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How to Write a Successful Scientific Manuscript

Scientific Manuscript

Writing a scientific manuscript is an endeavor that challenges the best minds, yet it is very rewarding once the body of work comes to fruition. Researchers carefully draft manuscripts allowing them to share their original ideas and new discoveries with the scientific community as well as to the general population. A significant amount of time and effort is spent during the investigative stages conducting the required research before it is released into the public domain. Therefore, the manuscript drafted to present this research must be thorough, logically presented, and factual. Scientific manuscripts must adhere to a specific language and format to communicate the results to the scientific community whilst adhering to ethical guidelines. When completed the final written product will allow colleagues to debate and reflect on the newly minted work embedded in the manuscript.


Scientific manuscripts are organized in a logical format, which fits specific criteria as determined by the scientific community. This methodology has been standardized in journals which communicate information to those in the field being discussed. Since the researcher has a storyline he or she is trying to transmit, it must be clear and upfront on the exact question and or problem that his research answers. Readers of the manuscript will be energized to review this work when its content is spelled out early in the paper. A well-written manuscript has the following components included: a clear title, abstract, introductory paragraph, methods and materials section, discussion of results, conclusion and a list of references. Each component of a journal article should follow a logical sequence, which members of the science community have become accustomed.

Structural Contents

Title or Heading

Titles are extremely important. A crisp detailed title is the first element an audience notices when encountering your manuscript. The significance of a title cannot be overstated in that it introduces your reader to the subject matter you intend to discuss in the next thousand or more words. A poorly formatted title could dissuade a potential reader from delving into your manuscript further. In addition, your paper is indexed in a certain manner, which search engine algorithms will track. To rise to the top of the search index, keywords should be emphasized. Thinking of the right title could determine the size of your audience and the eventual success of your work.


Abstracts are abbreviated versions of your manuscript. Contained within the abstract’s structure should be the major premise of your research and the questions you seek to answer. Also included in the context of the abstract is a brief summary of the methods taken to achieve your goals along with a short version of the results. The abstract may be the only part of the paper read, therefore, it should be considered a concise version of your complete manuscript.


The Introduction amplifies certain aspects of the abstract. Within the body of the introduction, the rationale for the research is revealed. Background material is supplied indicating why the research performed is important along with the direction the research took. A brief summary (in a few sentences) discussing the technical aspects of the experimental approach utilized to reach the article’s stated conclusions is included here. Written well the introduction will influence readers to delve further into the body of the paper.

Methodology and Materials

In this section, the technical aspects of the research are described extensively. Clarity in this part of the manuscript is mandatory. Fellow researchers will glean from this section the methods and materials you utilized either to validate your work, reproduce it, and/or develop the concepts further. Detailed protocols are presented here, similar to a road map, explaining the experiments performed, agents or technologies used, and any biology involved. Statistical analysis and tests should be presented here. Do not approximate anything in this part of the manuscript. Suspicion may be cast in your direction questioning the validity of the research if too many approximations are detected.

Discussion of Results

This part of the manuscript may be considered its core. Elaboration on data generated, utilizing tables and graphs, communicating the essence of the research and the outcomes they generate. Once the results are given a lengthy discussion, it should follow by including the interpretation of data, implications of these findings, and potential future research to follow. Ambiguous findings and current controversies in this type of research should be analyzed and examined in this section.


This is the endpoint in the manuscript. Conclusions are written in a concise manner utilizing words not numbers. Information conveyed in this section should only be taken from the research performed. Do not place your references here. Full and complete interpretation of your findings in this part of the manuscript is imperative. Clarity of thought is also essential because misinterpretation of the results is always a possibility. Comparisons to similar work in your field may be discussed here. Absolutely avoid interpretation of your results that cannot be justified by the work performed.


Every journal has submission requirements. Journal guidelines should be followed for proper authentication of references. There exist several formats for reference creation. Familiarize yourself with them. In addition, the sequence of references listed should be in the order in which they appear in the research paper. A number, usually in parenthesis, follows the sentence where they are noted.

