly if it comes from a young or inexperienced author.

e Editor will very probably reject your manuscript without review for any of the following reasons:

·  You sent the paper to the wrong journal (wrong topic, wrong level of writing, or wrong type of paper).

·   e journal publishes only cu ing-edge, high-impact science and has a high rejection rate (you aimed too high).

·   e journal has a big backlog or a lot of papers on a similar topic and does not wish to consider any more (that is just bad luck).

·  You didn’t explain your ideas clearly enough. (Are you a nonnative speaker of English? Was there a language problem? If so, consider get- ting help.)

·  Your science is flawed (see below).
If the le er explains why the paper didn’t make it past the Editor’s desk, then at least you’ve gained some useful information. Was the problem in the scientific content or was this rejection based on a mismatch between manu- script and journal? Did the Editor spot a flaw or omission in the methods section or were you just a bit overambitious in sending a relatively minor advance in understanding to quite such a prestigious journal?
You need to read the le er carefully and then go back to basics. Follow any advice in the le er regarding how to improve or reformat the paper and then restart the process of choosing the right journal to send it to (see chap- ter 5, “Choosing the Right Journal”). If the Editor has “le the door open” for you and is inviting you to submit again, once you’ve made the requested changes, then your course of action is clear. If the Editor has suggested one or more alternative journals to submit to, you should study these carefully; it is your responsibility to make sure that these publications really are a good match for your paper before following this advice.

Dealing with decision le ers 113 REJECTED FOLLOWING REVIEW

e manuscript has been sent to reviewers and the Editor has received one, two, or three reports. e reports may be from two reviewers, together with an overall recommendation from an Associate Editor or, if the first two re- viewers had opposing views, a third reviewer may have been called in to act as a tie breaker. In either case, the overall recommendation was rejection (see chapter 9, “Who Does What in Peer Review”).

Whether you have received a decision of either “rejected following re- view” or “major revision,” you are going to need to use the reviewers’ sug- gestions and comments to improve the paper before submi ing it again. Whether you send your revised paper back to the same journal or submit it somewhere else, you need to take a similar approach in responding to the reviewers’ comments. Here are a few important points to remember, as you begin the painful process of overhauling your paper.

First, when studying the reviewers’ reports, don’t take offense. Review- ers (and Editors) are not always as tactful as they could be, and some irrita- tion or impatience does occasionally creep into their comments. You should ignore these remarks; instead, study the criticisms as unemotionally as pos- sible and take what is useful from them. No ma er what tone is adopted, you need to try to view the information as valuable assistance with your paper because, difficult as it may be to accept, most reviewers’ comments are valuable and can help you to improve the manuscript. Also, if the paper was rejected, make sure you understand why. As mentioned earlier, there can be a number of reasons for rejection, and some are easier to fix than others.

Here are some common problems that will trigger a rejection le er.

e subject ma er (or the format) of the paper does not fit the journal

If this is the problem, then you didn’t do your homework properly. Go back and study the instructions to authors and copies of the journal again. Did you misinterpret the information provided? Why did you think your paper was a good match for this particular publication? Were the instructions unclear or not extensive enough? Having said all that, if your paper was rejected for any of these reasons a er it had been reviewed, the Editor may not have been paying enough a ention either. e problem should have been picked up during the initial examination of the manuscript.

ere is li le room to argue with a verdict like this. Start the journal

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search procedure again and this time, make sure that the paper really is a good match for the next journal you submit to. Start researching possible target journals before you begin making any corrections, so you can change the paper to fit the new journal’s requirements at the same time as you are improving the content.

e paper is scientifically flawed

If the reviewers find your paper to be scientifically or logically flawed, your decision le er should include a detailed list of all the things that are wrong with it, thereby giving you the information you need to set about system- atically addressing the problems so that you can resubmit elsewhere. Table 10.1 lists some of the more common reasons for this category of rejection.

Of course, making the required changes is not always possible. If your research was carried out during a never-to-be-repeated field trip to Outer Mongolia and you failed to collect a whole category of data, you are out of luck. If you omi ed to take a key measurement from the 15,000 patients in your study, again, there is no going back. If, on the other hand, it is a ques- tion of carrying out different statistical analyses or adding a section that you failed to include in the discussion, then all is not lost. You should read the comments in the le er carefully to make sure you understand what the reviewers saw as flaws and what they are suggesting you do to address the problems. ey may be asking you to:

·  correcterrors

·  add more data

·  add new analyses of the data

·  change your interpretation of the results

·  provide more explanation

·  add or delete one or more sections

·  change the conclusions or provide a more balanced view.
You need to work through each set of comments systematically and make sure that your final responses to comments are organized in a logical and straightforward way that will be easy for Editors to follow. ese lists of sug- gestions can sometimes be contradictory or confusing, so it may be helpful to group the various points from each report into categories (see later for suggestions on how to do this). Decide which points (from different review- ers) are saying roughly the same thing and which appear to be sending you in opposite directions. If you really get stuck and your supervisor or other colleagues can’t advise you, you may be able to appeal to the journal for

t a b l e 1 0 . 1 . Common reasons papers are rejected following review


Science is not novel.
Not enough new information.

Arguments are unsound.

Arguments are weak or the evidence presented is unconvincing.

Data or other evidence are missing.

Important arguments were not addressed or seminal work was ignored or not cited properly.

Paper is biased.

Arguments are unclear and confusing.

Paper is uninteresting.

e paper was not prepared according to the guidelines set out in the instructions to authors.


Something similar (or identical) has already been published.

e science does not represent enough of an advance to warrant publication.

Data are poorly analyzed or incorrectly interpreted.

Conclusions made on the basis of these data are unsupported or the importance of the data is exaggerated.

Certain experiments were not done or previously published findings were not taken into account.

Again, some findings (your own or that of other researchers) have not been taken into account in building your argument.

In a scientific question with two or more possible hypotheses or interpretations, the paper highlights one side of the argument, rather than presenting a balanced view.

e research or conclusions may be valid but are not clearly explained; alternatively, there may be something wrong with the way the basic premise, or the approach, or the results, or the conclusions have been presented.

e Editor may feel that the paper is boring, or will not enhance the journal, or will not be of interest to readers. Unfortunately, papers describing negative results may be included in this category, even though the resulting publication bias is a major problem in scientific publishing.

If the manuscript clearly doesn’t fit the criteria listed in the instructions, and this fact was missed at initial review, it may mistakenly be sent to reviewers. If the Editor feels that it would be impossible to change the paper sufficiently to conform to the journal criteria, it will be rejected.


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help. Write to the Editor who signed your decision le er, explaining your predicament, and ask them which reviewer’s recommendations they would prefer to see carried out (see “What to do when peer reviewers contradict each other,” later). In cases where the suggestions are ambiguous or oth- erwise difficult to understand, and where the reviewers are anonymous, contact the Editor and ask (a) if you can be put in touch with one or both reviewers, so you can discuss the issues with them directly, or (b) whether you can provide a list of questions for the Editor to pass on, so that the peer reviewers can respond while still maintaining their anonymity.

You should also consider the possibility that the problem may lie not so much with the science itself but with the way you explained it. If this is the case, you need to redra the text, following the reviewers’ suggestions, and then ask colleagues (preferably people who are not too familiar with your work) and friends to read it, to make sure your descriptions and explana- tions come across clearly.

Once the paper has been revised to the best of your ability, the next ques- tion is where to submit—the same journal or another publication? As men- tioned earlier, the decision le er may indicate that the Editor is willing to consider the paper again, if you can change the manuscript according to the reviewers’ suggestions. However, if the le er says something like, “We hope you will find these comments helpful in preparing the manuscript for submission to another journal,” take the hint. e Editor does not want to see your paper again. Unless you feel you have very strong grounds, don’t bother to appeal.

At the end of the le er, you may find that the Editor has suggested an- other journal to submit to. As mentioned above, you should not just blindly follow this advice. e Editor may have made a useful suggestion or may just have mentioned the first title that came to mind, without stopping to think whether it really is a suitable venue. It is your responsibility to inves- tigate the suggested journal to make sure you are not se ing yourself up for another rejection le er.

e journal has too many papers on this topic already

Space is always at a premium in print journals, although less so in online- only titles. Nevertheless, even in electronic publications the Editor must maintain a balance between all the different topics within the specialty. Very few journals would want to publish several papers on much the same aspect of their discipline, so if several such papers are submi ed at roughly the same time, the Editor will choose a small number to review and reject the rest. In a case like this, there may be nothing wrong with your paper; it

Dealing with decision le ers 117 just arrived in the right place at the wrong time. All you can do is move on

and choose another journal.


Different journals have different cutoff points between “rejected” and “ma- jor revision.” A publication with a high submission rate or a serious backlog of articles is much more likely to reject borderline papers rather than to ask for major revisions. However, if your paper is on a topic the Editor is particu- larly interested in, or if the basic premise of the manuscript is good but the execution is poor (see table 10.1), the Editor may be prepared to consider the manuscript again a er you’ve made the suggested revisions. If you get a let- ter inviting you to revise and resubmit, remember that this is no guarantee that the paper will be accepted the next time around. It does mean that you still have a chance of publishing a version of the paper in that particular journal and that you don’t have to carry out another journal search right away. When writing the cover le er to accompany the revised version of the paper, be sure to remind the Editor that you were invited to resubmit. Editors deal with hundreds of papers and cannot be expected to remember every one, so your reminder may be what tips the balance and gets the paper sent out to peer review again.

If the paper is rejected and you are invited to resubmit, the revised ver- sion of the paper will be counted as a new submission and will probably have to go through the entire peer review process again. It may or may not be assigned to the same Associate Editor and it may or may not be sent out to the same reviewers. is may or may not be good news. e previous As- sociate Editor and reviewers clearly didn’t like the paper (or they would not have recommended rejection), so perhaps a fresh set of eyes will view it in a more positive light. However, all you have to go on as you try to improve the manuscript are the comments made by that first set of reviewers. Even if you submit the paper that they have basically “advised” you to write, you have no guarantee that the second “judge and jury” will agree. Indeed, they may come up with an entirely different set of criticisms and another recom- mendation to reject.


Rejection le ers can cause a whole range of emotions from mild disap- pointment and annoyance to deep distress or red hot rage. Nevertheless,

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no ma er how idiotic, blind, or downright incompetent you may feel the Editor and reviewers to be, you must never ever give in to the temptation to tell them so. You may be meeting them at a conference some day, they may well be colleagues you already know or have corresponded with, or, worse still, they may be on a selection panel for a job you are applying for in the future. In most cases, you will not know who your reviewers are (since many journals still employ a single-blind reviewing system), but they will know who you are. Despite the brief moment of satisfaction you might get from writing a sarcastic or overly frank response, you may have to pay a heavy price in the future.

If you are going to respond at all, make certain that your le er is po- lite and professional and lays out your arguments in a calm and reasonable manner. A thoughtful and logical response will do no harm and it may ac- tually help persuade the Editor that you are right and the reviewer wrong (see “ e appeals process,” later).

Major revision

If you get a le er asking for major revisions, you need to focus on the fact that although there is still a lot of work to be done, there is the possibility of a publishable paper in your submission. You have the reviewers’ reports and can get to work. Remember, however, that a verdict of “major revision” is no guarantee of acceptance. If you don’t do a good job with the revisions, the paper may still be rejected.

When revising your paper, you need to make the suggested changes as soon as you can. Most journals have a cutoff date, which may be three or six months, or occasionally longer, a er which the manuscript will usually be marked as “withdrawn” and the file will be closed. If you send in the manu- script a er the cutoff date, it will be treated as a new submission and you may have lost an important advantage, namely the opportunity to remind the Associate Editor and reviewers that they had seen the possibility of a good paper in the first submission. Ge ing the paper back in a timely man- ner will o en ensure that the second version is seen by the same reviewers, if they are still available, which is what you want since the revisions you made were the ones they asked for.

Dealing with long lists of comments

Detailed peer reviewers’ reports are very helpful, since they will hopefully guide you, step by step, towards a be er paper. However, very long, detailed lists of comments can be rather daunting, especially when you have received two or even three sets. You may wonder how you are ever going to make

Dealing with decision le ers 119

sense of all those suggestions and criticisms, let alone apply them sensibly to your paper. “Divide and conquer” is the best strategy for dealing with this kind of information overload. You can organize the lists of recommen- dations in a couple of different ways to make them more manageable, and both involve dividing and rearranging the comments into separate groups.

e first strategy is to prioritize. Pick out all the major suggested changes from each list that the different reviewers have provided and put them to- gether. Make a further list of second-level suggestions, and then a third list of small changes, involving spelling, word choices, and so on. Create each of these categories as separate blocks, with space between each comment. e easiest way to do this is to copy all the comments into a blank document and then make them all bold or italic, or a color other than black. Separate each comment by a few line spaces, and then, in a normal, unbolded, black font describe the changes you made in response to each point. Tackle the big changes first, addressing one recommendation at a time and applying it to the paper. A er each change has been made, write out what you did, together with any comments, questions, or problems you encountered— this way, you are building up the basis for your response le er (sometimes also called a rebu al le er) as you go. Link each comment to the relevant line numbers, so the Editor or future reviewers can find each change easily. Once you have dealt with the more complex suggested changes, work on the second-tier list, again keeping a running commentary of what you have done and what you could not do, for whatever reason. Make the small cor- rections at the very end; many of these may have been dealt with already, as part of the bigger suggested revisions.

Another strategy for dealing with long lists of reviewer suggestions is to divide the comments according to the sections of the paper they deal with. Again, assemble comments from all the different lists you received, and group them according to the section they pertain to, for example the introduction, methods, results, discussion, or conclusions. en work through the com- ments for each section, one at a time, creating your response le er as de- scribed above. Of course, if the paper is a review, this method may be harder to carry out, as such papers are not always so easy to divide into sections.

