Author Archives: Vekky Repi

Tips on Manuscript Resubmission: How to Write a Good Rebuttal Letter

Rebuttal letter

Following from ‘Five Tips for Writing a Good Rebuttal Letter’, we revisit the theme of manuscript resubmission to academic journals. The initial feedback from editors and reviewer’s about one’s work can trigger a variety of reactions based on its analysis. While authors seek positive feedback in general, the more realistic expectation is to address the reviewer’s requests for revision. Methods of writing a rebuttal letter can determine if manuscript revision is likely to be successful or a futile attempt at resubmission. Should the editorial outcome be negative with equally critical referees, the recommendation is to provide an appeal letter first. However, authors who receive positive feedback can revise in compliance with comments, and submit revisions along with a rebuttal letter.

A Writing Guide – Do’s and Don’ts

A rebuttal letter offers authors an opportunity to address reviewer’s concerns directly, defend aspects of work, and eliminate contextual misunderstandings. This stepwise breakdown of writing a rebuttal letter aims to assist authors during the revision to ensure grant of appeal.

Step 1: Say Thank You

Acknowledge the reviewers time, comments and expertise. Thanking the reviewers sets a positive tone to begin with, providing the basis for an ongoing amicable exchange. Do not insinuate reviewer bias or incompetence. Prudent statements from the author cannot result in a positive re-evaluation of the work.

Step 2: Be Modest

Acknowledge any misunderstandings on your part including a poor presentation that may have led to reviewer’s confusion. Do not imply reviewer incompetence or lack of expertise in the phrasing of your rebuttal. Be clear, avoiding ambiguous and blank statements.

Step 3: Keep it Short

Respond to each reviewer’s individual comments, by copying the full text within your rebuttal letter. Strive to keep answers brief, succinct and well versed. Explain how you intend to revise the concerns either experimentally or editorially. Do not plead for reconsideration based on lack of funding as one of the reasons surrounding your inability to complete key experiments. Original scientific articles require the full spectrum of research, and the inability to meet reviewer requests experimentally is not viable.

Step 4: Explain Everything

If data required is available as a supplementary article, which the reviewer may have missed, explain this in your rebuttal for clarity. If you are unable to address a point raised in the reviewer comments, explain your reasons for evasion. Do not blatantly ignore reviewer comments, while selectively answering a few.

Step 5: Major Comments and Minor Comments

Often authors receive feedback on their manuscript from the editorial and reviewers as ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ comments. If reviewer comments deviate from the typical format, categorize the comments provided relative to your work, as major and minor:

  • Major comments: delineate major comments based on its relevance to the integral scientific or academic content of your manuscript.
  • Minor comments: concern data presentation, table formatting, suggested changes to figures and citation errors, including comments on syntax errors.

Wrapping It Up

The five key opinions stated above, point authors in the right direction of writing an effective rebuttal letter. However, a few considerations remain to refine and wrap-up the final framework.

  1. Most journals require individual acknowledgment of the work completed by co-authors in a multiple-author manuscript, up-front, prior to submission. The process allows due validation of the author’s contributions, regardless of the order in which they appear on the manuscript.
  1. For structural clarity, consider numbering the comments, breaking them apart in paragraphs, using different fonts or colors. This enables reviewers to distinguish your response relative to the comments provided in the initial feedback, immediately. Avoid the urge to write a single reply to an entire review.
  1. Consider the reference style of the journal of interest and ensure you comply with the citation system for re-submission.
  1. Upon addition of data, i.e., tables or figures, provide page numbers of inclusion as they appear within the manuscript. If the required information exceeds recommended word limits, provide the new information within Supplementary materials. Include figure panels and table numbers/positions as they appear on the revised manuscript, to distinguish the revised content. If you cannot provide the required additional information in the revised manuscript, clearly state your reasons.
  1. If referees have raised similar concerns, redirect the response to the earlier mentioned comment. Bear in mind that all referees can view all comments and replies, therefore, address each of them respectfully. Do not paraphrase a reviewer’s comments in your own response for convenience. Take time and effort to ensure your rebuttal effectively concludes the revision of your research work, for manuscript resubmission.

A quick guide sheds further light on the process of preparing your rebuttal letter in response to reviewers. Researchers can also seek support externally, to integrate a straightforward review and response process.

Predatory Publishers: How to Stop Them from Hurting Us!

Predatory Publishers

There is a constant rise in the number of articles published in predatory journals. Young, inexperienced researchers are the main target of a growing group of dubious publishers that is willing to accept almost any manuscript (regardless of the quality or authenticity) for a fee. These supposedly academic companies do not offer any services, such as peer review or archiving, and have no problem in publishing low-quality papers if the authors pay for the same. Their websites are usually unstable/poorly designed and the articles they publish are not indexed by Medline or similar databases.