Production of a scientific manuscript is a necessity to introduce your research to a wide audience. The complexity of the research and the results generated must be written in a manner that is clear and concise, follows the current journal formats, and is verifiable. The guidelines embedded in this paper will help the researcher place his work in the best light possible. Never write anything that cannot be justified by the research performed. With these simple rules in mind, your scientific manuscript will be a success.

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Finished Submitting a Journal Manuscript: What’s Next?

Journal's response

Every paper submitted to a good scientific journal goes through peer review. Manuscript submission is just the very beginning of what could be a lengthy process, at the end of which the manuscript may get rejected or accepted.

Usually, the journal editor is the first to see your paper. The editor decides if the paper fits the journal’s scope. If it does, he/she will send it for peer review. Generally, there are four possible decisions on your work. It can be rejected, accepted, accepted with minor revisions, or accepted with major revisions. But the main question remains, how long should you wait for the response of the journal?

How Long Before the Journal Makes a Decision?

Daniel Himmelstein is a graduate student. He analyzed all the papers in PubMed that listed submission and acceptance dates. Himmelstein found that the general review time has been about 100 days for the past 30 years. According to Himmelstein, there has been no substantial increase in this time duration. However, this dataset excludes journals that don’t include their submission and acceptance dates. Some journals use the resubmission date and not the initial date of submission.

Time to publication has increased in popular journals. For Nature, the review time was 85 days a decade ago. Now it is 150 days. While for PLoS ONE, it has increased from 37 to 125 days over the past 10 years. If you have had no response from the journal within three months, you can request an update from the same on your paper’s status. If you have chosen a more popular journal your wait time may be longer. Interestingly, papers with the lowest and highest impact factors have the longest review times.

The longer time taken may be due to lengthy peer reviews. Reviewers also request for more data, revisions, and new experiments. Neuroscientist Leslie Vosshall says reviewers demand more and more unreasonable things from authors. Editors say that science has simply become data-rich. As the number of papers written continues to increase, it can take even longer to find willing peer reviewers.

Cycles of Rejection

Are authors contributing to the problem of delayed publication time? There are some who believe that authors do so. Authors often carry out an activity called journal shopping. This means that an author first submits a paper to the possibly most prestigious journal. If that journal rejects the paper (which is very likely) then the paper is submitted to the next most prestigious journal. This process may get repeated again and again, as long as the manuscript gets acceptance. This, in turn, adds to the time that it takes for a paper to be published.

Journal impact factor and reputation are often used as a proxy for paper quality. This matters when applying for tenure, grants, or promotion. Scientists journal shop to get maximum exposure for their work and to boost their careers.

Stephen Royle is a biologist. He looked at publication wait times for the 28 papers that his group published over 12 years. He found that the average time from submission to publication was nine months. However, he also found that about half of his papers had gone through journal shopping. This added anywhere from days to the acceptance time to more than eight months.

Payment for Faster Reviews

The time duration taken by the journal to respond may also depend on the peer review. The Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics is trying to lower wait times. They will release reviewer rankings based on how quickly they return reviews. Critics say this will only upset peer reviewers who are usually not paid. Others say that a quality review is better than a speedy one. A study found that offering payment for returning reviews on time led to reviewers submitting reviews about 10 days early.

Manuscript submission is the beginning of the peer review process at a scientific journal

What Does the Future Hold for Peer Review?

Peer Review Process

Peer review is a vital part of academic publishing of original research. The process of peer review seems simple. Invited experts evaluate your manuscript for its validity and suitability for publishing, in either a journal, book, or conference. This vetting procedure should also prevent fraudulent research in academic publishing. However, in practice, the peer review process is not consistent, lacks rules and criteria, and is slow. The digital revolution in scholarly communication means that there will be constant innovations in peer review.

Goodbye, Traditional Peer Review

Traditional peer review filters out bad research and is also very selective, given the limited resources of paper printing. With the Internet, print space is technically not a problem and publishing is fast. In addition, the Open Access (OA) movement aims for less secrecy and bias, to ensure more rigor and honesty in scientific publishing.

Comprehensive Study of Peer Review

A new paper by Jonathan Tennant et al., thoroughly examines the peer review of journal articles and its future. The study’s 33 authors first describe the historical evolution of peer review in a socio-technological context. Then, the authors consider traits of peer review, several emerging models, and suggest a hybrid approach.