Even if the journal does not explicitly request this, you should always accompany the second and any further submissions of the manuscript with a point-by-point explanation of exactly what you did in response to each of the reviewers’ comments. e Editor and reviewers will find it much easier to check the manuscript if they have a list of your responses to their com- ments, as this will save them time as they search the paper for the various revisions they requested.

Work through the lists systematically, crossing off each item, or chang- ing the color of the type, as soon as you have dealt with it, so that every

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comment is addressed and you are not in danger of missing any. If the deci- sion was for major revision, then the resulting response le er will go back to the Editor, together with the new dra of the paper. If the decision was to reject, then you should still use the reviewers’ comments to improve the paper before sending it to another journal.

Reviewers’ comments you disagree with

Within the list of comments, suggestions, and criticisms from the review- ers, there will probably be a few you just don’t agree with. As you write your point-by-point responses, it is acceptable to say that you disagree with the reviewers on a couple of issues, provided you can give a good explanation as to why you believe those particular comments to be wrong. A er all, it is your name at the top of the paper—you must believe in what you have wri en and should be able to justify and support every point you make. However, you cannot argue with the reviewers too o en. If you find your- self disagreeing with more comments than you agree with, then you have a problem. e Editor is likely to feel that you are being defensive and ar- gumentative if every second response to a comment begins, “I don’t agree with this point because . . .”

If the issue is one of interpretation—in other words, you think the re- viewers misunderstood what you were trying to say—consider how you might revise your text to make your meaning clearer. Can you add further evidence? Can you frame your arguments in a different way? Can you find a compromise that will satisfy both sides? One option is to describe the two possible interpretations (yours and the reviewer’s) and explain why you be- lieve your view is the right one. Finally, you can write a polite email to the Editor, explaining the situation, if you really disagree with a lot of what the reviewers have said and cannot bring yourself to follow their suggestions. You could also consider withdrawing the paper so you can submit it else- where and hope for a different set of reviewers.

What to do when peer reviewers contradict each other

Authors become very confused when the comments of the two peer re- viewers contradict each other. Whose guidance should be followed? In fact, you should not be faced with the dilemma of choosing between two contradictory pieces of advice. The Associate Editor or Editor-in-Chief should have spotted the problem while reading all the reports, prior to writing the decision letter. They should then have provided some guid- ance in the decision letter on what you should do. However, in reality,

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busy Editors don’t always have the time to read all the peer reviewers’ comments that carefully and so may have missed the contradiction, or they may have decided to just let you make your own decision. In either case, if you really don’t know which way to go, contact the Editor who signed your decision letter. You may get the guidance you need to navi- gate around this particular problem. If you agree strongly with one re- viewer rather than the other, and you can make a good case for taking your paper in that direction, then you should explain your decision care- fully in your response letter.

Minor revision

If the Editor and peer reviewers feel that only minor changes are needed to make the paper acceptable for publication, then your decision le er will tell you so. Minor revisions should be the sort of changes you can easily do within a couple of weeks to a month, depending on how busy you are. If you are about to leave to do fieldwork for any length of time, or you are going on vacation, and you won’t be able to supply a revised version of the manuscript reasonably quickly, then write and tell the Editor so. at way, they will not assume that the paper has been withdrawn and close the file if the changes don’t come in promptly.

Even for minor revisions, you still need to supply your list of point-by- point responses. Again, this list will save the Editor and reviewers from hav- ing to search the manuscript for the changes you made. Reviewers may have suggested lots of small corrections (some reviewers will highlight every typographical error and stray comma) or may list just a few substantive but relatively straightforward changes. In either case, work your way through the list, add any extra comments or questions in an accompanying cover let- ter, and resubmit as quickly as you can. e chances are high that your next le er from the Editor will inform you that the paper has been accepted.

If you are submi ing to a print journal, you may be required to submit the high-resolution versions of all your figures at this stage, if you have not already done so (see chapter 8 for more information on submi ing figures) and there may be other issues or documents to deal with, depending on the journal. Read the Editor’s le er very carefully and make sure you have done everything that has been asked of you.

Provisional acceptance

Not all journals use this category. If your manuscript is provisionally ac- cepted, it basically means that the manuscript is almost ready for accep-

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tance and publication, but you still have a couple of final ma ers to a end to. You may need to do something as simple as supplying high-resolution versions of the figures or signing a form that you’ve forgo en to return, such as a copyright agreement or author billing form (in cases where page charges or an open access publication fee is required). You are nearly at the finish line with this paper. Do everything you have been asked to do and then relax—that longed-for acceptance le er is sure to follow shortly.


Even once the paper has been accepted, there are still important tasks to perform. Some of these may be listed in the le er of acceptance, so don’t stop reading once you have got to the bit that says, “I am delighted to be abletotellyou….”

Unless the le er specifies this information, it is a good idea to find out roughly when the paper is scheduled to be published or, more importantly, when you might expect to receive page proofs or an edited version of the manuscript for checking. Make sure that you and your coauthors will be available at that time. If there is a lengthy field trip or sabbatical coming up, inform the Editor of the dates when you will be away (some manuscript submission systems allow you to log times you’ll be unavailable). To avoid any unnecessary delay, you need to make sure that all your coauthors have signed copyright transfer forms, that you (or the relevant person) has filled in the author billing form and the order form for either the reprints or a pdf, if these are available for purchase, and that any other paperwork has been dealt with.

Once your paper has been formally accepted, you may want to let the Editor know if there are any specific reasons why it should be published quickly. ere is no guarantee that the Editor can or will grant your re- quest, but if the reason is truly important your paper may, in some cases, get pushed towards the front of the line. However, some journals specialize in rapid publication, so if speed is an important consideration, you may want to consider submi ing to this type of journal.

Proof checking

In the past, authors were sent a paper proof of their manuscript so they could check that editing had not changed their meaning and that no errors had been missed or introduced. is was o en a long scroll of paper, known as a galley proof, which showed the text in one long, continuous column. ese days, although the word “galley” is sometimes still used, the proof you receive is most likely to be an electronic copy of the paper, laid out in

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the format in which it will appear in the journal. Usually, this will be ac- companied by a series of questions, either as a separate document or as a series of notes in the margins of the proof. If you are the corresponding author, send the proof and questions to all your coauthors immediately, so they can check everything at the same time as you do. ey should send all their corrections back to you, as it will be your job to assemble them all onto one proof and return it to the journal offices (see chapter 4 for more information on the duties of corresponding authors).

Read through the text and questions extremely carefully and only make corrections that are absolutely necessary, since some journals will charge you for author corrections. is is not the time to make aesthetic adjust- ments to grammar or syntax—the journal staff should have done that for you. You also need to resist the temptation to change everything back to the way it was before. No author likes to see their writing altered, but, equally, an experienced Editor will improve the flow of the text and correct errors that you missed.

Dealing with the media and embargoes

Another group of potential pitfalls that await the novice author of an ac- cepted paper involve dealing with the media, be it newspapers, magazines, radio, or TV. Many journals have strict rules about media coverage before the paper has actually gone into print or been posted online and you need to follow these, or else, in the case of the really top-tier journals, risk having your paper withdrawn from publication. Admi edly, this is a worst-case scenario and in fact most research papers do not warrant a media frenzy— most are of no interest to the media since they are of no immediate interest to the general public. Nevertheless, an understanding of the term “embargo date” and the rules that surround it is a must, in case the day comes when you are about to publish a really hot piece of research and the press are clamoring to write about it.

e word “embargo” has a number of different meanings, but in the pub- lishing context an “embargo date” is a specific day and time, set by the jour- nal or publisher for a specific paper; no media coverage is allowed until that day and time, when the embargo is said to have been “li ed.” What this means is that no media outlet (e.g., a newspaper, another scientific pub- lication, or a TV station) can actually tell the public about your work until that date and time. Most journalists and other media professionals are very aware of the rules surrounding embargo dates, but in the case of a really important story someone may be strongly tempted to “scoop” their rivals and publish the news before everyone else.

So, what does this mean for you, the author of a paper that is of interest

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to the media? Once a paper has been officially published, you can talk to whoever you like. Before the paper is published, you need to find out from your Editor or publisher whether there is an embargo policy and, if so, what the embargo date is for your paper. Here is what you can and cannot do before that date:

·  You can give talks at conferences, seminars, and other scientific gather- ings.

·  You can hand out dra copies of the paper to colleagues, and discuss your findings with them, but it is highly advisable to mark every page of the paper with the words “Embargoed until DATE” in case any re- porters get hold of a copy.

·  Youcan’ttalktoindividualreportersorothermediaprofessionalsor take part in press conferences unless you have specific permission from your Editor or publisher.

·  You can’t provide reporters or other media professionals with copies of the manuscript, again unless you receive permission from the Editor and they are clearly marked with the embargo date.
If your paper really is likely to be of interest to the media (and there- fore to the general public), the journal may choose to do a press release; your own institution may also do one. Normally, the Press Officers of both the journal and your institution will liaise with each other and with you before distributing a press release. ey may give out copies of the paper, stamped with the embargo date, to journalists on their regular contacts list, and may allow you to be interviewed, so that news stories can be wri en, ready for the moment the embargo is li ed. At that time, the stories will be posted online or will appear in the newspaper or journal they are writing for. If you really are about to publish a newsworthy piece of science, contact the Editor of the journal and the Press Officer of your institution to discuss this. Find out the embargo date and make sure you will be available for in- terview at that time. Get advice from the Press Officers or from seasoned, media-savvy colleagues about what to say and how to say it when being in- terviewed. Talking to the press can be tricky, so be prepared: work out how to explain your science in straightforward, everyday language. Don’t use specialist terminology and don’t expect the interviewer to follow complex explanations. Translate your science into an easy-to-understand story and try it out on nonscientist friends or relatives. Did they understand? Did they find it interesting?
Many journalists are friendly and easy to talk to, but a few can be a bit aggressive in their interviewing style, particularly if the story is going to

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be controversial. Stay calm, answer clearly, and don’t allow yourself to be rushed or pushed into saying something you don’t know for certain.

Dealing with the media is not really within the scope of this book, so the above section has just touched the surface of this topic. We strongly recom- mend that you to get advice and help before you find yourself at the other end of a microphone, being peppered with questions.


e paragraphs above relate to journals that use editorial staff to pre- pare the paper for publication. However, in order to streamline and speed up publication following acceptance, some journals now process papers through special editing so ware that can identify problems such as spell- ing, punctuation, and grammatical errors, or discrepancies between the citations in the text and those in the References list. ese programs will also alert journal staff if you have mentioned a table or figure but have not provided it, which is a fairly common error, but they cannot clarify badly explained ideas or pick up a mistake in your calculations, in the way that an Editor o en will. Whether you are publishing in a journal that uses edit- ing so ware or in one that employs editorial staff, you should always check your text with extra care before sending it in.


Errors in a published paper are embarrassing to the author and a source of extreme annoyance to Editors, since no Editor likes publishing errata (the notices that journals publish when a substantive error has been found in a previously published paper). Authors o en wonder, in these days of online- only publishing, why editorial staff cannot simply make the necessary changes online, as soon as mistakes are identified. Editors have wrestled with this topic ever since electronic publication became possible. A er all, when something is printed on paper, there is no way to change it, but mak- ing changes online is easy, right?

Wrong! What you need to remember is that the version of the paper that is first published, be it in print or online, is the “version of record” (see also sidebar 3.2 on CrossRef DOIs, CrossCheck, and CrossMark). As soon as it is available to view, people will start reading it. If authors later make substan- tial changes to the online paper, then future readers will be seeing a different version of the text and it would be impossible to tell who had seen which version. So Editors have developed various ways of indicating that an error has been found and that a change is necessary. In an electronic journal, this

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may be in the form of a “sticky note” next to the relevant section of the text, while in a print journal it will appear as an erratum in a subsequent issue.

In short, avoid the embarrassment of having to ask the journal to pub- lish an erratum about your paper by checking, rechecking, and then check- ing again to make sure that every aspect of the paper is correct before it goes to press.


As mentioned earlier, you should never allow your emotions to influence your response to a rejection le er. Usually, a li le time and the immediate ingestion of chocolate or alcohol will sooth the pain and you will start to see what you can do to get the manuscript back on track. Do nothing for at least twenty-four hours or until any strong emotions have subsided. In most cases, once you have calmed down and consulted with supervisors, colleagues, and friends, you will be able to set about improving the paper and continuing your a empts to get it published. Very occasionally, you may have to give a particular manuscript up as a lost cause and move on to something else.

In very rare cases, however, having looked at the paper and the review- ers’ comments from every angle, and a er discussing the situation with your advisors and colleagues, you may feel strongly that you have cause to appeal the decision. In such situations, you can write a polite le er to the Editor-in-Chief, or the appropriate Associate Editor. Taking each point in turn, lay out your reasons for requesting a re-evaluation of the manuscript. Explain which points you agree with and can fix, and why you believe the reviewers have misunderstood your reasoning in some places, or are just plain wrong. If your arguments are strong, the Editor may reverse the deci- sion and send the paper out for further review.

Do not try to be clever, by guessing and naming the writer of an anony- mous review (e.g., “Professor Black has never liked my work and is trying to get his own paper, on a similar topic, published first”). Whether your guess is correct or not, this will do nothing to further your cause. Clear, rational reasoning is your best weapon. Make a convincing argument and you just might get the Editor to reconsider the decision, giving you a chance to re- submit or sending the manuscript back out for further review.