Who Publishes in Predatory Journals?

According to a survey that was carried out at the beginning of the year, researchers working in developing countries (those with insufficient funds, poor research infrastructure, and limited training) are more susceptible to submitting their work to predatory journals. The idea of getting something published quickly can be quite appealing to some researchers, and receiving invitations from journals or having their papers accepted easily can give them a (false) feeling of success.

A recent study published in Nature shows that researchers from wealthy nations also fall prey to predatory publishing. David Moher, an epidemiologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, and several colleagues spent 12 months analyzing almost 2,000 articles from about 200 suspected predatory journals. They found that more than half of the corresponding authors came from high- and upper-middle-income countries and that many articles had been submitted from institutions in the United States. Interestingly, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) was frequently named as one of the funding agencies.

An Urgent Problem

The authors point out that “the problem of predatory journals is more urgent than many realize.” In their study, they also assessed the quality of papers published in those journals and found that most experiments could not be reproduced or evaluated properly because of missing information. Additionally, only 40% of the studies carried out on humans and animals mentioned something about seeking approval from an ethics committee, whereas in regular journals, such approval is reported for more than 90% of the animal and 70% of the human investigations.

Based on their results, Moher and colleagues estimate that at least 18,000 funded biomedical research studies end up in dubious, obscure, and poorly indexed journals. These publications do not advance science at all as they are usually of low quality and are also difficult to locate.

Global Predation

An evaluation of over 1,900 papers published in potentially predatory journals (based on Beall’s list, which was taken offline at the beginning of this year) showed that the corresponding authors of all such publications mainly originated from India (27%), the United States (15%), Nigeria (5%), Iran (4%), and Japan (4%). However, to understand these numbers, it is important to consider the total scientific output per nation (last year, the United States produced about five times more biomedical articles than India and 80 times more than Nigeria).

Stop the Plague!

Kelly Cobey, a publications officer at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada (and one of the authors of the Nature study), is in charge of educating researchers and guiding them in their journal submission. She also helps them identify and avoid predatory journals. Unfortunately, many research institutions do not have staff members with similar roles, so what else can we do to stop the plague of predatory publishers in academic publishing?

One thing is clear: we must act immediately! To start with, it is important to tell the public what these dubious publishers are doing and warn authors (especially the inexperienced researchers) about the consequences of publishing their work in shady journals. Funding agencies, research institutions, and reputed publishers should work together to issue clear warnings against illegitimate journals and introduce recommendations on publication integrity.

Moher, Cobey, and colleagues also suggest that funders and research institutions should increase the amount of money available for open-access publishing, ensure that researchers are able to identify questionable journals and prohibit the use of funds for submitting papers to predatory journals. They should also monitor where exactly all the grantees and staff members publish their funded work (developing automated tools to achieve this would be immensely valuable).

Manuscripts published in predatory journals should not be considered for granting promotions, appraisals, tenure, or subsequent funding. Moher et al. even suggest that scientists wanting to advance in their careers or looking for research funding should be asked to include a declaration that they have never published in predatory journals (and that they do not intend to do so). Publication lists could then be checked against the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or the Journal Citation Reports, the researchers say.

How to Publish Symposium-Based Research Presentations

symposium

Presenting your research in a conference or professional meeting symposium is a prestigious accomplishment. In a symposium talk, you present a review of your research and demonstrate how it contributes to the overall symposium topic. Preparing a symposium-based research talk is a major undertaking. However, after presenting symposium talks, many researchers move on to other tasks. All that is left of their effort and contribution is a note on their curriculum vitae that they were a speaker. The scientific content is lost to the memories of the participants and audience. However, by publishing your symposium-based research talk you create a permanent record of your participation. Through publication you also reach a wider target audience than those that were physically present. To foster your publication record, it is good practice to commit your spoken words to writing. With a little more effort, you can publish a paper as well as participate in the symposium.

What is a Symposium-Based Research Article?

A symposium-based research article is a formal document that summarizes the information presented during a symposium at a conference or professional meeting. It typically is a mini-review of a research topic, especially that of a single author or a principal investigator.

Many journals publish symposium-based research articles. There are some publishers who specialize in these types of articles. However, the pathway to publication generally follows two forms: proceedings and independently submitted articles.

Proceedings

The symposium or conference organizers may decide to collectively publish the information presented. This is done in a format called a proceeding. Proceedings report the content of symposium talks in a collection of papers which may take up an entire edition of a journal. It is the responsibility of the organizers to solicit and collect manuscripts from the speakers and to deliver them to the publisher. The decision to publish a proceeding is generally made before the symposium convenes. Authors should be notified at the time of invitation that they would need to produce a manuscript after the meeting. In these cases, it is best to organize the talk with ultimate publication in mind.