There are three eras of peer review. The first, called “primordial time”, corresponds to the period before 1950 back to the 17th century, when national academies and their journals were first established (Philosophical Transactions and Journal des Scavans). Here, peer review wasn’t called as such and it was an “in-house” process. In this, only editors evaluated the manuscripts.

After WWII, knowledge production boomed, both in kind and in quantity. This meant journals needed outside help. In 1950, Nature introduced formal peer review that was editor-led. During this era, the outsourcing of peer review to experts began. Importantly, journal-based publications became a form of professional currency and prestige in academics. Commercial publishers jumped on this, using voluntary (unpaid) peer review to promote their journals.

The third era is called “the revolution”. Here, the splitting off peer review from publishing was the aim. Its seeds came in 1990 when ArXiv launched (1991). On this web platform, physicists could openly publish their research first, but moderators would still filter out these “preprints”. The key development here was the publishing of research without going through traditional peer review.

This revolution gained momentum, especially in the last 5–10 years. This is characterized by the growth in digital-only journals (PloS One); by allowing commenting on articles (before and after formal publication, PeerJ); by making peer reviews fully available (ScienceOpen) and by cross-annotation by other web platforms (e.g., Pubpeer).

Peer Review Traits

A key conclusion by Tennant et al. is that the manner in which the process of peer review is perceived does not match its actual performance. Many studies show the number of mistakes rising, and that the process is losing its rigor. In short, sloppy scholarship has a better chance of getting published nowadays. Although traditional peer review is able to identify reliable research, it is clearly “on the ropes”. However, this is still used as a gatekeeper to gauge potential “impact” in the field and journal suitability. One innovation is telling reviewing experts to forget about novelty or potential impact (e.g., PloS One). This reduces the risk of peer review bias.

There exists single-blind, double-blind, or open peer review (OPR). In the first, mostly used by journals, reviewers are anonymous but not the authors. In the second, both are unknown. In OPR, both are known. Double-blind review does not always improve the quality of peer review and is difficult to do since manuscripts can contain clues about author identities.

OPR has a complex development (systematically reviewed by Ross-Hellauer).  A big issue is the lack of an accepted OPR definition. Tennant et al. view OPR as doing one of the following: (1) disclosing names of expert reviewers to authors and readers, (2) making public the peer review reports, and (3) not limiting peer review to the invited experts.

Peer Review Evolution

Traditionally, it was enough to acknowledge the experts or thank them privately. However, now there is demand for more systematic recognition of these efforts, including feedback. One innovation is to credit such work (e.g., Publons). For this incentive to hold long term, peer reviewing must gain more weight in academic promotions and funding evaluations.

Another idea is publishing the expert reports. This could increase the quality of peer reviews, making them more constructive. Such transparency will encourage greater civility from experts and editors alike.

Another key development is decoupling peer review from academic publishing. This may even represent a paradigm shift. In the decoupled models, of which there are many variations, peer review can happen before a submission or after publication. The latter, called “post-publication peer review”, though appealing is not widely adopted by researchers.

Future Models and Hybrids

Tennant et al. identify and discuss seven distinct ways peer review could change using existing social Web platforms.

  • A Reddit-based model
  • An Amazon-style rate and review model
  • A Stack Exchange/Overflow-style model
  • A GitHub-style model
  • A Wikipedia-style model
  • A Hypothesis-style annotation model
  • A blockchain-based model

The authors do an excellent job of summarizing each model’s traits, both the positive and negative. Suffice to say, each model has something of value to add to peer review. An interesting highlight is the use of AI-assisted peer review. Here, machine learning and neural network tools come into play. Although this automation approach cannot make decisions for editors, it could provide recommendations less error-prone than human interactions.

A viable process of peer review must provide quality control, certification, and incentives. Moderators, via community self-organization and governance (Wiki and Reddit), could do openly what editors did traditionally. Experts can get certified based on their participation and get community-level assessments (Amazon, Reddit or StackExchange). On top of altruistic motives, ORCID-within-Publons could be extended to incorporate aspects from the models above.