Before you even begin to plan your next move, you should take a moment to remember this: every author gets rejected at some time, up to and including

Dealing with decision le ers 127

Einstein, so you are in good company. Younger, less experienced authors tend to get rejected more frequently, which is unfortunate since they are at a stage in their career when they desperately need publications and when rejection can do the most damage to their self-confidence.

If you get rejected and have no grounds for appeal, you need to take an objective look at your paper and decide on the best way forward. First, get advice. Discuss the paper with supervisors or senior colleagues and get their ideas on where to resubmit. If the Editor hasn’t made any suggestions, you can write and ask. You may not receive a reply, but it is worth a try. What- ever you do, don’t just take the manuscript and send it straight off to the next journal. Carefully research the new publication’s requirements and change your paper and cover le er accordingly.

Alternatively, you might try thinking outside the box. Consider taking the paper apart to make something new: for example, you could develop the literature review in the introduction into a review paper, or split out the methods and submit as a methods paper, or focus on one important finding and format it into a short research communication or research le er. And, of course, you can also use the peer reviewers’ and Editor’s comments to strengthen and improve the manuscript.

Do remember that a new Editor or a new set of peer reviewers may very well contradict everything the previous ones said, or may ask for a com- pletely different set of changes. Authors who have carefully followed a long and complex set of recommendations from one set of reviewers can get very frustrated when asked to reverse everything they have done by the next journal they submit to. Conversely, it is perfectly possible for the new target journal to send your paper to the same reviewers as the previous journal did. In that case, those reviewers will be looking to see whether you followed all the suggestions they made before, and may be annoyed if you ignored a large number of their comments. In short, there are no guaran- tees that the changes you make will be the right ones. Create the strongest paper you can and see what happens. Nobody said that publishing scientific papers was easy.


Decision le ers may bring good news or bad, a lot of helpful information or, more rarely, almost nothing of any use at all. Read the le er carefully and remember that most decision le ers contain the roadmap to a be er paper and eventual publication!

chapter eleven

Ethical issues in publishing

Honesty in all aspects of research
Accountability in the conduct of research
Professional courtesy and fairness in working with others Good stewardship of research on behalf of others

Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, July 2010

In this chapter we will briefly examine various ethical issues that com- monly arise in scientific publishing. Importantly, we look on both sides of the fence, considering unethical practices not only by authors but also those commi ed by Editors and peer reviewers. As an author, you will need to be aware of these issues, so that you do not infringe the rules yourself, and so that you have a be er chance of recognizing when an Editor or peer reviewer associated with your paper is behaving in an unethical manner.

Luckily, serious unethical conduct in both authors and Editors is rela- tively uncommon, so that when a case of major misconduct does come to light it tends to make headline news, at least within the science press and, increasingly, in the local or national press as well. More frequently, researchers engage in small-scale cheating, sometimes deliberately, some- times not. is more subtle kind of unethical behavior can be hard to de- tect and difficult to deal with. Editors who discover such infractions have to decide just how severe they want to be with an inexperienced researcher who accidentally or deliberately used a piece of copied text or a figure from another published paper in their own work. And what can an Editor do who suspects that a peer reviewer may be biased against an author (knowing, for instance, that these two individuals had a serious disagreement in the past), other than not asking that individual to review for the journal again?

Ethical dilemmas in publishing are arising with increasing frequency; entire books have been wri en about evaluating and responding to these circumstances. Although this short chapter cannot do the topic justice, we nonetheless discuss some of these issues in brief, to underscore that authors and Editors alike must be a entive to potential ethical conflicts and unethi- cal behaviors, and remain vigilant in a empting to prevent such behavior in any realm of scientific publishing.

Ethical issues in publishing 129 UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR BY AUTHORS

Unethical behavior by authors can be divided into two subcategories—un- ethical behavior while conducting research and unethical behavior in try- ing to get it published. It is outside the scope of this book to go into detail about unethical practices in science, especially since there are many publi- cations devoted to the subject (see the list of recommended readings at the end of this chapter, and sidebar 11.1 for a discussion of this topic).

sidebar 11.1

Ethics in scientific publishing

diane sullenberger
Executive Editor, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)

When manuscripts are submi ed for publication, Editors expect the research to have been conducted in compliance with high ethical standards that contribute to the advancement of scientific research and to be worthy of the public’s trust in the scientific enterprise. If either submi ed or published work is found to be in breach of these ethical standards, the consequences for the researchers may include any of the following: a wri en warning, an institutional misconduct investigation, a ban on submi ing to the journal for a certain number of years, a published notice of “expression of concern” about a work, a published notice that the work has been retracted, loss of research funding, termination of employ- ment, or—in the case of Eric Poehlman, who was convicted in the US of falsify- ing data to obtain federal grants, a jail sentence (Interlandi 2006). To steer clear of such unfortunate consequences, authors should be diligent in learning what responsible conduct in scientific publishing is, and must then adhere to those principles.

Research misconduct, as defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity, means “fabrication, falsification, or pla- giarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results” (h p://ori.hhs.gov/misconduct/definition_misconduct.shtml). Fabrica- tion means “making up data or results.” Falsification means manipulating the research in order to portray it inaccurately. Unethical practices such as fabrica- tion and falsification consume tremendous resources when other researchers try


130 chapter 11

to replicate the work; it also squanders research funds, misleads the public, and may have public health or other serious consequences. Researchers should always truthfully represent their research and their findings.

Plagiarism involves using the words, data, or ideas of others without a ri- bution. Plagiarism can ruin an author’s credibility and basically means stealing from those whose works have been presented as the author’s own. Some Editors use electronic plagiarism-detection systems like CrossCheck (see sidebar 3.2) to screen articles before publication. A simple rule to avoid plagiarism is to always cite the source of material, even if it has been reworded.

Although the most basic principles of responsible scientific conduct are that researchers should scrupulously avoid fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, there are many other important ethical principles. Most journals explicitly state the ethical policies that authors must adhere to in their instructions for authors. ese policies may require:

·  a esting that the work is original and has not been previously published or concurrently submi ed elsewhere

·  limiting authorship to those who contributed substantially to the work

·  fully disclosing any association that poses a conflict of interest in connection
with the manuscript

·  ensuring that digital images are free from undisclosed manipulation

·  making unique materials, data, and associated protocols available to readers

·  following ethical standards for human and animal experiments (e.g., ensur-
ing that human study participants provide informed consent to the experi-

·  depositing clinical trial information into a clinical trials registry before pa-
tient enrollment

·  disclosing if the manuscript reports potential dual-use research of concern
(e.g., research that might aid bioterrorists).
Failure to adhere to these and other stated journal policies, some of which vary by scientific discipline, may be considered research misconduct or, in some cases, inappropriate research practice. e Commi ee on Publication Ethics (COPE) flowcharts (h p://publicationethics.org/files/u2/All_flowcharts.pdf) are an ex- cellent resource and detail the decision processes many Editors face when they receive allegations of research misconduct or unethical behavior, such as duplicate or redundant publication, inappropriate authorship, or reviewer misconduct. One flowchart also describes how COPE investigates complaints against Editors.
All breaches of ethical policies, from falsification of the number of study par- ticipants to failure to share unique materials such as knockout mice strains or computer algorithms, have a broad impact in undermining the credibility of in-

Ethical issues in publishing 131

dividual researchers, their institutions, their funding bodies, and the scientific community as a whole. Researchers have a duty and an obligation to uphold the highest scientific ethics, in principle and in action.

Many countries around the world now require universities and research institutions to have ethics boards in place. Researchers must submit their proposed experiments to the board (particularly those involving live ani- mals or humans or procedures that could harm the environment) and must receive permission to carry out the research. In the US, any institution that uses animals for experimental or teaching purposes is required by law to set up an Institutional Animal Care and Use Commi ee (IACUC). Similarly, when the research involves human subjects, the institution must have an institutional review board (IRB), sometimes called an independent eth- ics commi ee (IEC) or ethical review board (ERB). When experimenting on animals or humans, the research protocols must first be approved by one of these review boards before the research can begin; many journals require that manuscripts describing experiments involving animals or hu- mans must include a statement declaring that they received approval from the relevant board. If an Editor or peer reviewer believes that, for instance, experimental animals were subjected to unnecessary suffering or that hu- man subjects were placed at unnecessary or unjustifiable risk of side effects or other harm, the authors will be required to show proof of approval by the IACUC or IRB, and to submit the text of the protocol, to show that the experiments described in the methods section of the paper were followed exactly.

When it comes to ge ing research published, there are a number of un- ethical actions that authors may be guilty of; in some cases, they may be completely unaware that they are doing anything wrong. Nevertheless, if the Editor finds out, then the paper will very likely be rejected. If it has al- ready been published, it may be retracted. Both of these outcomes are un- pleasant for all concerned, so it is worth going through some of the more common categories here, to help you avoid them:

·  plagiarism and self-plagiarism

·  manipulation of figures

·  multiple publications

·  multiple submissions

·  gi authorship

·  denial of authorship

·  conflict of interest.


132 chapter 11

Plagiarism and self-plagiarism

e US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research In- tegrity defines “plagiarism” as “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.” In science, you can describe and discuss the ideas, experiments, and conclusions of other authors, as long as you acknowledge the original author and properly cite the publication in which the work appeared. However, what you must not do is to use the same words and phrases as the original author when describing that work, unless you clearly indicate that you are doing so by using quotation marks. e copying of pieces of text from someone else’s paper or book and pretending that the words are your own is a kind of intel- lectual the and is not only plagiarism but also a breach of copyright law. Part of the problem is that if you are not fully aware of what plagiarism is, it is easy to do this accidentally. You read a published paper and then, when you must describe similar information, you use exactly or almost exactly the same language that the previous author used, either unconsciously or consciously. You need to be extremely careful not to do this, as it can result in all sorts of serious consequences, from rejection of your paper to dis- missal from your job, and all the possibilities in between. e fact is that you can be accused of and reprimanded for plagiarism or copyright infringe- ment whether you were aware of the problem or not.

Many authors ask how many words constitute a case of plagiarism. Most people seem to agree that between five and ten words is probably where the threshold lies, but again, it all depends on which words. If you are describ- ing a common action, such as “we set up a series of transects through the forest” or “we admi ed a total of 500 patients into a phase II clinical trial,” the chances are that hundreds of other authors have used the same words because there are very few other ways of saying this, and other authors will have used those as well. Importantly, also, these words are not reflecting a unique idea or concept. However, if you were to write the sentence “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once” or “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” without crediting Albert Einstein, then you would be plagiarizing, because he used them first and they reflect his unique thoughts and ideas.

ere was a time when it was much more difficult to detect plagiarized text—in fact, it was usually the peer reviewers or the Associate Editor, cho- sen for their detailed knowledge of the field and its associated literature, who would recognize previously published text when reading a submit- ted manuscript. Having checked the existing literature to confirm their suspicion, they would then alert the Editor to a case of plagiarized (i.e.,

Ethical issues in publishing 133

duplicated) text. Nowadays, however, so ware can do the same job much more quickly and easily (see sidebar 3.2 on CrossRef DOIs, CrossCheck, and CrossMark). More and more publishers are investing in this kind of so ware and running all submi ed manuscripts through it to ensure that the text of each new manuscript is wri en in more or less original language. University professors are using similar so ware to detect plagiarism by students.

Authors who are nonnative speakers of English can have particular prob- lems with plagiarism. First, many of these authors have not been properly informed about what constitutes plagiarism or how to avoid it. With that lack of understanding, authors for whom English is a second (or third) lan- guage are tempted to incorporate some of the same language they have read in other papers into their own work. Whether or not you are a nonnative speaker of English, you must be extremely careful not to use words or ideas taken from other people’s work without acknowledging the original source.

If you need help with your English writing, there are many options to help you avoid plagiarism. You can collaborate with a colleague who writes be er English than you do—preferably, that colleague should be a native English speaker. If that is not possible, look at appendix 1 for a list of re- sources specifically created to support English language learning for non- native speakers of English.

Self-plagiarism, another serious problem that you must avoid, occurs when an author uses the same phrases or paragraphs that they themselves have used before, in a previous publication. Authors are o en surprised to hear that they are not allowed to duplicate their own writings in subse- quent papers. However, in addition to plagiarism issues, we are now also crossing into the realm of copyright law—the words and phrases have been published elsewhere. e author has assigned copyright to the publisher of that previous paper, so reproducing any of that text without permission is not allowed.

Some people consider self-plagiarism to be a somewhat less serious breach of ethics than plagiarism of someone else’s work, and think of it more as “recycling fraud” (Dellavalle et al. 2007): at least the original thoughts and writings were your own to begin with. Nonetheless, self-plagiarism is unacceptable in scientific publishing. If you submit a paper that is found to contain blocks of text from a previous paper that you wrote, it will probably be rejected or returned to you with a demand that it be rewri en. One obvi- ous reason for this is that, given the almost unmanageable torrent of jour- nal articles, books, and reports being published these days, the very least that a reader should be able to count on is that each paper they read consists of original material, presented, as far as is possible, in original language. Readers do not expect to be reading the same text twice, unless the journal

134 chapter 11

or book they are reading clearly states that the work has been reproduced and acknowledges the original source.

Self-plagiarism, also sometimes called duplicate or redundant publica- tion, does not only refer to duplication of text. It can also relate to the re- publication of data. For example, an author carrying out a series of similar experiments may decide not to bother to repeat the controls for each ex- periment; Editors or reviewers may catch this type of plagiarism if they no- tice that the column containing the control data is the same in two different papers by the same author. Researchers have also a empted to republish the same figure, and tried to disguise this by either reversing or cropping it so that it looks different. Again, this is unethical and unprofessional behav- ior that can get an author into serious trouble.