Independently Submitted Papers

If the organizers do not plan to publish the symposium in a formal proceeding, you can still publish your talk. In this case, you (the author) will be responsible for locating a suitable journal to submit your manuscript. Many, but not all, journals accept these types of papers. Some journals publish mini-reviews which are a suitable format for your symposium-based research articles. If you are invited to participate in a symposium in which the organizers do not plan to publish proceeding, you should begin exploring how and where you can publish your talk as you develop it; plan ahead. Basically, your paper will be a mini-review of a research topic. This is an excellent means to further your publication track record and reach a wider audience.  Note, it is considered unethical to submit a manuscript for publication before participating in the symposium.

Format of the Symposium-Based Research Article

The specific format will be determined by the journal to which you are submitting your paper. Unlike a normal review, the symposium-based research article is much shorter in length and limited in scope. The length will be determined by the journal with 3,000-6,000 words being typical. Your paper should include tables and figures if appropriate. Generally, the paper will follow a review format and have the following or similar sections:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Main Body of Topics (with headings and sub-headings)
  • Conclusions
  • References

Symposium-based research articles are based on lengthy, in depth symposium talks, not the typical short 10-minute journal papers given at meetings.  The latter normally present a single experiment/project which is often not finished or published.

As a researcher, you should always seek out and accept opportunities to participate in conference symposia. These are excellent ways to reach your audience and further your career. The talks you give are also opportunities which can lead to publications. As you develop your presentation, think about how to get a publication out of your efforts. Begin planning and writing your symposium-based research article as you prepare your talk.

Is Pirate Black Open Access Disrupting Green & Gold Open Access?

Pirate Open Access

Efforts to create open scholarly communications are an ongoing process within academic publishing, amid conflicting views on open access models. In this context, publications directly made open via the publisher are considered Gold open access, while those made available via institutional repositories are Green open access. However, a majority of scholarly records still remain behind paywalls, since publishers hold the ownership to intellectual property in journals.

Inevitably, a third and more controversial model, pirate black open access, has gained precedence over the green and gold models of open access. Sci-Hub is a website that infamously enabled pirate black open access to the usually paywalled academic journals. The site gained admission through institutional proxies to bypass publisher paywalls and permit broad public access to academic articles. Although academic publishers have sued the website for blatant piracy, some researchers consider this approach to be an effective and necessary means of civil disobedience. The controversy has, therefore, prompted many traditional academic publishers to reconsider their existing models of gold and green open access.

A recent Op-ed on Wiley articulates the multifaceted problem, to ask hard-hitting questions that evaluate the drawbacks of the conventional models.

  • Is green and gold open access inherently flawed?
  • In light of the rising popularity of black open access, could gold and green open access have achieved more?
  • Could the academic publishing models be refined to eliminate piracy?

The Piracy Conflict

To begin with, Sci-Hub has impeded conventional open access frameworks, by illegally enabling nearly all scholarly literature as freely accessible. Comparatively, stakeholders in scholarly communication have only managed to enable access to select research articles, while the rest remains behind paywalls. Statistically, a large cohort of publications will remain unavailable via legal channels for most people in 2017. As an example, when the music industry was rife with pirates, the business model needed a revolutionary change to attract users beyond free downloads. These efforts succeeded with the advent of iTunes and other streaming options targeting pay-to-download services. This concept has direct implications for the existing green and gold open access models since they appear conventionally inept at present.

The existing models are far from the revolutionary business frameworks required in the present intellectual landscape. The ideal open access model would have >80% of the market share, mitigating the pirates, to create a sustainable platform. While certain platforms such as BioMed Central, PLoS, and ArXiv are sustainable, the share of all articles remains marginal. The concept of academic piracy or “guerrilla open access”, however, can be progressive, driving development and intellectual curiosity. How then must remodeling occur to upgrade the conventional models and overcome their inherent flaws, while also allowing for a revolutionary change?

Coordinating Change

A recent report on research consulting identified at least five stakeholders and roadblocks, requiring elimination to deliver 100% open access. This indicates significant amounts of change at the level of each stakeholder; therefore, the change appears almost implausible. For instance, one stakeholder, the author, must coordinate green open access with the journal of interest to avoid conflicting publishing models. Due to the lack of effort at the single stakeholder level, just 13% of Spanish researchers published green versions. Conversely, more researchers enabled full-texts on ResearchGate regardless of simultaneous copyright infringement.