Both academic publishing and the process of peer review are clearly in flux. The changes are disrupting traditional peer review, which itself is still poorly understood at a large scale. Despite inertia in academic publishing models and researcher cultures, web-based OA-themed innovations in peer review are likely here to stay. Taking the best traits from various models and combining it with the spirit of traditional peer review can protect against fraudulent research and strengthen the scholarly communication system. Such a hybrid approach is perhaps the only viable way to preserve peer review.

4 Important Tips on Writing a Research Paper Title

Research Title

When you are searching for a research study on a particular topic, you probably notice that articles with interesting, descriptive research titles draw you in. By contrast, research paper titles that are not descriptive are usually passed over, even though they may be good research papers with interesting contents. This shows the importance of coming up with a good research paper title when you are drafting your own manuscript.

Why do Research Titles Matter?

Before we look at the characteristics of a good research title, let’s look at an example that illustrates why a good research paper should have a strong title.

Imagine that you are researching meditation and nursing, and you want to find out if any studies have shown that meditation makes nurses better communicators.  You conduct a keyword search using the keywords “nursing”, “communication”, and “meditation.” You come up with results that have the following titles:

  1. Benefits of Meditation for the Nursing Profession: A Quantitative Investigation
  2. Why Mindful Nurses Make the Best Communicators
  3. Meditation Gurus
  4. Nurses on the Move: A Quantitative Report on How Meditation Can Improve Nurse Performance

Related: Ready with your title and looking forward to manuscript submission? Check these journal selection guidelines now! (Infographic)

All four of these titles may describe very similar studies—they could even be titles for the same study! As you can see, they give very different impressions.

  • Title 1 describes the topic and the method of the study but is not particularly catchy.
  • Title 2 partly describes the topic, but does not give any information about the method of the study—it could simply be a theoretical or opinion piece.
  • Title 3 is somewhat catchier but gives almost no information at all about the article.
  • Title 4 begins with a catchy main title and is followed by a subtitle that gives information about the content and method of the study.


As we will see, Title 4 has all the characteristics of a good research title.

Characteristics of a Good Research Title

According to rhetoric scholars Hairston and Keene, making a good title involves ensuring that the research title accomplishes four goals. First, a good title predicts the content of the research paper. Second, a good title should be interesting to the reader. Third, it should reflect the tone of the writing. Fourth and finally, it should contain important keywords that will make it easier to be located during a keyword search.

Let’s return to the examples in the previous section to see if they meet these four criteria.

Title Predicts content? Interesting? Reflects tone? Important keywords?
Benefits of Meditation for the Nursing Profession: A Quantitative Investigation Yes No No Yes
Why Mindful Nurses Make the Best Communicators No Yes Yes No
Meditation Gurus No Yes No No
Nurses on the Move: A Quantitative Report on How Meditation Can Improve Nurse Performance Yes Yes Yes Yes

As you can see in the table above, only one of the four example titles fulfills all of the criteria of a suitable research paper title.

Tips for Writing an Effective Research Paper Title

When writing a title in research, you can use the four criteria listed above as a guide. Here are a few other tips you can use to make sure your title will be part of the recipe for an effective research paper:

  1. Make sure your research title describes (a) the topic, (b) the method, (c) the sample, and (d) the results of your study. You can use the following formula:

[Result]: A [method] study of [topic] among [sample]

Example: Meditation makes nurses perform better: a qualitative study of mindfulness meditation among German nursing students

  1. Avoid unnecessary words and jargons. You want a title that will be comprehensible even to people who are not experts in your field. For a detailed list of things to avoid when writing an effective research title, check the article here.
  2. Make sure your title is between 5 and 15 words in length.
  3. If you are writing a title for a university assignment or for a particular academic journal, verify that your title conforms to the standards and requirements for that outlet. For example, many journals require that titles fall under a character limit, including spaces. Many universities require that titles take a very specific form, limiting your creativity.

Resources for Further Reading

In addition to the tips above, there are many resources online that you can use to help write your research title. Here is a list of links that you may find useful as you work on creating an excellent research title:

  1. The University of Southern California has a guide specific to social science research papers:
  2. The Journal of European Psychology Students has a blog article focusing on APA-compliant research paper titles:
  3. This article by Kristen Hamlin contains a step-by-step approach to writing titles:

Are there any tips or tricks you find useful in crafting research titles? Which tip did you find most useful in this article? Leave a comment to let us know!