Multiple publications: how many slices?

Another ethical issue you need to consider when deciding how to write up your research results is the scope of the paper or papers you might write— how many pieces can you divide the work into to get multiple publications from what is basically one piece of research? e practice of breaking up re- search data into multiple parts and publishing it as a series of similar papers is sometimes known as “salami publishing” or “salami slicing”; there is a fine dividing line between what is acceptable and what is likely to get you a bad reputation among journal Editors.

For example, suppose that you have carried out a major piece of re- search. During the course of this work, you substantially altered a well- known methodology, making it much faster and more accurate. Using this new methodology, you generated a large data set involving a comparison of the effects of a new type of pesticide on two different agricultural pest species of insect. You compared the two species and found significant dif- ferences in their response to the pesticide. Furthermore, the results from one species gave you an idea and you ran a secondary experiment and discovered that this particular species is more vulnerable to a biocontrol agent than the other one. Now, you could produce one major paper, incor- porating all this information. Alternatively, you could do a brief paper on your new methodology and submit it to a journal that specializes in new methods. e data set from the comparison of the two species could go to a major agricultural research journal, citing the methodology paper. e small biocontrol experiment could go as a separate write-up to an agri- cultural journal that is particularly interested in alternatives to standard chemical pest-control methods. Finally, you could try writing a le er to the Editor, or even an editorial, talking about the importance of testing al-

Ethical issues in publishing 135

ternative pest-control methods because of the damage that pesticides do to nontarget species.

Provided all these papers are clearly different, and each paper is cra ed to suit the target journal and its readership, this type of slicing is perfectly acceptable. However, if all you have is one large data set, comprised of tests of four different pesticides on the same two species, and you divided this into four pieces (one for each pesticide), and sent them either one a er another to the same journal, or even to different journals, that would be salami pub- lishing. ese four pieces of information are what are known as least pub- lishable units (LPUs). You might be able to get them published separately, but as they emerge it will become clear to Editors and readers that you have been salami slicing—a reputation you should definitely try to avoid.

Multiple submissions

Submi ing the same paper to more than one journal at a time is something quite different from the previous example and is also discussed in chapter 8 (“Preparing for Manuscript Submission”). When an author sends the same paper to a number of different journals at the same time (in the hope that at least one of them will accept it for publication), the Editors and peer re- viewers involved are unknowingly making duplicate efforts in processing, reviewing, and providing feedback about the submi ed manuscript.

Figure manipulation

Another unethical activity that has go en authors into serious trouble and caused papers to be rejected or retracted is the manipulation of figures to be er support a hypothesis, to strengthen a particular feature, or just to make them look be er than they did originally. Unfortunately, given the availability of image-creation and image-manipulation so ware and other such programs, it is extremely easy to “improve” figures.

Because manipulation of digital figures has become so prevalent, many journals have specific policies about what you are and are not allowed to do, and some have introduced measures to detect changes to figure files (e.g., images are examined specifically to detect such changes; Rossner 2002). If there is any suspicion that you have manipulated your figures, you will be required to submit the original data or samples on which the figure is based. Some journals are now requiring original data to be sub- mi ed along with every manuscript. You need to examine the instructions for authors of the journal you are submi ing to, to see what is and is not permi ed.

136 chapter 11

Gi authorship

A gi authorship is one where Researcher A approaches Researcher B (who may be a well-known, very senior scientist) and offers to put B’s name on a paper, even though B has had li le or nothing to do with the research. By presenting authorship on the paper as a gi , Researcher A may be trying to gain favor with B, in the hope of being employed by B in the future, or for some other reason. Offering or accepting gi authorships is considered unethical and should always be avoided. Researcher A should not offer, and if offered a gi authorship, Researcher B should politely refuse, since only those who have actually contributed substantially to the paper should be authors. (See chapter 4, “Authorship Issues”).

Another form of gi authorship relates to the quite common practice of pu ing the name of the head of a research group or a supervisor as the last author listed on a paper. is practice (also discussed in chapter 4) is fine when the supervisor has done his or her job and actually supervised the re- search or the writing of the paper, or helped the authors in some other way. However, this practice is unethical when the supervisor has not been sup- portive or helpful enough to warrant authorship. e supervisor may still insist on being in the author lineup; when this happens, the actual authors may find it almost impossible to say no. Without question, this kind of di- lemma can lead to long-standing resentments.

Denial of authorship

Most supervisors and senior scientists see it as a part of their responsibil- ities towards their students and junior staff members to help with their ca- reer development; this includes ensuring that the student’s or staff mem- ber’s name appears on papers, o en in the first author position, if merited. Sadly, there have been cases where a particular researcher (or sometimes a technical specialist of some kind), usually in a subordinate position, does a large amount of work on a project and yet is denied authorship on the paper. Again, this has been the cause of arguments and friction among members of the scientific community.

Conflict of interest

Conflicts of interest (COIs) are discussed briefly in chapter 7 (“How to Write a Cover Le er”). For a more detailed discussion on this topic, visit the

Ethical issues in publishing 137

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) website (h p://ccnmtl.columbia .edu/projects/rcr/index.html); course 1 is on COIs.

e basic definition of a COI depends on the sector to which it belongs; this might be financial, legal, scientific, or personal. RCR defines a COI as “a situation in which financial or other personal considerations have the po- tential to compromise or bias professional judgment and objectivity.” Edi- tors worry about COIs because they may influence either the science being reported in a paper or the review of that science by other Editors or by peer reviewers.

erefore, whether you are an author on a paper, an Associate Editor, or a peer reviewer providing a report on a manuscript, you must declare any and all COIs to the Editor of the journal. e Editor is responsible for decid- ing whether the situation is likely to affect your professional judgment in any way and whether to take any action as a result. For example, if you are an author, a potential conflict of interest might prompt the Editor to ask you to add a statement to the paper that describes the COI. Similarly, if you are a peer reviewer or Associate Editor, you may be asked to withdraw from that position for that particular paper if there is a potential problem. COIs can come in all shapes and flavors, but two of the most common types are those involving money and those involving personal connections (having either a positive or negative influence). If you ever suspect that you may have a COI, you should always tell the Editor.

Financial COIs can come about in a number of ways. For instance, if you receive funding from an organization that has a financial interest in your results, make sure that this is clearly stated in the cover le er and the ac- knowledgments section. If you personally have a financial interest in the outcome of the research, tell the Editor, even if the connection is not imme- diately apparent. Personal connection issues can range from, for instance, being friends with (or married to) one of the Associate Editors to having a long-standing feud with someone who might be chosen as a reviewer. In short, if your own or anyone else’s professional judgment might be affected by a personal connection of any kind tell the Editor.


Journal policies differ regarding the kinds of penalties they will apply when an author has been found to have acted unethically, whether it is a case of plagiarism, not reporting a COI, or manipulation of figures. Depending on the seriousness of the issue, the Editor may reject or retract the paper, or may inform the author’s institution, leading to a formal inquiry, which can

138 chapter 11

lead to dismissal in very serious cases. e author may be forbidden from submi ing papers to the journal, either for a specific period or for a life- time. Finally, in the US, the Editor may turn the investigation over to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).

If the issue involves a dispute over authorship, this is also o en turned over to the ORI for investigation and resolution; this may result in a delay to the publication of the paper in question and may even result in the authors’ research programs being stopped until the issue has been resolved.


When a case of unethical behavior, either by an author or a peer reviewer, comes to light, the Editor is o en faced with difficult decisions. Clearly, any actions taken must be reasonably swi and also scrupulously fair. Many publishers have an ethics policy in place, with specific guidelines that Editors must follow; however, Editors can discuss general ethical is- sues with other Editors and also seek guidance and advice on specific cases if they are members of the Commi ee on Publication Ethics (COPE). is UK-based not-for-profit organization was launched in the late 1990s by a small number of medical Editors. Since then, membership has increased to over 6,000 individuals from all around the world, representing a wide range of scientific and medical specialties. ey also represent all sectors of scientific publishing, from small association publishers to big international for-profits. COPE members are expected to adhere to a code of conduct for journal Editors. erefore, when an author complains about the actions of an Editor, COPE may be asked to investigate if the Editor is one of their members (see next section).


e most common issues that arise regarding unethical behavior among Editors involve COIs of one kind or another. e bo om line is that, pro- vided the paper is a good match for the journal (and that there are no prob- lems with backlogs or an excess of papers on a particular topic), Editors must judge each paper they receive based on the merits of the science and its presentation, and not on personal considerations regarding either the research, the authors, or the institution they work for. If an Editor has a per- sonal connection with an author, that Editor must declare a conflict of in- terest and abstain from making any decisions on the paper. Similarly, if the Editor has a financial interest in the outcome of the research, the same rule applies. In addition, Editors must not allow personal biases connected with

Ethical issues in publishing 139

race, sex, religion, or nationality to influence their judgment of a paper in any way. Unfortunately, such biases are o en subconscious and subtle and therefore hard to detect. Only by looking at an Editor’s record over time is it possible to see such influences at work (see chapter 9, “Who Does What in Peer Review”).

Two other ethical issues can arise in connection with Editors. First, science journals are most likely to have Editors who are experts in the scien- tific specialty covered by the journal, and who are o en practicing scientists themselves. ese Editors can therefore sometimes find themselves in the position of looking at a paper that relates to their own work in some way. e results may contradict the Editor’s own findings or the paper may be in competition with the Editor’s own paper on the same topic. However, Editors are in a position of trust; they must not use the information in sub- mi ed papers until a er it has been published and must not delay its publi- cation in any way in order to allow their own work to appear first.

e second ethical issue that may arise is where an Editor fails to main- tain the anonymity of the peer reviewers or Associate Editor (in a few jour- nals these remain anonymous as well). Reviewers need to be able to write their reviews frankly and honestly, and anonymity is particularly impor- tant where the review is critical of the paper. If the reviewer’s name is re- vealed, this could do great damage to personal relations between the author and reviewer. Unfortunately, there have been occasions where an Editor, or a member of the editorial staff, has had a lapse in concentration and ac- cidentally le a reviewer’s name on a document that the author will see. Luckily, such occasions are rare. However, it would be highly unethical for an Editor to deliberately allow an author to discover the name of an anony- mous reviewer without permission from the reviewer. On the other hand, it should be noted that reviewers do sometimes request that their name be made known to the authors of a paper, so that those authors can contact them with questions if they wish to. In such cases, it is perfectly appropriate for the Editor to reveal the reviewer’s name.

epenaltiesforunethicalbehaviorbyEditorsorreviewersvarygreatly, depending on the seriousness of the issue. ey may be reported to the in- stitution or company that employs them, leading to an investigation and possible sanctions or dismissal. Alternatively, the investigation may be car- ried out by the ORI or an equivalent national body.

Any discussion of ethics is hampered by the fact that each individual’s views on the topic are affected by their personal values and biases—what may seem like a clear-cut case of right or wrong to one person will be a ques- tion of “maybe or maybe not” according to the beliefs and experiences of another. For this reason, it is important that the institutions where scien-

140 chapter 11

tists work should have clear ethics guidelines. Editors should also have a clear code of ethics to work with, so that authors and their papers are judged fairly, according to the guiding principles laid down by the publisher.


Like all other professionals, scientists are under pressure to succeed in their careers. However, scientists are under particularly heavy pressure, as many are tackling some of the most serious problems we face today, from infec- tious and genetically based diseases to global climate change, biodiversity losses, and rising pollution levels. e temptation to cut corners, either in the conduct of the research or its eventual publication, can be very strong but must be resisted at all costs. Researchers need to understand all the aspects of unethical behavior in science and science publishing, some of which can be quite subtle, so they can avoid these pitfalls and maintain the highest possible ethical standards in their work.


e Ethics in Science website (h p://www.files.chem.vt.edu/chem-ed/ethics /index.html) provides links to many useful materials. e Council of Science Editors’ White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Pub- lications, 2009 Update can be found at h p://www.councilscienceeditors.org / fi l e s / p u b l i c / e n t i r e _ w h i t e p a p e r. p d f.

chapter twelve

Trends in scientific publishing

e future is as much about people and how they may be linked through content andactivityasitisaboutthecontentitself. robert harington,American Institute of Physics

Given the astonishing speed of advances in communication technologies, it seems almost silly to even a empt to talk about the “future” of publishing. Considering that the Internet is only thirty years old, can we realistically envision what will be available thirty years from now? Probably the best we can do is to look at what is happening today and guess at which of today’s trends in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) publishing might persist over time and where they might lead. We end this book about what Editors want by looking at a handful of trends that we think will likely continue to affect STM publishing over the next decade and that we think are important for readers to keep on their radar screens. is list is by no means exhaustive and no doubt new technologies will emerge that will further change the publishing landscape, but for now we can only see what is on the current horizon.


A good place to start a discussion about current trends is with a brief over- view of the Brussels Declaration, a document adopted in 2007 by a large group of publishers to make a stand in response to a heated debate that was going on at the time about the value of Editors and publishers and about the economic models that support the publication and dissemination of science (see appendix 5 for the text of the Brussels Declaration). Authors were (and still are) also thinking about the possibility of publishing systems where peer review would be an open, transparent, and ongoing process, and where there would be no costs to publishing or to accessing scientific literature.

In the Brussels Declaration, publishers point out that although the idea

142 chapter 12

of completely free and open publishing is laudable, it is also unrealistic, un- achievable, and, in fact, unwise. Publishers and Editors play roles that sci- entists do not. ey organize and manage publications, monitor copyright and intellectual property issues, and launch new publications that reflect changes in the interests of researchers as well as changes in reading tech- nologies. ey also create, maintain, and build connections among data sets, publication archives, and other content. ey also publish in multi- media and enable publication in both broad and narrow disciplines.