Since the number of new articles published in gold open access is less than 20%, authors do not prefer this model. To transfer between green and gold open access, the following stakeholders are required to initiate change:

  • Author
  • Author’s Institution
  • Funder
  • Librarian (reader-side)
  • Publisher
  • Reader

 

Furthermore, the changes require concerted execution, thereby withholding internal workflows, leaving the conventional open access models unaltered thus far. Perhaps the airline industry could offer the next clue to resolve this academic conflict.

Unbundling Publishing Services

Incidentally, the airline industry model is not entirely different to the multi-stakeholder, global, and policy-bound environment of scholarly communications. Air travel too has evolved from its traditional model to produce an unbundled product with additional costs beyond the core service.  Unbundling allowed low-fare airlines to expose extras to the market/passenger, for a cost-effective strategy based on the passenger’s decision. Similarly, a large number of services in scholarly communication can become unbundled. To achieve basic levels of open access, publishers could freely offer basic read-only services first, while seeking revenue from surrounding services. This would qualify as cost-free open access, requiring only one stakeholder, the publisher, to deliver the change.

However, beyond the unbundled basic free service to readers, what other services may separately provide an income for scholarly communication? It is possible to provide unbundled options to stakeholders for select services. For authors, these could include peer review management, copy-editing, and language services for refined context. Readers could get access to downloadable citations tools, alerting services, and online analytics. Librarians could be provided with metadata for catalog databases and funders offered reports by subject area. All these are possible avenues for unbundled revenues. Eventually, the publishing industry too can democratize scholarly communication, based on what works, much like the airline industry does. The concept will result in increased readership, stimulating the market for services and enabling new budgets. The niche audience can further increase revenue via digital advertisers targeting a scholarly demographic.

In Conclusion

In the “age of digital disruption”, the conventional structure of green and gold open access remains inflexible, requiring a revolutionary change. Pirate black open access has recognized this need to create a revolutionary, albeit illegal change in response. It is, therefore, time for academic research publishers to follow the course and alter the stakeholders view to achieve the necessary and legal changes.

In order to facilitate this process among stakeholders, initiatives such as CHORUS have implemented smooth and streamlined processes. Similarly, Springer-Nature is experimenting with the concept of free-article sharing via SharedIt. Furthermore, unbundling the product would allow all content to be freely available, thereby allowing publicly funded research to gain an increased readership. The concept of unbundling, starting with the publisher, would present stakeholders the choice to pay for individual benefits of communication. This concept would be more sustainable, less expensive, and exponentially less controversial than the ongoing versions, in the end.

Perspective: How to Share Opinion on Research Articles

Perspective articles

When we think of research articles, most of the time we think of articles that present the results of studies that took a long time to complete. Generally, these articles contain theories, testable hypotheses and extensive methodological justifications for conducting analyses. There are, however, many other types of research articles that are published in scientific journals.  One of them, a perspective article, presents an important topic, groundbreaking research, or a different view of an existing issue by an expert in that field of research.

How It All Fits Together

Most of the research articles published by academic journals are original research articles. Journal editors tend to prefer this type of article, especially if it presents important advancements in a research field, or counterintuitive results. Other types of research articles include book reviews, case reports, editorials, interviews, commentaries, profiles, and interviews, and perspectives. Each journal ultimately decides, based on their field specialty, what types of research articles they wish to publish. For example, some social science journals (Comparative Political Studies) do not accept perspective research articles, while others refer to them as letters.

Perspective research articles have an important role in the academic research portfolio. They stimulate further interest about presented topics within the reader audience. They are different from other types of articles because they present a different take on an existing issue, tackle new and trending issues, or emphasize topics that are important, but have been neglected, in the scholarly literature. In some scientific fields they bridge different areas of research that the journal publishes, while in others they bring new issues and ideas to the forefront. In general, their role is to enlighten a general audience about important issues.

Why Write a Perspective?

While the incentive system of academic tenure and promotion emphasizes publication of original research, writing other types of articles is also beneficial for the researchers in the long run. It gives researchers the opportunity to contribute to their discipline in different ways, while at the same time enhancing their own professional work.

A perspective article is a way for young researchers to gain experience in the publications process that can be often arduous and time consuming. It can be a way in which they learn from the publication process while they are working on their original research articles that often take years to complete.

In the case of experienced researchers, writing a perspective article provides them at least two distinct benefits: first, it allows them to step back and reflect on a significant issue that they may know a lot about, but that they have never had the time to address. The second benefit is that the researcher gets the opportunity to give their own authorial voice to a published article that will reach a wide audience.

Pay Attention to Detail

Before one decides to write and submit a perspective research article to an academic journal, it is important to become familiar with the article expectations of the target journal.