  1. Hairston, M., & Keene, M. 2003. Successful writing. 5th ed. New York: Norton.
  2. University of Southern California. 2017. Organizing your social sciences research paper: choosing a title. [Online] Available at:

CiteSeerX: The Next Generation of Open Access Library Archiving


A digital library serves as an online archive of information and can be one of the most useful tools for the researchers. One such tool was CiteSeer that was launched long back but has been relaunched with some added features, as CiteSeerX. Let us have a quick look at these.

CiteSeerX Reinvents the Digital Library, Again

In 1998, the academic search engine CiteSeer went public, changing the landscape for online research. It offered autonomous citation indexing for the first time, to the researchers in the fields of computer science and information science. When a scholar searched for an author name, keyword, or journal, CiteSeer would return relevant results for the search term. These results were not only drawn from full-text publications but they also reflected every known instance when that term appeared in bibliographic citations. From the outset, CiteSeer was able to crawl both Adobe and HTML files. It was a revolutionary technology and set the groundwork for future online access tools such as Google Scholar.

CiteSeer had its drawbacks, however. For one thing, it could only index papers that were already available online to the public: either papers that authors had submitted directly to CiteSeer, or papers that authors had published on their own websites. Another challenge was its popularity and growing scale. CiteSeer’s infrastructure was not equipped to handle 1.5 million searches every day or to index three-quarters of a million documents. To address concerns like these, CiteSeerX was launched in 2008.

A Visitor’s Guide to CiteSeer

 Here are some of the things CiteSeerX can do for you:

  • Compile citation statistics: Every result for a search tells you how many times a paper has been cited in other authors’ bibliographies. You can also explore those other authors’ linked papers in detail. You can look at abstracts and keywords, view a cached PDF of full-text articles, or follow download links for the papers you’re interested in.
  • Powerful search: With CiteSeerX, you can search an author by his full name, partial names, or initials. You can perform a basic search, or you can limit your search terms by date ranges, publishers, or author affiliations. CiteSeerX disambiguates author names, is not case sensitive, and allows you to perform Proximity or Boolean searches. It even lets you search text within embedded tables.
  • MyCiteSeerX: CiteSeerX is now open access and free to all. If you opt to create an online CiteSeer account, you can make use of a variety of personalized features. Through this account, you can:

Create a personal collection of articles and citations.

Receive automatic notifications of new citations relating to a paper you’ve saved in your user profile, as well as notifications of new papers that are relevant to your past searches and accessed articles.

Personalize searches and save favorite search settings.

Automatically share articles via social media, and of course you can submit your own articles to the CiteSeerX digital library.

The Definitive Search Engine for Computer Science Scholarship

By 2015, CiteSeerX was making more than five million articles on computer science and information science available. These articles were available to the approximately one million unique online patrons of its virtual AI library, processing millions of searches of every day. By 2017, its holdings had shot up to more than seven million documents, adding two hundred thousand new scholarly papers every month.

Its inability to crawl publisher metadata when processing searches remains a concern (it is still limited to uploaded submissions and open data sources such as author websites), and CiteSeerX has provided direct links to try your query at other citation indexes, such as the DBLP Computer Science Bibliography and AllenAI Semantic Scholar.

Nevertheless, in 2010 it was voted the #1 online information repository worldwide. Inarguably, the CiteSeerX citation index plays a significant role in the scientific community. Already a cornerstone of information for computational and information sciences, it has begun expanding its reach to include articles and citations related to areas such as economics and physics as well.

Is CiteSeerX Right for You?

Try a CiteSeerX search and please let us know about your experience in comments! Have you had better or worse luck with alternative access tools such as Web of Science or SciELO? Would you consider submitting your scholarly writing and research for CiteSeerX bibliographic indexing, and why or why not?