Editors and publishers do things that scientists cannot. If scientists spent the time developing the professional expertise necessary to do what Edi- tors and publishers do, they would not be scientists: they’d be Editors and publishers. e Brussels Declaration lays out principles that appropriately set the stage for a discussion of future developments in how science is pub- lished, disseminated, and archived. Along with Editors and publishers, authors will all be challenged to keep up with these trends in the coming decades because, one way or another, they will impact how science is mea- sured, published, and valued.

e concerns of publishers are interwoven with those of Editors on many fronts, but here we focus on some of the most prominent, namely changing financial models for publishing, new systems of peer review, al- ternative ways to measure impact, new technologies, the move towards data and content sharing, and public understanding of science.


In several places throughout this book, we’ve talked about the costs of pub- lication. Most of the principles outlined in the Brussels Declaration relate to these costs: sustainable financial models are at the root of all the discus- sions about intellectual property, egalitarian access to information, and ex- pert review of science. Unquestionably, the costs of publishing are changing rapidly and dramatically as new channels and innovative technologies for communicating science evolve. At this point, no one can predict what the next hot new tool will be and how much it will cost to develop and main- tain. However, as new technologies are created and with them new busi- ness models for covering costs, authors are certain to be called on to pay at least some of those expenses. It has taken more than a decade of discussion about the pros and cons of open access (OA) publishing for publishers, Edi- tors, and readers to acknowledge that perhaps the most important aspect of the proliferation of OA journals is that they reflect the success of economic models that shi the burden of cost from libraries and readers to authors. Authors, and the organizations that fund them, will very likely be called

Trends in scientific publishing 143

upon to cover other costs as well, including costs we may not yet be able to predict.

e costs of publishing, distributing, linking, and archiving science are in flux, and they are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Today, publishers, authors, librarians, governments, not-for-profit organizations, philanthropic institutions, and others are participating in experiments with the economics of publishing. In the coming decades, you will likely be pay- ing fees where before there were none while at the same time seeing other costs, such as page charges or fees for color figures, disappear. You may see new fees levied by libraries, required in grant applications, mandated for archiving, or collected to cover linking technologies. Unlike the economic models of the past, new models to support scientific publishing will likely become a moving target, changing as quickly as the supporting technolo- gies. As a member of the scientific community, you will need to read the fine print of agreements when you apply for or receive grants, when you publish, when you access information online or elsewhere, to be sure you understand the required payments and what the costs will cover.


As mentioned in chapter 9, peer review is widely acknowledged as an im- perfect system; nonetheless, some form of expert review will always remain as a gateway to publication. e research being debated at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, held every four years, is a clear acknowledgment that there are faults in the system, but efforts are under way to understand and manage these issues. To find evidence of these flaws, just keep an eye on your favorite news source to see regular reports onresearch that has been retracted because of problems that should have been caught in peer review. Papers are retracted for a worrying array of rea- sons, including problems in the statistical analyses or experimental design, or due to plagiarism or falsified data.

Who carries out the peer review, whether they remain anonymous or not, how transparent the process is, how open the content of the reviews becomes, and when it happens are all elements open to change. Authors will no doubt continue to write about the flaws of the review system and to offer up alternatives. In turn, every article advocating a new kind of review systems will likely be followed by a cascade of rebu als, highlighting the flaws in those alternatives. In the meantime, everyone involved in publish- ing science will still be working to improve the review process by creating innovative online mechanisms for evaluating and commenting on new research.

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Being part of these multiple channels of conversation may well become a requirement for researchers who want to establish a reputation in their field. At the very least, you will need to be aware of the most popular net- works for discussion and information sharing. But for the time being, peer review that is orchestrated by Editors, carried out by subject ma er experts, and supported by technology that costs money is the best way we have of evaluating science submi ed for possible publication.


As discussed in chapter 6, some Editors, publishers, and authors acknowl- edge the dangers in the misuse of impact factors and agree with its inven- tor’s assessment that this metric has become a mixed blessing. We need more robust ways to assess the impact and importance of researchers, the articles they write, and the journals in which they publish. New measures are regularly proposed, so that today, Editors, publishers, biometric re- searchers, and authors have a smorgasbord of alternative metrics to choose from: the eigenfactor, the h-index, the G-index, recipes for calculating cita- tion half-lives, aggregated citations, and formulas for page ranking created by Google, Scopus, and similar organizations. New ways of measuring us- age and influence have been exploding onto the scene since publications went online, and it is still too early to tell which of these measures will take root and be used by researchers to assess the latest papers or by academic promotion commi ees to evaluate the publication lists of researchers.

New metrics will continue to be developed and maybe one day a metric will be created that will take the place of the journal impact factor we use now. Today, however, there is no single new superpower metric on the ho- rizon, but a new one may well appear, as new technologies and web-based social networks evolve.


Technologies that impact the working lives of researchers are evolving at an extraordinary rate; and again, what is a trendy tool today may be obsolete tomorrow. For example, the pace of development of application so ware (apps) programs is currently moving ahead at breakneck speed and an enor- mous number of apps are being designed specifically to support researchers and authors in the sciences (see sidebar 12.1). Apps are popular because they are usually affordable, are designed to meet specific needs, and are highly

Trends in scientific publishing 145

portable. Some publishers are creating apps that allow users to browse jour- nal content, read abstracts, and view or download full text. Others are put- ting reference materials into application formats, allowing users to quickly access comprehensive information, including useful resources for clinical diagnosis and practice. Applications for generating output that will end up in published papers are also becoming available, ranging from apps for de- coding genetic materials to interactive tools for mapping clusters of stars. e assortment and power of apps will undoubtedly continue to grow as the underlying technologies evolve, the so ware tools for creating new ap- plications improve, and app developers be er understand what researchers are willing to pay for.

sidebar 12.1

e evolving role of mobile apps in STM publishing

sinae pitts, ph.d. CEO, Amphetamobile

e landscape of mobile applications is now rapidly expanding with new tools that allow readers to discover, consume, and produce new content. is evolution in technology is leading to truly new science as well as to groundbreaking new channels of communication.


To keep up with the increased flow of information, many journals now have apps that users can configure to notify them when new articles or issues can be accessed and even when articles containing specific keywords have come online. rough mobile device connectivity, readers can more easily and quickly keep up with the latest developments in their fields and engage in this critical task during times that used to be only minimally productive, such as when they are commuting or while waiting for a short lab experiment to finish. e increasing use of social net- works and social bookmarking is also leading to new efficiencies, as users share content with like-minded peers and take advantage of the immediacy and com- munity aspects of being linked through mobile access. All of these innovations


146 chapter 12

have raised new questions for prospective authors, including how the impact of their work can be measured. Authors are increasingly aware of how quickly their papers can go from acceptance to the hands of readers, with delivery to mobile devices now the fastest route.


It took only a few years for readers to switch from reading content in print to pri- marily reading online, and mobile reading is projected to eclipse desktop browser reading even more rapidly. Mobile apps return to readers the convenience of con- suming journal content where and when they want, and mobile devices are being adapted to enable doctors and researchers to invent and use remarkable new tools in amazing new ways. Scientists can now use their personal and institutional mobile devices to look up, search for, read, absorb, and use information far more effectively and efficiently than they could when they were tethered to a desk. In addition, mobile devices such as smartphones are now available in all corners of the world, and mobile connectivity is readily available and less expensive than “traditional” access through desktop computers and Ethernet services, particu- larly in developing countries.


For online and mobile consumption, authors now have the opportunity to create new kinds of content and are doing so in growing numbers as they abandon the limita- tions of print. Users continue to demonstrate an appetite for full-length, long-form content, and apps and devices are ge ing be er and be er as new tablet technol- ogy comes to market. Within the foreseeable future, journals for online- or mobile- only reading will allow authors and readers alike to take advantage of the powerful communication potential of high-resolution color, audio, and video content.

Mobile devices are also becoming more effective in supporting sophisticated content-generating apps, and new tools allow readers to more deeply interact with content, to collaborate, comment, and manage references and copyrighted mate- rials. e next generation of apps will allow even more robust content creation and uses that will both mimic traditional forms of desktop publishing and also empower novel forms, such as freehand drawing and annotations with digital ink, photo and video capture, and audio recordings.


Scientific publications have traditionally allowed researchers to promote their own work as well as to further their own knowledge and have also allowed people

Trends in scientific publishing 147

to connect with peers, build relationships, learn, and teach. Mobile devices and applications have strengthened, and will continue to support, these critical activi- ties and will likely also foster deeper interactions and stronger ties with distant us- ers. Mobile apps will do a lot more than just facilitate traditional peer review. ey will enhance scientific discovery by allowing a continuous stream of wri en and multimedia content to push the traditional idea of “the article” into new shapes and with them our understanding of what constitutes reading and authorship.

e breakneck speed with which apps are being created and sold is evidence of the voracious appetite that readers and writers have for the immediacy, conve- nience, and creative potential that mobile apps bring to science communication. New ideas and new knowledge will be effective if they can be widely dissemi- nated, and today, mobile apps are proving to be mightier than the pen.

Electronic readers (or eReaders) are another rapidly expanding new technology. Dozens of eReaders are now on the market, and by the time you have purchased one and go en accustomed to using it, a be er, faster, and cheaper one will be available. Although many eReaders use similar electronic file formats, these standards are far from being final. ePub, de- veloped by the International Digital Publishing Forum, seems to be a strong contender for becoming the accepted standard, free, and open format for digitizing materials for eReaders. However, publishers have not yet solved all the associated challenges, such as pu ing mathematical equations, com- plex images, and linking technologies into eReader formats.

Many researchers, particularly younger ones, are interested in eReader technologies because they want to read their favorite journals and want others to read their papers on these devices. However, relatively few jour- nals and books are available on eReaders in any form other than PDFs, in part because publishers have not yet found ways to get a return on invest- ment for pu ing scholarly information into ePub formats. Large publishers may be able to get their content into electronic formats that can be read on most eReaders, but smaller publishers, particularly not-for-profit society publishers, may not have the money, the staff, or the expertise to do so, es- pecially since the technologies are changing so quickly. e movement of text from online to eReaders is yet another part of the evolution of publish- ing that will move ahead slowly, driven by cost.


Another trend already impacting many authors involves data and content sharing. Here, we use the term “content” to refer to any data, video, audio,


148 chapter 12

or other materials that might be associated with a scientific paper and the term “data” to refer specifically to data sets. Many organizations that fund research are introducing new regulations concerning content sharing and in line with these regulations, a growing number of journals are requiring authors to submit the data on which a paper is based. At the same time, however, a few journals are refusing to accept supplementary content be- cause of the cost and complexity of maintaining data archives.

Requirements for content sharing vary enormously from field to field and from publisher to publisher, differing in terms of whether or not sup- plemental content must be shared at all, and if so, who should be allowed to access it, where the material should be archived, and who should pay the associated costs. In some situations, authors may be strongly disinclined to share data, as these may be the basis of a new product, drug, or patent, and sharing that information would cause them to lose their competitive edge or give away the basis for trade secrets. In other situations, requirements for data sharing may be unclear, or may have implications for copyright or ownership of intellectual property. However, whether required or not, most Editors and authors agree that access to supplemental content does allow reviewers and readers to more thoroughly evaluate research and that requiring access to content is beginning to change the sense of “ownership” of data that researchers have had for centuries.

e movement to provide access to content through open access journals and data repositories underscores the globalization of scientific research and the increase in international collaboration in science. A number of or- ganizations and resources that provide the necessary infrastructure for data archiving and linking are being launched to foster collaboration, not only within disciplines (e.g., the Geological Society of America’s Data Repository at http://www.geosociety.org/pubs/drpint.htm#aboutdrp), but across disciplines as well (e.g., Alliance for Permanent Access, http://www.alliancepermanentaccess .org or Parse.Insight, h p://www.parse-insight.eu). Further efforts to ex- tend the flexibility of other media, including video-journals (such as the Journal of Visualized Experiments), mobile and tablet applications, and other tools are also being developed (see sidebar 12.2).

Trends in scientific publishing



sidebar 12.2

An exemplar of new media in STM publishing

moshe pritsker, ph.d.
CEO, Editor-in-Chief, and Cofounder, Journal of Visualized Experiments

Biomedical research has reached a level of complexity that is matched only by the complexity of the living species under investigation. Yet despite the complexity and rapid advancement of scientific research itself, scientific communication still relies heavily on traditional text journals. e format of these journals has re- mained practically unchanged for the past 200 years. e inherent limitations of the text format include:

·  the requirement for authors to represent complex experimental studies in writing

·  the requirement for readers to correctly interpret complex descriptions

·  variation in employed terminologies.
As a result of these limitations, knowledge transfer is o en inefficient, as reflected in the fact that it is especially difficult for other scientists to reproduce newly published experimental studies. us, a lot of time in biomedical research is consumed in repetitive a empts to establish and use laboratory techniques and procedures described in the scientific literature. is has become a never-ending process for biological scientists as technologies in this fast-growing field undergo significant changes every few years (e.g., genomics and proteomics). Economi- cally, the time and resource-consuming process of training and retraining to carry out techniques and procedures represents a critical “bo leneck” for biomedical re- search and drug discovery.
To increase the efficiency of knowledge transfer, Journal of Visualized Ex- periments (JoVE, http://www.jove.com) was founded in late 2006 by Klaus Korak and me, both postdoctoral scientists at Harvard Medical School, and Nikita Bernstein, a computer programmer. JoVE represents a novel approach to scientific publish- ing, using video format to publish step-by-step demonstrations of advanced ex- perimental studies performed in the laboratories of leading research institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, and many others. Visualization

150 chapter 12

through video greatly facilitates the understanding and efficient reproduction of experimental techniques, which in turn greatly increases transparency and effi- ciency in biomedical research. To quote a commonly used proverb, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

JoVE became the first video-journal accepted for indexing in MEDLINE and PubMed, the official repository of scientific journals maintained by the National Library of Medicine. To effectively film at universities and biotech companies around the world, JoVE has established a geographically distributed network of video professionals covering big cities in many countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Australia, and Japan. As of 2011, JoVE has published over 1,200 video articles, is publishing 50 new articles each month, and is serving as an example of how innovative use of technologies can foster the evolution of scientific information transfer. As technologies develop and Internet access expands globally in the coming decades, new and powerful ways to leverage new media will surely evolve, to communicate scientific methods, studies, results, and paradigms.