Although academic journals hold a similar definition and purpose of a perspective article, there are differences in the technical requirements each journal has. When it comes to the length of the perspective article, some journals have strict limitations while others allow articles to vary the length within a given range. For example, some academic journals in the field of biological sciences and medicine have a limitation of 1,500 and 1,200 words respectively, with defined reference and figure limits. Another journal in the same field has a less restrictive limit of 2,000-4,000 words and a more generous reference limit.

With respect to the structure of the perspective article, journals define their expectations in different terms. Some journals place an emphasis on the structure of the article, requiring sections such as the abstract, introduction, topics and conclusion. Other journals make suggestions on the nature of the title and the specific conceptual connections in the assigned field. Some journals take the time to explain their view and expectation in writing perspective articles, make suggestions and provide lists of things to include and avoid in the perspective article.

Writing a perspective article can have many benefits to authors. Although writing one is less demanding than an original research article, it is recommended that an aspiring author consult the targeted journal for requirements. This will ensure that the journal expectations are met, and that the author has a positive first experience in the writing of this type of research article.

Single-Blind Vs. Double-Blind Peer Review

Double blind peer review

Peer review of academic research is at the heart of publishing. It is important that this process is not tainted by reviewer bias. Two popular modes of review exist. In single-blind peer review, the authors do not know who the reviewers are. The reviewers know who the authors are. In double-blind peer review, neither authors nor reviewers know each other’s names. Single-blind peer review is the traditional model. However, both models exist to eliminate bias in peer review.

The Physics Experiment

At the start of 2017, the Institute of Physics (IOP) gave authors the option to choose double-blind peer review. This option was available for Materials Research Express and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express. Over the first seven months, 20% of authors chose the double-blind peer review option. Authors from India, Africa, and the Middle East were most likely to request the option.

IOP data indicates that more papers received rejections under the double-blind model. About 70% of papers received a rejection in the double-blind peer review process. On the other hand, only 50% of papers received rejection under single-blind peer review. The difference could be due to reviewers assuming that authors requesting this option had written poor papers. It could also be due to reviewers acting more objectively. However, authors in the double-blind trial were satisfied and felt it was the fairest approach.

Bias in peer review is a real problem. There have been many studies showing that women and minorities are less likely to get published, funded, or promoted. This bias can be both conscious and unconscious. Within scientific publishing, this means that fewer women are asked to review papers. It also means papers by women are cited less. There are two peer review models where identities are hidden. Which is more likely to get rid of bias?

Double-Blind vs. Single-Blind Peer Review

The 2017 Web Search and Data Mining conference provided a good opportunity to experiment this theory. In Computer Science, papers often appear first (or exclusively) in peer-reviewed conferences. The program committee decided to randomly split its reviewers into two groups. One would serve as double-blind peer reviewers. The other as single-blind peer reviewers. The experiment would help decide which approach might have more bias.

The authors found that there were differences between the review groups. All reviewers had access to paper titles and abstracts. Based on this, reviewers indicated which papers they wanted to review. The single-blind reviewers requested to review 22% fewer papers. Single-blind reviewers were also more likely to choose papers from top universities or IT companies to review. They were also more likely to give a positive review to papers with a famous author.

Single-blind reviewers have access to the authors’ names and institutions. The study indicates that author institution had a significant influence on single-blind reviewers’ decisions to bid for a paper. There was no detected bias against female authors for this conference. A metareview combining this conference’s data with other studies indicated that there was a significant bias against female authors.

The Web Search and Data Mining conference experiment show that single-blind reviewers use information about authors and institutions in their reviews. It could be that this information is helping the reviewers make better judgments. It could also be that this is putting work from non-prestigious institutions and authors at a disadvantage. Two papers of equal value may be rated differently by single-blind reviewers based on who wrote the paper.

A Review of Peer Review

On the other hand, double-blind peer review provides a false sense of security. Well-known authors can be easily identified by the nature of their work. The paper may also make reference to previous work that they published. There may be other clues as well, such as a preference for a technique or compound. This means that, even without the names, reviewers can figure out who wrote a paper. It would, therefore, be better to tell the reviewer who wrote the paper and ask if there is a conflict of interest.

The actual process of removing author information to hide identity fails 46-73% of the time. The problem isn’t identifying the author. The problem is whether reviewers have a prejudice against authors from a certain country, race, or gender? While the focus has mainly been on reviewers, very little discussion exists about biases of editors. Editors, after all, have the final say.