Hivebench: Electronic Laboratory Notebook for Modern Researchers


The scientific community is well aware of the pitfalls and challenges associated with keeping and storing data. While there may be other data management tools, the most commonly used one is the unambiguous lab notebook. This innocent tool for keeping data is far from perfect—data can be lost, degraded, or otherwise compromised. Enter Hivebench, an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) built by scientists for scientists. Hivebench is the answer for researchers who wish to manage data, track protocols, and collaborate.

Introducing Hivebench

Elsevier acquired Hivebench from Shazino, a research application developer based in Lyon, France. Hivebench was set to be integrated into the existing Research Data Management portfolio maintained by Elsevier. In a nutshell, Hivebench is an ELN that helps researchers conduct and analyze experiments, prepare experiments, and store methods and protocols in one place. This saves the researcher’s time. In addition, Hivebench is the only ELN available on the desktop (OSX), mobile devices (iOS), and the web. Aside from these, Hivebench is linked to Mendeley Data and other Elsevier tools. Thus, researchers can export their results to Mendeley Data. The acquisition of Hivebench is set to benefit funders and institutions as well. Hivebench is to be integrated with the “funder compliance check” module, which will solidify the link between data posting requirements and laboratory data.

Hivebench – Unlocking the full potential of research data from Bob Hendriks on YouTube

Features and Benefits

Hivebench has a plethora of features and benefits as compared to traditional, paper-based laboratory notebooks. It provides researchers and their colleagues a way to share protocols and data, which is hard to do when using paper notebooks. In addition, Hivebench allows users to access all the protocols and data at the same time, anytime. The progress of experiments can be stored in real-time. Considering how fragile, risky, and limited paper notebooks are, Hivebench presents a novel and concrete solution. Researchers need to spend a lot of time writing in a laboratory notebook, which doesn’t have search features and requires deciphering; however, Hivebench can allow seamless sharing of work. Comments and conversations can also be tracked real-time.

When using paper notebooks, researchers need to rewrite sections of drafts and deal with security issues with respect to their data. Aside from this, paper laboratory notebooks cannot comply with funders/FDA. There is also no uniform format for sharing. In contrast to this, Hivebench uses universal templates to share results in a consistent manner. It also complies with FDA/funder requirements. Researchers who use Hivebench can securely share their work with their colleagues. Moreover, automatic sign-outs are a feature of Hivebench. Data can be preserved in a non-proprietary format.

How Helpful Is Hivebench?

Paper-based laboratory notebooks are surrounded by peril: it is too easy to lose, destroy, and misinterpret them. There are instances when paper-based laboratory notebooks proved to be a recipe for disaster. Hivebench can clearly address these problems and a lot more. For example, losing your laboratory notebook in a fire is not unheard of. When fires do occur in laboratories, everything is lost. All the precious data and protocols are gone. Another situation is not having a lab notebook at all. Taking notes is imperative in research and not having a notebook is a common cause of frustration. In addition, it is difficult to search for data required by reviewers in a lab notebook, wherein you have to look through a lot of data.

Aside from these, losing data files is not uncommon. For instance, storing pictures of cells or analyzing DNA sequences is commonplace. However, what if the computer malfunctions? Everything is then lost. Hivebench stores all data on the same platform, which means that they will be accessible for years. Information stored in multiple locations is a problem, which removes uniformity in data storage and encoding. Hivebench can address this because it is the same wherever you access it.

Hivebench: write your lab notebook from Team Shazino on Vimeo.

Key Aspects and Drawbacks

There are a number of key aspects that Hivebench is associated with:

  1. Improving sharing: Protocols are easier to access, common reagents and databases can be shared
  2. Increasing efficiency: Hivebench has an integrated notebook and calendar function that allows experiments to be scheduled so outcomes can be recorded
  3. Saving time: Protocols and previous results are easier to locate
  4. Reducing failure: It is easy to compare successful experiments with unsuccessful ones
  5. Signifying compliance with mandates: Funders are implementing mandates surrounding the sharing, storage, and capture of data.

There are, of course, some drawbacks to Hivebench:

  1. Protocol creation is rigid
  2. It doesn’t support the creation of tables
  3. Free Hivebench account is limited to 10 users
  4. Works only on iOS and OSX

There is no perfect system, however, Hivebench comes close. It’s still the best choice for researchers in terms of data collection and management.