So, although authors will undoubtedly encounter requirements for data deposition, content sharing, and linking initiatives, where these devel- opments lead will differ among specialties, funders, research communities, and publishers (see sidebar 12.3). As an author, you will need to keep abreast of data-sharing requirements, opportunities, and costs in your area of re- search and make sure that you conduct your research and archive your data in line with these requirements.


As a source of new knowledge that can shape public opinion and behav- ior, scientists bear an increasing responsibility to be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and accurately to the public. Many scientists will admit that communicating with nonscientists is not their strongest skill and that they are most comfortable discussing their work within their own research communities, through publication and conference presentations. Only a few scientists enjoy the task of translating their findings for public con- sumption, while others dislike having to simplify complex ideas for non- scientific audiences or believe that the significance of their findings won’t register with those who lack a scientific background.

Nonetheless, scientists will continue to be called upon to clearly and concisely articulate the implications of their own findings, as well as the work of others, although how decision makers and the public respond to


Trends in scientific publishing 151

the opinions of experts varies greatly. In some cases, people take scientific findings immediately to heart and change their behaviors, as when they are told about studies showing a certain medicine or medical procedure may be unsafe. However, in other areas, decision makers and the public are o en unconvinced by what scientists tell them, regardless of how compelling the evidence is, as with studies related to climate change. Given that many new findings have profound global implications, we believe that all scientists should develop the skills necessary to effectively translate their findings into language that nonspecialists can understand. When scientists use clear language to articulate their perspectives on science related to human and environmental health, they have the potential to sway public opinion and influence the outcome of policy and legal debates. Having a strong and clear voice in the public realm can also help scientists to be more ef- fective in fostering the accountability of researchers, the transparency of funders, and the activities of corporations in areas of social responsibil- ity. Many scientific organizations and publishers provide training and re- sources to help scientists develop strong communications skills, reflect- ing their efforts to guide the general public towards more sustainable and healthy behavior.

sidebar 12.3

e future of publishing

robert m. harington, d.phil. Publisher, American Institute of Physics

As we look ahead to the future of publishing, we should not be too concerned with what appears to be the crumbling foundations of scholarly publishing on which we now stand. Yes, print is on its way out. Yes, there is a tectonic shi in the balance of power among content stakeholders, authors, Editors, publishers, and readers. Yes, the fundamental business models of publishing are shi ing. e world’s academic institutions (certainly in the publishers’ traditional markets) and their libraries are in economic turmoil. In the end, however, we must focus on the fact that content has intrinsic value and the relationships in and around content provide a social framework, not only for creating new science but also for powering the business of publishing. Knowing that content and relationships will remain at the core of scholarly communication, we can start to look at the future of publishing by asking what a publisher does to add value. I hope that readers


152 chapter 12

will be as excited as I am by the wealth of opportunities that scientific publishing brings us. As the caretakers of Editors, publishers provide the housing and tools for editorial work, and what publishers do is intrinsically tied to what Editors do and what they want and need.

e publisher has a number of roles that enable scholars to teach and research more effectively. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the currency of scholarship— the academic paper—is not going away anytime soon. Publishers are concerned with quality of content and of publishing operations, focusing on efficiency, sim- plicity, and transparency. e publisher’s job is to ensure the right blend of speed to publication, quality editing, and use of tools that allow readers to easily consume content, from finding what they want to the deep reading of content with links to the broadest possible range of information related to the paper.

First, publishers must enable researchers and educators to find what they need when they need it. We must ensure not only that research is semantically enabled but that serendipity continues to play a part in connecting readers to intriguing and novel material. Publishers must also pursue the development of tools that will allow scholars to meet, share content, and cultivate ideas in a wider online envi- ronment. We need to help authors create and collaborate in real time and enable them to monitor the publishing process at every stage. rough linking technolo- gies, publishers help readers connect to authors, content, and each other, and in doing so provide a true collaborative view of the scholarly endeavor.

e key to evolving online presentation of content is to move away from the idea of a fixed and comprehensive publisher platform, and instead adopt an un- derstanding of publishing as a range of adaptable tools and processes that can eas- ily change to suit the changing needs of authors and readers.

How content is used and how widely it can be accessed will be one key measure of a publisher’s success. ey will therefore need to become more involved in the development and use of mobile devices, which will play an increasing role in ac- cessing data and interacting with collaborators and students. Although libraries will remain the guardian and reflection of an institution’s academic quality, the new sanctuary of scholarship will be portable, global devices that allow academ- ics to access information, collaborate, read, and write. As publishers consider the future, we are also addressing the new complexities of copyright, addressing it not only as a protective veil but as an opportunity to encourage collaboration and innovation—which is really what copyright law was always supposed to be. In- creasingly, we will need to let go of copyright and let it sit with the author or in the public domain.

Publishers are already seeing tremendous opportunities in the disassembling and repurposing of content and tools that are already being developed to connect content, people, and the business drivers backing them up. Developing effective business models is key to the future of publishing, and developing online environ-

Trends in scientific publishing 153

ments that foster scholarly collaboration will also draw together people and the products they want and need. We know that the current financial models used to generate revenue, such as charges for access to content, are not yet dead. While the traditional print journal subscriptions will probably disappear over time, publish- ers will increasingly be able to power the financial engine of publishing through the packaging of content for sale, at individual levels through mobile devices, or at higher levels, through subscriptions to institutions, or even by licensing content at a national level. In addition, the psychological need of like-minded scholars to form societies will continue to be a relevant business model for publishers who, through innovative collaborative tools, will bring new concepts of membership to the scholarly community.

Publishers will continue to play essential roles in the lives of researchers and educators as long as they continue to add value to content. Yes, the successful aca- demic publisher of the future will need to have high-quality publishing operations, but they will also need to provide authors and readers with increasingly refined tools that will help researchers to be more productive in their daily routines. If publishers can provide authors and readers with intuitive ways to search for in- formation and powerful tools to reach deeper into content, meaning, connections, and relationships with peers, then there is a bright future ahead for all.


We began this book by restating the maxim that all academics and research- ers know by heart—publish or perish—and we said that this remains true and will be for the foreseeable future. However, the technologies of text are changing so dramatically that many of today’s popular tools for publish- ing and disseminating science were unimaginable even ten years ago. What new technologies will be developed and take root in the next ten years is anyone’s guess. Scientists will still need to publish their work and have it ve ed by a community of experts, but how that will be done remains just over the edge of the horizon.


appendix 1

Resources for improving science writing

Online resources for improving science writing

Academic resources

Capital Community College Foundation Guide to Grammar and Writing

Colorado State Open Access Writing Studio

Online English Grammar Resources

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: e Writing Center

University of O awa: Writing Centre (Note: this site uses Canadian spelling)

Penn State University course site for Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students

US government resources

HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Toolkit for Making Wri en Material Clear and Effective

NIH: Communicating Research Intent and Value in NIH Applications

grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ writing.colostate.edu/

http://www.edufind.com/english /grammar/grammar_topics.php

http://www.powa.org/ owl.english.purdue.edu/ writingcenterunc.edu

http://www.arts.uo awa.ca/writcent /hypergrammar/grammar.html


http://www.cms.gov/Wri en MaterialsToolkit/

grants.nih.gov/grants/plain_language .htm

NIH Library: Writing Center

NIH: Clear Communication Plain Language.gov

Other resources

Program for Readability in Science and Medicine (PRISM)

Clinical Chemistry Guide to Scientific Writing

Current Medical Research & Opinion Online English Grammar Resources

Manuals and style guides

appendix 1

nihlibrary.campusguides.com /WritingCenter

http://www.nih.gov/clearcommuni cation/plainlanguage.htm


http://www.grouphealthresearch.org /capabilities/readability/readability _home.html

http://www.aacc.org/publications/clin_chem /ccgsw/pages/default.aspx

http://www.cmrojournal.com/ipi/ih /MPIP-author-toolkit.jsp

http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar /grammar_topics.php

AMA Style Manual Commi ee. 2007. AMA Manual of Style: Official Style Manual of the American Medical Association (10th ed.). NY: Oxford University Press.

Bates R et al. (Eds.). 1995. Geowriting: A Guide to Writing, Editing, and Printing in Earth Science (5th ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Geological Institute.

Chicago Style Manual Commi ee. 2010. e Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.). Chi- cago: University of Chicago Press.

Coghill A and Garson L. 2006. e ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Council of Science Editors. 2006. Scientific Style and Format: e CSE Manual for Au- thors, Editors, and Publishers (7th ed.). NY: Rockefeller University Press.

Patrias K. 2007. Citing Medicine: e NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers (2nd ed.). Wending DL, Technical Editor. Bethesda, MD: National Library of Medi- cine. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/citingmedicine.

Rabinowitz H and Vogel S. 2008. e Manual of Scientific Style: A Guide for Authors, Edi- tors, and Researchers. NY: Academic Press.

Turabian K et al. 2007. Manual for Writers of Research Papers, eses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (7th ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual: An Official Guide to the Form and Style of Federal Government Printing (30th ed.). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

Weiss E H. 2005. e Elements of International English Style: A Guide to Writing Cor-

Resources for improving science writing 157 respondence, Reports, Technical Documents, and Internet Pages for a Global Audience.

Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.

Textbooks on writing, editing, and publishing

Belcher W. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Pub- lishing Success. NY: Sage.

Briscoe M. 1996. Preparing Scientific Illustrations: A Guide to Be er Posters, Presentations, and Publications (2nd ed.). NY: Springer.

Cargill M and O’Connor P. 2009. Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Day R and Gastel B. 2006. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (6th ed.). Phoenix: Oryx.

Day R and Sakduisku N. 2011. Scientific English: A Guide for Scientists and Other Profes- sionals. Phoenix: Oryx.

Divan A. 2009.Communication Skills for the Biosciences: A Graduate Guide. Oxford: Ox- ford University Press.

Fishman, S. 2008. e Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know. Berkeley: Nolo.

Fogarty M. 2009. e Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Gram- mar Girl. NY: MacMillan.

Huckin T and Olsen L. 1991. Technical Writing and Professional Communication: For Non- native Speakers of English (2nd ed.). NY: McGraw Hill. (See also Olsen and Huckin, 1991.)

Humphrey J et al. 2009. Style and Ethics of Communication in Science and Engineering. San Rafael, CA: Morgan and Claypool.

Isaacs A and Daintith J. 2009. New Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors. Oxford: Oxford Univesity Press.

Jones D. 1998. Technical Writing Style. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Knapp M and Daly J. 2004. A Guide to Publishing in Scholarly Communication Journals.

Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum.
Korner A. 2008. Guide to Publishing a Scientific Paper. NY: Routledge.
Lang T. 2010. How to Write, Publish, and Present in the Health Sciences: A Guide for Clini-

cians and Laboratory Researchers. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians

Lipton R. 2007. A Practical Guide to Information Design. NY: Wiley.
Olsen L and Huckin T. 1991. Technical Writing and Professional Communication. (2nd ed.).

NY: McGraw Hill.
Murphy A. 2010. New Perspectives on Technical Editing. NY: Baywood.
Penrose A and Katz S. 1998. Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific

Discourse. NY: St. Martins.
Ribes R et al. 2009. English for Biomedical Scientists. London: Springer.
Schriver K. 1997. Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers. NY: Wiley.

158 appendix 1

Schultz D. 2009. Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Be er Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist. Boston: American Meteorological Society.

Stilman A. 2010. Grammatically Correct: e Essential Guide to Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar, and Punctuation. Cincina i: F+W Media.

Stim, R., 2010. Ge ing Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off. Berkeley: Nolo.

Stuart J and Sco J. 2009. Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williams J. 1995. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Zeiger M. 2000. Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers (2nd ed.). NY:


appendix 2

Databases with free access to articles or abstracts


Name of database

Agricultural Sciences and Technology Database (AGRIS)

Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL)


Astrophysics Data System


Circumpolar Health Bibliographic Database (CHBD)


Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Google Scholar JournalSeek OAIster

Subject area


analytical sciences

Physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, statistics

astrophysics, geophysics, physics

chemistry medicine

computer science


multidisciplinary multidisciplinary multidisciplinary


http://www.ntis.gov/products /agris.aspx

http://www.asdlib.org/ arxiv.org/


chemxseer.ist.psu.edu/ http://www.aina.ucalgary.ca/chbd/

citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/about /site


scholar.google.com/ journalseek.net/ http://www.oclc.org/oaister



appendix 2


Name of database


PubChem Science.gov WorldCat

Subject area




chemistry multidisciplinary multidisciplinary

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed

pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ http://www.science.gov/ http://www.worldcat.org/


appendix 3

Presubmission checklist

Check all of the following items one final time before you submit your manuscript.


Check back issues of the journal and instructions to authors and make sure that:

 Your paper fits within the stated scope of the journal.