Peer review is part of the academic research cycle and it is clear that there is bias in this process. Reviewer bias often affects women, minorities, and researchers from non-prestigious institutions. In order to try and fight this problem, journals use blind peer review. However, single-blind peer review gives the advantage to well-known authors. Double-blind peer review may not actually eliminate bias, hence researchers feel that it is better to switch to open peer review.

Know About the Popular Open Access Journals in Your Field

Open access (OA) publishing has not only helped increase the visibility and impact of the research but also facilitated quicker dissemination of knowledge to the academic community. According to the 2015 STM report, there were >28,000 English language peer-reviewed journals and >6,400 non-English language peer-reviewed journals in 2014. Moreover, the number of open access journals has significantly increased in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

With this increase, it has become important to compare several factors and metrics to assess journal quality on the grounds of reputation and influence. Besides referring to the most commonly used Impact Factor, researchers also refer to the SCImago Journal Rank or SJR to choose an appropriate journal in their field of research. In this infographic, we have shared the list of the most popular OA journals in different fields, based on SJR.

(Click to enlarge the infographic)

Open Access Journals

Free E-Tools for Smart Researchers: Mendeley, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, and More…

Online Tools

Researchers can now use many online tools to promote and share their work. They can also communicate with others, measure the impact of their publications, or access relevant information in their field. In this age of the internet, mobile devices, and social media, networking is becoming an essential way to stay in touch with colleagues, start new collaborations, and let the world know what you are doing.

Knowing Isn’t Enough

Most academics are aware of the benefits of using LinkedIn, ORCID, or Twitter to draw attention to their work—and an increasing number of them are actually getting started on at least one of these platforms. Saving new results in preprint archives or sharing them in blog articles and internet services such as ResearchGate—or even presenting them as online videos, images, or slides—can also be an excellent way to reach more people and enhance one’s research impact. Additionally, this impact can be easily monitored using tracking tools, such as Altmetric.

Despite all these possibilities, in a recent opinion article published in F1000Research, Anthony J. Williams and his colleagues from the Environmental Protection Agency in Durham, US,  point out that only a few scientists apply online tools effectively; the majority fails to take advantage of these services to raise awareness of their research achievements.

Making the Best Use of Online Tools

In their paper, Williams et al. discuss some available free online platforms and describe their experiences with these tools over a period of five years. The authors also suggest ways to make the best use of them considering that non-traditional sources of scientific information are becoming increasingly important (and will surely continue to grow in the future). According to Williams and his colleagues, sharing, networking, and outreach of research work could bring benefits for the performance and impact of scientists—a trend that they call the “new alchemy” of science.

One of the most obvious benefits is that altmetric scores could be used by grant agencies and other institutions to assess the individual performance of a scientist, independent from the impact factors of the journals in which he or she has published. However, using online tools requires time and effort, which can distract from other important activities, such as research, reviewing, or teaching.

Networking and Data Sharing—It’s Worth the Effort!

Based on their study, the authors believe that it is worth the effort. Williams et al. found that investing time in sharing data can directly benefit a scientist’s career, especially considering the growing attention given to altmetrics. This could lead to new collaborations, new funding, or even facilitate new discoveries, the researchers say.

The article divides the online tools into four main categories: networking, sharing, tracking, and amplification, although many of these platforms may serve more than one function. The authors summarize their results as follows:

Networking: LinkedIn is one of the main networking tools for academics, but it should be used exclusively for professional matters, not for family events or informal-activity sharing. The platform is appropriate for showcasing a researcher’s work or posting updates on recent activities and other interesting subjects. Keeping the posts short and adding images usually leads to more views and “likes”. Also, positive news (for example an announcement about a new job) can quickly gather momentum. In LinkedIn, researchers can also share links to their latest publications or insert PowerPoint presentations, PDF files, and others.

ResearchGate and Academia are great tools for networking publications and may also provide a suitable platform for technical questions and answers. However, any uploads of published material to these services requires permission from the publisher.

Sharing: There are many social sharing platforms available. The most popular ones are Facebook and Instagram, but these are most commonly used for personal purposes. Blogs, Twitter, and Google Plus seem to be more appropriate for career-related matters. Presentation-sharing platforms, such as SlideShare, are also an excellent way to showcase a researcher’s work, and video-sharing tools, such as YouTube, Vimeo or Weibo may also be a good option. Of course, academic movies should not be mixed with family films. There are also many online platforms for data sharing. These include Mendeley Data, Figshare, PubChem, arXiv, and others.

Impact Tracking: Scientists are interested in tracking their publication records and monitoring the impact of their work. A new way to achieve this is by using altmetric statistics. There are now several services that collect citations from blogs, tweets, etc., and use their own algorithms to derive a score for each paper. Known sites include Altmetric, ImpactStory, PlumX, and others. Additionally, platforms such as ORCID or Google Scholar can be used for efficient publication and citation tracking.