 You have followed the journal’s forma ing and style instructions.

 Your manuscript is within or near the stated word limit.

 You’ve included no more than the number of references allowed.

 You’ve forma ed your in-text citations and reference list in the required format.

 You’ve done a final spelling and grammar check.

 You have enough money to pay for page charges and other costs.

 You have checked the information on where and how to submit.

 You’ve had your English checked by a native speaker of English (if you are a non-
native speaker/writer).

 You’ve wri en in short, straightforward sentences and avoided jargon whenever
possible or added definitions or explanations as appropriate.

 You’ve spelled Latin and other names, place names, and chemical and drug names
correctly and consistently throughout the text.

 Your numbers are consistent throughout the text, figures, and tables, and you have
explained any apparent discrepancies.

 You’ve spelled out all acronyms when they first appear.

 You’ve added line numbers to the manuscript unless directed not to do so in the
instructions to authors.
Make sure that:

 All coauthors have seen and approved the final version of the paper.

 You have all the required forms from each author (e.g., disclosure forms, copyright

162 appendix 3

 You’ve listed everyone appropriately in the author and acknowledgment sections.

 All the correct contact details for all authors are on the front page of the manu-

 All the correct information is included for the corresponding author.
Cover le er
Make sure that:

  e cover le er is no more than one to one and a half pages.

 You’ve used the exact name of the correct journal in the le er.

 You’ve included compelling information about your manuscript in the le er.

 You have included all necessary information about conflicts of interest regarding
either yourself or your coauthors in the cover le er.
Make sure that:

 All the references you cite in the text are included, properly spelled, with correct
dates, and properly forma ed in the reference list.

 Every listing in your reference list appears somewhere in the text.

 All citation details are correct.

 All Internet links cited in the text or in the references are correct and functional
and you’ve included a “viewed” date.

 You’ve included and checked digital object identifiers (DOIs) wherever relevant
(test them at http://www.crossref.org).
Study instructions to authors to make sure that:

 You have included no more than the maximum number of figures.

 You followed instructions for use of color and can afford color charges if required.

 Your files are within maximum or minimum size limits.

 Your files are all in accepted file formats (e.g., .eps, .jpg, .gif, .tif).

 All figures are the latest versions.

 All photos and graphics are at the resolution the journal requires for submission.

 You can supply all figures at the resolution needed for publication.

 You have permissions from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) for all fig-
ures that did not originate with you.

 All photos and graphics are at the correct sizes, and in the journal’s preferred fonts
and font sizes.

 All figures mentioned in the text are ready for submission.

 All the figures you plan to submit are actually mentioned in the text.

 All figures are referenced in numerical order in the text.

 All figure legends are listed wherever the instructions to authors specify they
should be.

Presubmission checklist 163


Study instructions to authors and make sure that:

 All tables are the very latest version.

 You have the necessary permission from the copyright holder (usually the pub-
lisher) for all tables that did not originate with you.

 All tables mentioned in the text are supplied with the manuscript and vice versa.

 All tables are referenced in numerical order in the text.

appendix 4

Free and low-cost image resources

Free US Government photo resources


Bureau of Land Management (BLM): natural areas, cultural and archaeological sites


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): marine and coastal images, weather-related images, and more

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS): animals, plants, fruits, vegetables, crops, education, field research, lab research http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: human and animal diseases, environmental health, natural disasters, bioterrorism, electron microscope imagery phil.cdc.gov/phil/home.asp

US Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library: wildlife, plants, habitats, recreation, people, fisheries, training and education outreach, historical photos http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Multimedia Gallery: historic and modern topographic maps, aerial and satellite images, and other technologies gallery.usgs.gov

United States Forest Service: wildlife, fish, wildflowers, and environmental education photographs

Free and low-cost image resources 165 Inexpensive online photolibraries


http://www.morguefile.com (lots of free photos and links to other free and cheap photolibrary sites)

appendix 5

e Brussels Declaration

In 2007, sixty major publishing organizations adopted the Brussels Declaration. A pdf, including a list of signatories, is available at http://www.stm-assoc.org/brussels-declaration.

Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing

by the international scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishing community as rep- resented by the individual publishing houses and publishing trade associations, who have indicated their assent below

Many declarations have been made about the need for particular business models in the STM information community. STM publishers have largely remained silent on these ma ers as the majority are agnostic about business models: what works, works. However, despite very significant investment and a massive rise in access to scientific information, our community continues to be beset by propositions and manifestos on the practice of scholarly publishing. Unfortunately the measures pro- posed have largely not been investigated or tested in any evidence-based manner that would pass rigorous peer review. In the light of this, and based on over ten years experience in the economics of online publishing and our longstanding collabora- tion with researchers and librarians, we have decided to publish a declaration of principles which we believe to be self-evident.

1. e mission of publishers is to maximise the dissemination of knowledge through economically self-sustaining business models. We are commi ed to change and innovation that will make science more effective. We support academic freedom: authors should be free to choose where they publish in a healthy, undis- torted free market

2. Publishers organise, manage and financially support the peer review processes of STM journals. e imprimatur that peer-reviewed journals give to accepted ar-

e Brussels Declaration 167

ticles (registration, certification, dissemination and editorial improvement) is irre-

placeable and fundamental to scholarship

3. Publishers launch, sustain, promote and develop journals for the benefit of the
scholarly community

4. Current publisher licensing models are delivering massive rises in scholarly
access to research outputs. Publishers have invested heavily to meet the challenges of digitisation and the annual 3% volume growth of the international scholarly lit- erature, yet less than 1% of total R&D is spent on journals

5. Copyright protects the investment of both authors and publishers. Respect for copyright encourages the flow of information and rewards creators and entrepre- neurs

6. Publishers support the creation of rights-protected archives that preserve scholarship in perpetuity

7. Raw research data should be made freely available to all researchers. Publishers encourage the public posting of the raw data outputs of research. Sets or sub-sets of data that are submi ed with a paper to a journal should wherever possible be made freely accessible to other scholars

8. Publishing in all media has associated costs. Electronic publishing has costs not found in print publishing. e costs to deliver both are higher than print or electronic only. Publishing costs are the same whether funded by supply-side or demand-side models. If readers or their agents (libraries) don’t fund publishing, then someone else (e.g. funding bodies, government) must

9. Open deposit of accepted manuscripts risks destabilising subscription rev- enues and undermining peer review. Articles have economic value for a consider- able time a er publication which embargo periods must reflect. At 12 months, on average, electronic articles still have 40–50% of their lifetime downloads to come. Free availability of significant proportions of a journal’s content may result in its cancellation and therefore destroy the peer review system upon which researchers and society depend

10. “One size fits all” solutions will not work. Download profiles of individual jour- nals vary significantly across subject areas, and from journal to journal


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abstracts, 9, 17, 81–82
academic resources for science writing,

acceptance/follow-up, 121–125
access challenges, 15, 34–35
Access to Global Online Research in Agri-

culture (AGORA), 16
Access to Research for Development and

Innovation (ARDI), 16 acknowledgments: of assistance, 35; of

copyrighted material, 93; funding agencies, 35–36; language polishing, 34; open access journals, require- ments, 48

acronyms, 81–82
AGORA (Access to Global Online Re-

search in Agriculture), 16
AIP Advances, 49, 52
alphabetical ordering of authors, 27 American/British English language pol-

ishing, 79 AmericanInstituteforPhysics’UniPHY,

animals, research on, 131
appeals process, 126–127
apps, 144–147
arbitrating disputes, 31
archiving data sets, 21–22, 44, 150. See also

repositories for long-term preser- vation

ARDI (Access to Research for Develop- ment and Innovation), 16

article metrics, 20, 51, 56, 58, 59 fig. 6.1 assessment. See criteria
Assistant Editors, 108, 109
Associate Editors, 104, 108 “a itudinal biases” in peer review, 102 a ribution in open access journals,

49, 50
audience, 8, 40–41, 42
author-pays model, 48, 76, 142–143 authors: author contributions to papers,

descriptions of, 29; coauthors, 32–33, 53, 122; conflicts of interest, 137; cor- responding, 36–38; credibility of, 9; ethics, 129–138; experience levels, 1; instructions to, 5, 41, 43–44, 75; inter- national, 34–35; media interviews, 124; names, challenges of, 38–39; overview for, 1–6; peer review, 99–100; point of view, 8–9; presubmission checklist, 161–163

authorship: about, 26–27; acknowledg- ments, 35–36; a ribution in open access journals, 49; author ordering decisions, 27–30; denial of, 136; for- eign names, 38–39; as gi , 29, 33, 136; honesty in, 30–32; nonnative speakers of English (see nonnative speakers of English); proof correction charges, 123



Bench>Press (peer review so ware), 98 Bernstein, Nikita, 149
bias in peer reviews, 35, 102–103, 128,

138– 139
big-name scientists on author lists, 33 BioMedCentral (BMC), 48, 52
Bloom, Floyd, 31–32
BMJ OPEN, 49, 52
Bradford, Monica, 1, 30
Brase, Jan, 22
British/American English language pol-

ishing, 79
Brussels Declaration, 140–141, 165–166 business model changes, 142–143

captions: acronyms in, 81–82; copyright information in, 90, 93; language pol- ishing of, 79

CC-BY license, 49
CCC (Copyright Clearance Center), 89,

censorship, 15
charges. See costs
checklists, presubmission, 80–83, 161–

Chinese names, 38
citations: checklist for, 162; for data sets,

22–23; as impact indicator, 55–56; in Journal Citation Reports, 59 fig. 6.1; linking persistence, 18–19; network of, 58; of papers with well-known authors, 33; so ware, 58, 82; style, 82–83

cited half-life, 59 fig. 6.1
clinical trials registry, 44, 130 coauthors, 32–33, 53, 122
collaboration: conflict and, 30–31; edito-

rial, 42–43; international, 148
color charges, 47, 76, 94
comments, peer review, 118–120 commercial reuse restrictions, 49 Commi ee on Publication Ethics (COPE),

130, 138
communication trends, 146–147 community peer review, 103, 105–106 competition in publication, 7 conflicts of interest, 44, 53, 71, 136–138

content: sharing, 147–148; update track- ing, 20–21

contradictions in peer review, 120–121
c ont r i b ut i on s t o p a p er s, de s c r i p t i on s o f,

29, 30
controversial research (media coverage),

COPE (Commi ee on Publication Ethics),

130, 138
copyeditors, 109–110
copyright: captions, acknowledgments in,

93; content sharing, 148; forms, 37, 88, 122; in manuscript submission, 87–91; of materials on the Internet, 94–95; in open access journals, 49–50; plagia- rism (see plagiarism); use charges, 92

Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), 89, 92– 93

corrections/retractions, 21, 82, 129, 131, 135, 137, 143

corresponding authors, 36–38
costs: author-pays model, 48, 76, 142–143;

of language polishing, 79; profes- sional society publication charges, 52; publication fee model (see author-pays model); of publishing, 47, 52, 76; rejec- tion rates and, 51; trends in, 142–143; of using copyrighted material, 92, 93; waivers for, 51–52, 76. See also funding

Council of Science Editors (CSE), 25, 26, 53

country-of-origin bias in peer review, 103 cover le ers: about, 65; checklist for, 162; ethical issues, disclosure, 70–72; as

introduction, 65–70; in journal screen-

ing, 9; time frame factors, 47
Creative Commons License, 49, 95 criteria: in journal screening, 9; of readi-

ness for publication, 13–14 CrossCheck, 19, 20, 21, 125, 130 CrossMark, 19, 20–21, 125
CrossRef, 18, 19, 21, 99, 125
CSE (Council of Science Editors), 25,

26, 53
cultural differences of international au-

thors, 34–35



D2C2 (Purdue University Libraries Dis- tributed Data Curation Center), 22–23

databases: with free access to articles/ abstracts, 159–160; publication, 17; Web of Science, 58

DataCite, 21–23
data sets: archiving/reuse of, 21–22; cita-

tions for, 22–23; deposition of, 44, 150; with manuscript submissions, 135; open access requirements, 22, 51

Davidoff, Frank, 97
deadline for revisions, 37, 118
decision le ers: about, 111; acceptance/

follow-up, 121–125; corresponding author’s responsibility for, 37; editing so ware, 125; international authors re- sponse to, 35; rejection (see rejection); version of record, 125–126

derivative reuse restrictions, 49 developing countries: discounts/waivers

for authors from, 52, 76; publication metrics, 63. See also international au- thors

digital object identifiers (DOIs): about, 18–19; checking, 82; complaints, 21; for data sets, 21–23; errata and, 125; persis- tent reference linking with, 19–20

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), 17, 48

disagreeing with peer reviewers, 120 disclosure requirements, 53
disputes. See authorship
DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Jour-

nals), 17, 48
DOIs (digital object identifiers). See digital

object identifiers (DOIs)
dots per inch (d.p.i.), 84–86, 85 fig. 8.1 double-blind review, 103, 104–105 Dunbar, Cynthia E., 40
duplicate publication, 134

early agreement on author ordering, 29–30

Easy ID (EZID), 23 Ecology Le ers, 47 Ecosphere, 49, 52

editing: assistants, 110; boards, 108–109; so ware, 98, 125

Editorial Manager (peer review so ware), 98

Editor-in-Chief, 107–108
Editors: about, 107–108; Brussels Declara-

tion and, 140–141, 166–167; collabora- tion, 42–43; conflicts of interest, 137; cover le ers for, 66–70; differences among, 2–3; ethics of, 60, 130, 138– 140; as gatekeepers, 8–9; misconduct, discovery/allegations of, 128, 130; peer review bias, dilemmas, 128; point of view, 7–8, 9–11