Amplification: Kudos has been recently highlighted as a useful author support tool. The website enriches research outputs by tracking citations, altmetrics on publications, and other statistics for registered academics. The service allows researchers to keep their publications up-to-date, and according to Williams et al., the results can be improved when multiple authors contribute and work together.

While your best presentation card will always be your research, scientific publishing has changed dramatically during the last few years and it is getting more and more difficult to resist the new online trend. Although networking and online data sharing are not yet in the standard workflow of a scientist, there is likely a lot to lose by not participating so it’s time to get started!

Reject Your Own Manuscript! Why Self-Editing is Critical

Self-Editing

Professor Wahoo of Big Science University was confident as he dropped his manuscript into the post. Writing the paper was the final act of a lengthy and difficult research project. He knew that it was an excellent study and one that would change the nature of his field. Although he had only written a single draft, he was not worried. Why should he worry? The peer reviewers would obviously see the importance of the work and accept it for publication. Unfortunately, what seemed obvious to the author was a complete mystery to the reviewers. Weeks later, Dr. Wahoo sat heavily in his chair with the rejected manuscript in his lap. He could not believe that his paper was rejected. So how did this happen?

Dr. Wahoo’s paper was rejected because he wrote only a single draft. While the science was impeccable, the writing was flawed. The reviewers could not understand the study, therefore, it was impossible to grasp its significance. Dr. Wahoo should have self-edited his manuscript.

What Does it Mean to Self-Edit a Paper?

Self-editing a manuscript is exactly what it sounds like. After writing an initial (first) draft, the author then corrects his/her own writing. Multiple drafts are produced until the manuscript is in the best shape possible. The paper must easily convey the author’s intentions to any reader. Submitting a self-edited and highly refined paper does three things:

1) It makes the reviewers/editors job easier

2) It allows the reviewers/editors to better assess the paper’s validity

3) It increases the chance of the paper getting accepted for publication

How to Self-Edit Your Paper

Once you have completed a manuscript, you must not hurry to submit it. Yes, it was hard writing it. However, you need to continue working on it. After all, your goal is to get the manuscript published? Any efforts lesser than this will only increase the probability of rejection. By following the below steps, you can improve your own manuscript and have it in the best possible shape for submission.

Print your Paper

Always print a hard copy of your manuscript. You need to see if what you have written is different from what you typed on the computer. This will refresh your eyes and help you become “detached” from your own work. Quickly read through the paper once. Then take your red pen and start marking it.

Take a Break

After you have completed the first draft, take a break of at least a few hours. A day or more is best. When you return to the paper, you will see it with a fresh opinion and be less likely to gloss over the text. It will be easier to spot mistakes and sentences with troubles. Don’t attempt to completely revise the paper in one sitting. Take frequent breaks. Keep refreshing yourself throughout the self-editing process. Give yourself several days or a week to complete the process of self-editing.

Read your Paper Out Loud

When you read your paper out loud it should sound smooth. If something does not make sense or you stumble over it, mark the section and move on. When finished with reading the paper, edit the marked errors and re-read.

Imagine You are the Reviewer

To effectively self-edit, you need to disengage yourself as the author. You need to assume the role of a person who has never read your paper before. Pretend you’re the reviewer and you’re not having a good day. This will put you in a critical state of mind to find every flaw possible needed to reject the work.

Be Brutal, Be Ruthless

The best editors are those that brutalize papers without mercy. Cast your ego aside and become your paper’s worst enemy. Use your red pen as a weapon and try some of the following:

  • Don’t use adverbs and adjectives if possible – On your hard copy, mark out every adverb and adjective. Add them back only when they are necessary.
  • Reduce each sentence to its essential parts – A sentence has a subject, verb, and object. Try to keep the sentences as simple as possible.
  • Keep paragraphs short – Avoid redundancy: one sentence, one idea. If you have more than five sentences in a paragraph, examine it to see if it can be shortened.
  • Avoid too many subordinate (dependent) clauses – Instead of writing, “When mice became stressed because of lack of sleep, we administered an antibiotic to prevent secondary infections.” Write this, “We administered an antibiotic to prevent secondary infections in sleep-deprived mice.”
  • Be the authority. Don’t offer an opinion – Avoid sentences with “we believe”, “it appears”, or “seems to be”. Be strong and stand behind your writing. “The cause of resistant bacteria is the over-use of antibiotics.”

Read your Paper from Back to Front

You’ll be amazed at how many mistakes and problems you can find by reading your paper from back to front. This slows your brain down and keeps you from glossing over a familiar writing.

Don’t Rely on SpellCheck

Spellcheck is very useful and will find most misspellings. However, it won’t find words that are used inappropriately. “Their is a 25% probability that ants of afflicted children will show an affect.” So do not rely completely on Spellcheck.

There is much more to getting a publication than simply writing a manuscript and submitting it. The initial writing is the easiest part. The real work is to improve the paper so it clearly communicates what you want. This is done through self-editing. So once you are convinced with the self-edited manuscript, you can send it out to others for review.

Handling Citations: When to Cite Sources in Your Manuscripts

Citations

When writing your research paper, keep a list of your sources of information. You must ensure that any information you use from other sources is properly cited and referenced. This means that you must “acknowledge” the source in both the text with a citation and at the end of the paper in your references. This is important! You want to avoid plagiarism at all costs. Plagiarism simply means that the writer has used someone else’s work without giving that person proper credit. This is a serious offense. It can result in either not being published or being withdrawn after being published. It can result in disciplinary action and will most certainly have an effect on your credibility as a researcher. Enago Academy has several excellent articles on plagiarism that will help you understand and avoid it.

Here, we provide information on how you must handle citations of your sources and some of the common formats.

Formats

There are three types of citations:

  • In-text: This refers to the “tag” within the text itself. The format will vary according to the style guide used or a specific discipline. Some styles guides suggest using numerals, while others use author names and dates of publication. A reference list is created based on the cited text and is placed at the end of the document as “References” or “List of Citations” either numerically or alphabetically.

Two examples:

The Timber Wolf was once a great predator throughout North America.5

The Timber Wolf was once a great predator throughout North America (Smith, 1970).

The first example is from American Medical Association (AMA) style guide; the second is from the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide.

  • Endnote: An endnote is much the same as an in-text citation except that it uses numerals surrounded by brackets. The reference section is simply a list of these numeric citations in reference format at the end of the paper.
  • Footnote: A footnote is similar to an endnote except that the reference is placed at the bottom of the page on which the citation appears.

 

If you are writing a paper to be published in a journal, the author guidelines will provide you with the style to be used. If you are writing a paper for a class, your professor will provide you with that information. APA, MLA, AMA, and Chicago Manual of Style are the most commonly used styles in academic writing.

When to Cite

When you provide references, you provide some assurances that you have done your research. The reader will be better able to assess whether your information is valid. This is important to your credibility.

You need not cite every piece of information that you use, but you should become familiar with the rules outlined here. These apply to all sources, including newscasts, websites, and even television and radio programs.

There should be some balance between cited materials and original thoughts; however, this will also vary by discipline. For example, if you are reviewing a piece of art, your paper will have few citations. Most of the text will be your opinion. On the other hand, your paper on your research study will have a great number of citations that show examples of or back up your findings. In all cases, all cited material should be discussed, and all major points should be supported and cited.

Here are some basic rules for when to always cite another’s work. Remember that it is better to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, add the citation.

  • Quotations. A quotation is a word-for-word duplicate of someone else’s work. Most people instinctively understand that these must be cited. Even if only one word, they must also be enclosed in quotation marks. If more than three lines, they should be offset from the rest of the text.
  • Paraphrasing: Even if you put another’s ideas into your own words, it must be cited. It is not the work itself, but the original idea, that must be acknowledged. For example:

 

Original:

“Experienced riders instinctively understand the body language of their horses. Body language is extremely important because it’s how horses communicate. Trainers spend hours and hours doing basic groundwork, which ultimately translates to the saddle. This is a must for any rider to be able to have a good and safe relationship with her horse.”

Paraphrased:

A horse’s body language is very important to understand. Those who have been training horses for years know and understand this. Groundwork with your horse is a basic necessity to be able to understand his body language. This work will transfer directly to your riding and will make the experience safer.

The best way to begin is by looking for main points in the text and discuss them in your own words. Define any technical terms for the reader.

  • Summarizing: This is much the same as paraphrasing except that it relays only the main idea and is shorter.

Example from above:

Knowing how to interpret your horse’s body language is extremely important for your relationship and safety.

  • Common knowledge: Common knowledge need not be cited unless it also contains statistical or research information.

Example (need not be cited):

St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota.

Example (should be cited):

St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota and has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the state.

Although it is common knowledge that St. Paul is the State Capital, it is considered statistical information that it has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the State. This fact must be cited.

  • Conclusions/supplemental information: Once cited, you need not cite the same references again in your conclusions. If you introduce new information, you must cite it. The same holds true of supplemental information.

Keep in mind that academic institutions in different countries might have different rules for citing sources. Become familiar with your institution’s rules to avoid any confusion when writing your paper.