Edwards, Carol, 91
Eigenfactor metrics, 59 fig. 6.1, 63 eJournalPress (peer review so ware), 98 electronic publication alerts, 24 embargo dates (media coverage), 44,

123– 12 4
emotions following rejection, 116–118, 126 employment: impact factors in, 60; pub-

lications list as factor in, 1, 28; research

misconduct as factor in, 129, 139 Endnote (citation so ware), 82
English, American/British, 79 environmental damage, research involv-

ing, 131 ePubs, 147

equity in publications, 31
eReaders, 147
errata, 125
ethical review board (ERB), 131 ethics: about, 128; authors, 129–138;

conflicts of interest, 44, 53, 71, 136– 138; cover le ers, mentions in, 70–72; editorial, 60, 138–140; Ethics in Science website, 140; integrity, 30–32, 90; penalties, 129, 137–138, 139; plagiarism (see plagiarism); publisher policies, 129, 138

Executive Editors, 108, 109 EZID (Easy ID), 23

fabrication/falsification, 129–130 face-to-face meetings, 23–24



figures: checklist for, 162; file sizes, 86; free/low-cost, 164–165; manipulation of, 130, 135; overview, 83–91; publica- tion standards, link to, 99; resolution of, 95

file sizes, graphics, 86
finances. See costs; funding
first authorship, 28
5-year impact factor, 59 fig. 6.1 foreign names, 38–39
forma ing: figures, 84; text, 77–78 fraud in scientific studies, 9, 29
free access publications, 48
free access requirements, 51
full text articles available free, 17 funding: acknowledgments of, 35–36;

data-sharing requirements for, 22, 51; open access policies, 51; publications as factor in, 46; repository requirements, 50. See also costs

galley proofs, 122–123
Garfield, Eugene, 55–56, 60
Gargouri, Y., 58, 60
Gedye, Richard, 15
gender bias in peer review, 102–103 gi authorship, 29, 33, 136
Google Scholar, 17, 58
grant applications, publications list as

factor in, 28
graphics. See figures
gray literature, 18
guest authorship, 29, 33, 136 Guest Query form, 20, 21 Gunsalus, C. K., 31

Harington, Robert, 140, 151
Havens, K., 33
Health InterNetwork Access to Research

Initiative (HINARI), 16 HealthLinks, 63 Hindawi, 48, 52
h index, 33, 63

Hirsch, Jorge E., 33, 63
honesty in authorship, 30–32 honorary authorship, 29, 33, 136

humans, research on, 131 “hybrid” journals, 48–49 hyperlinks, checking, 83

IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Commi ee), 131

ICMJE (International Commi ee of Med- ical Journal Editors), 25, 53

IEC (independent ethics commi ee), 131 images, free/low-cost, 164–165. See also

immediacy index, 59 fig. 6.1
impact factors: about, 45–46; calculating,

57; drawbacks of, 60, 62; history of, 55– 57; limitations of, 58–60; metrics from, 59 fig. 6.1; trends in, 144; users of, 61

independent ethics commi ee (IEC), 131 inequities: in journal access, 15; in peer

review, 103
information sharing venues, 7, 17. See also

specific venues

Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), 55 Institutional Animal Care and Use Com-

mi ee (IACUC), 131
institutional review board (IRB), 131 institutions: ethics boards, 131; h index,

63; press releases, 124
instructions to authors, 5, 41, 43–44, 75 integrity. See ethics
interactive discussion as peer review,

international authors: challenges for,

33–35, 77–80; countries heavily repre- sented, 3; publishing discounts/waiv- ers for, 52

International Commi ee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), 25, 53

International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, 103, 143

International Digital Publishing Forum, 147

International DOI Foundation, 18 international publishing trends, 4 fig. 1.1 Internet links, checking, 83
interviews, media, 124
IRB (institutional review board), 131



ISI (Institute for Scientific Information), 55 ISI Web of Knowledge, 17
i enticate, 20

Journal Citation Reports (JCR), 58, 59 fig. 6.1, 62

journalists, 124–125
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE),

149– 150
journals: back issues, 41, 75; content

changes, 17; corrections/retractions, 21, 82, 129, 131, 135, 137, 143; h index, 63; metrics, 20, 51, 56, 58, 59 fig. 6.1; non- English-language, 62; open access (see open access journals); press releases, 124; purpose of, 40–41, 42; rankings, 63; selection of, 5, 37, 40–47, 52–54, 75 (see also impact factors); staff, 107–110; websites, 24

JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), 149– 150

keeping pace, 14 Korak, Klaus, 149

language bias in peer review, 102–103 language-polishing services, 33–34, 77–80 Latin names, 81
least publishable units (LPUs), 31, 134–135 legal protection, as publisher’s responsi-

bility, 89
Leimu, R., 33
length limits, 76–77
library budget shortfalls, 15, 16–17 licensing: Creative Commons License,

49, 95; of publications, 49, 50; as pub-

lisher’s responsibility, 89
line numbers, 2, 81, 119
LPUs (least publishable units), 31, 134–135

Ma, Keping, 34–35
MacCallum, Catriona, 48
Managing Editors, 108, 109
manuals for science writing, 156–157 manuscripts: corresponding author’s re-

sponsibility for, 37; numbers, 9; plagia-

rism (see plagiarism); presubmission inquiries, 45; sign off on final version, 36; submission, 33–34, 74, 75, 76–77, 77–78, 77–80, 80–83, 83–91, 95–96, 135, 161–163 (see also copyright; costs; per- missions). See also journals

masthead page, 100
media coverage of research, 123–125 MEDLINE, 1 50
metadata for data sets, 23
metrics: articles, 20, 51, 56, 58, 59 fig. 6.1;

h index, 63; journals, 59 fig. 6.1; by na-

tion, 63; trends in, 144
Meyer, Carol Ann, 19
mismatch as reason for rejection, 113–114 mobile devices/apps, 145–147
moiré pa ern, 87, 87 fig. 8.2
Mullins, James L., 21
multi-author papers, 25–29
multiple publications from research, 31,

134– 135

names: checking, 81; foreign, 38–39 National Institutes of Health (NIH), free

access requirements, 51
Nature Network, 24
Nature Publishing Group, 24, 49 newsworthy science, 123–125 nondisclosure agreements for language

polishing, 80 non-English-language journals, 62 nonnative speakers of English: inter-

national authors as, 3; language- polishing services for, 33–34, 77–80; peer review bias, 103

numbering: figures/tables, 83; lines, 2, 81, 119

numbers, checking, 81

OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment), 16

OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publish- er’s Association), 49

Office of Research Integrity (ORI), 138 Online Access to Research in the Environ-

ment (OARE), 16



online communities, 24
online submission systems: for language

polishing, 79; for manuscripts, 9, 37;

for peer review, 97–98
online viewing before publication, 47 open access journals: content sharing,

148; copyright, 49–50; costs of, 35, 47, 76; licensing, 49, 50, 88, 95; overview of, 48–52; as publishing option, 53; reusing materials from, 91

Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Asso- ciation (OASPA), 49

Open Biology, 49, 52
open peer review, 103, 105–106 Open Researcher & Contributor ID

(ORCID), 21, 100
ORI (Office of Research Integrity), 138 Orwant, Jon, 12
overabundance of papers as reason for

rejection, 116–117

page budgets, 76–77
page charges, 47, 76
page proofs, 122–123
papers in press, 47, 122
peer review: about, 97; authors and, 98–

100; bias in, 35, 102–103, 128, 138–139; comments, 118–120; contradictions
in, 120–121; decisions, 10–11, 106; elec- tronic checking, 99; forms of, 103–106; for international authors, 35; images, resolution for, 86; journal staff in- volvement in, 107–110; rapid, 47; rigor of, 51; shortcomings, 102–103, 106; so ware, 98; submissions for, 14, 98; trends in, 143–144

peer reviewers: about, 100–102; anonym- ity, 139; benefits for, 106–107; conflicts of interest, 137; disagreements among, 106; suggesting, 72–73; time limita- tions of, 66

penalties: for editors, 139; for scientists, 129–130, 137–138, 139–140

permissions: obtaining, 37–38, 90, 91–92; as publisher’s responsibility, 89

photos: libraries, 94; manipulation of, 130, 135. See also figures

Pi s, Sinae, 145
pixels per inch (p.p.i.), 84–86, 85 fig. 8.1 plagiarism: about, 132–134; checking for,

20, 130; protecting against, 50, 130, 133 PLoS (Public Library of Science), 48, 52,

PLoS One, 47
postpublication services, 51
p.p.i. (pixels per inch), 84–86, 85 fig. 8.1 pre-press publication viewing, 47
press releases, 124
prestige of publishers, 89 presubmission inquiries, 45
Pritsker, Moshe, 149
ProCite (citation so ware), 82 professional societies, 23–25, 52, 76 proofs, checking, 38, 122–123
proper names, 38–39, 81
provisional acceptance, 121–122 publication fee model, 48, 76, 142–143 publications. See journals
public domain material, 94
public interest in science and policy,

Public Library of Science (PLoS), 47, 48,

52, 105–106
publish or perish, 1, 12
Publish or Perish (so ware), 58 publishers: Brussels Declaration and, 140–

141, 166–167; business model changes, 142–143; editorial collaboration, 42–43; ePubs, 147; ethics policies (see ethics); self-publishing vs., 89; services, 51; value added by, 151–153; websites, 24

publishing: competition in, 7; costs (see costs); early steps, 8–9; equity in, 31; ethics in (see ethics); following rejec- tion (see rejection); imperatives for, 1–2; pre-press viewing, 47; rates in major journals, 10 fig. 2.1; readiness for, 13–14; reasons for, 12; time frame for, 43, 47; trends in, 4 fig. 1.1, 151–153; venues for, 7, 13

PubMed, 16–17, 50, 99, 150
Purdue University Libraries Distributed

Data Curation Center (D2C2), 22–23 pushing/pulling information, 24



readers. See audience
rebu al le ers, 119
redundant publication, 134
reference linking, persistent, 19–20 rejection: emotions following, 117–118,

126; fees and, 51; international authors’ challenges, 35; publication a er, 43; rates for major journals, 10 fig. 2.1, 46; reasons for, 9–10, 11, 44; stages of, 10 fig. 2.1, 44, 46, 112, 113–117, 117, 118–122, 126–127; time frame for revisions, 118, 121

repositories for long-term preservation, 23, 44, 50, 150

republication of data, 134 reputation in research, 30–32 research: ethics in, 129–131, 137–138;

globalization of, 148; multiple publica-

tions from, 134–135
Research4Life, 15–16
research le ers, 13
resolution, images and graphics, 84–86,

85 fig. 8.1, 95
response le ers to peer reviewers, 119 retractions/corrections, 21, 82, 129, 131,

135, 137, 143
reviewers for international authors, 35 reviews, sharing among journals, 43 revise and resubmit, 117
revisions, 37, 118–122

SAGE Open, 49, 52
“salami” science/publishing, 31, 134–135 scanned images, 87, 87 fig. 8.2
Scher, Irving H., 55
scholar identification systems, 21, 100 scholarly content, persistence of, 20 ScholarOne (peer review so ware), 98 Science Citation Index (SCI), 55–56, 58 scientific flaws as reason for rejection,

114– 116
scientific knowledge gap in developing

world, 15–16
scientific meetings, 23–24
Scientific Reports, 49, 52
scientists: digital identifiers for, 21, 100;

h index for, 63; scholar identification

systems, 100; small-scale cheating

by, 128
SCImago Journal & Country Rank, 63 “scooping” media coverage, 123
scope of journals, 41, 42–43
Scopus, 63
search engines, 17
self-plagiarism, 133–134
Senior Editors, 108, 109
short communications, 13
sign off before submission, 36, 84 Simple Text Query form, 20, 21 simultaneous submissions, 95–96, 135 single-blind model, 103, 104
Slater, Eric S., 88
speed-to-publication time frame, 47 statistical analyses, 44
Steneck, N. H., 30, 31
“sticky notes” (errata in online journals),

style, 77–78
subject ma er areas: Editors, 108; impact

factors, 56; rankings within, 63 submission. See manuscripts subscription-based resources based on

ability to pay, 17 Sullenberger, Diane, 129 supplementary material, 54, 148

tables, 83–91, 163
Technische Informationsbibliothek Han-

nover, 22
technology, trends in, 144–145 terminology, specialized, 77 textbooks for science writing, 157–158 omson Reuters, 58, 59 fig. 6.1, 62 time frame: a er acceptance, 122; in

impact factor calculations, 56–57; for language polishing, 79; for publica- tion, 43, 47; for revisions, 118, 121

title pages, 77
total cites, 59 fig. 6.1
trends: Brussels Declaration, 140–141,

166–167; communication, 146–147; content, 145–146, 147–150; costs, 142– 143; impact factors, 144; peer review, 143–144; public interest in science and



trends (continued)
policy, 150–153; in publishing, 4 fig. 1.1, 151–153; in research, 24; technology, 144–145

trust, 30–32 two-author papers, 28

universities. See institutions
update tracking with CrossMark, 20–21 URL changes, 18–19
US government resources for science

writing, 155–156

value added by publishers, 151–153 versions: of figures/tables, 84; of records,


video-journal, JoVE as, 149–150 virtual communities, 24

waivers for publication costs, 51–52
Web of Science, 58, 63
websites: address changes, 18–19; content

updating, 20–21; publishers, 24 Wellcome Trust, free access require-

ments, 51
well-known names on author lists, 33 Weltzin, J. F., 29
word counts, 76–77
work for hire, 90
writing: language-polishing services,

33–34, 77–80; resources for, 155–158. See also instructions to authors

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