We vs. They: Using the First & Third Person in Research Papers

first or third person

Writing in the first, second, or third person is referred to as the author’s point of view. When we write, our tendency is to personalize the text by writing in the first person. That is, we use pronouns such as “I” and “we”. This is acceptable when writing personal information, a journal, or a book. However, it is not common in academic writing.

Some writers find the use of first, second, or third person point of view a bit confusing while writing research papers. Since second person is avoided while writing in academic or scientific papers,the main confusion remains within first or third person.

In the following sections, we will discuss the usage and examples of the first, second, and third person point of view.

First Person

The first person point of view simply means that we use the pronouns that refer to ourselves in the text. These are as follows:

  • I
  • We
  • Me
  • My
  • Mine
  • Us
  • Our
  • Ours

Using these, we present the information based on what “we” found. In science and mathematics, this point of view is rarely used. It is often considered to be somewhat self-serving and arrogant. It is important to remember that when writing your research results, the focus of the communication is the research and not the persons who conducted the research. When you want to persuade the reader, it is best to avoid personal pronouns. In addition to sounding somewhat arrogant, the strength of your findings might be underestimated.

For example:

Based on my results, I concluded that A and B did not equal to C.

In this example, the entire meaning of the research could be misconstrued. The results discussed are not those of the author; they are generated from the experiment. To refer to the results in this context is incorrect and should be avoided. To make it more appropriate, the above sentence can be revised as follows:

Based on the results of the assay, A and B did not equal to C.

Second Person

The second person point of view uses pronouns that refer to the reader. These are as follows:

  • You
  • Your
  • Yours

This point of view is usually used in the context of providing instructions or advice, such as in “how to” manuals or recipe books. The reason behind using the second person is to engage the reader.

For example:

You will want to buy a turkey that is large enough to feed your extended family. Before cooking it, you must wash it first thoroughly with cold water.

Although this is a good technique for giving instructions, it is not appropriate in academic or scientific writing.

Third Person

The third person point of view uses both proper nouns, such as a person’s name, and pronouns that refer to individuals or groups (e.g., doctors, researchers) but not directly to the reader. The ones that refer to individuals are as follows:

  • She
  • Her
  • Hers (possessive form)
  • He
  • Him
  • His (possessive form)
  • It
  • Its (possessive form)
  • One
  • One’s (possessive form)

The third person point of view that refers to groups include the following:

  • Everyone
  • Anyone
  • Them
  • They
  • Their (possessive form)
  • Theirs (plural possessive form)

For example:

Everyone at the convention was interested in what Dr. Johnson presented.

The instructors decided that the students should help pay for lab supplies.

The researchers determined that there was not enough sample material to conduct the assay.

The third person point of view is generally used in scientific papers but, at times, the format can be difficult. We use indefinite pronouns to refer back to the subject but must avoid using masculine or feminine terminology. For example:

A researcher must ensure that he has enough material for his experiment.

The nurse must ensure that she has a large enough blood sample for her assay.

Many authors attempt to resolve this issue by using “he or she” or “him or her,” but this gets cumbersome and too many of these can distract the reader. For example:

A researcher must ensure that he or she has enough material for his or her experiment.

The nurse must ensure that he or she has a large enough blood sample for his or her assay.

These issues can easily be resolved by making the subjects plural as follows:

Researchers must ensure that they have enough material for their experiment.

Nurses must ensure that they have large enough blood samples for their assay.

Exceptions to the Rules

As mentioned earlier, the third person is generally used in scientific writing, but the rules are not quite as stringent anymore. It is now acceptable to use both the first and third person in some contexts, but this is still under controversy. 

In a February 2011 blog on Eloquent Science, Professor David M. Schultz presented several opinions on whether the author viewpoints differed. However, there appeared to be no consensus. Some believed that the old rules should stand to avoid subjectivity, while others believed that if the facts were valid, it didn’t matter which point of view was used.

First or Third Person: What Do The Journals Say

In general, it is acceptable in to use the first person point of view in abstracts, introductions, discussions, and conclusions, in some journals. Even then, avoid using “I” in these sections. Instead, use “we” to refer to the group of researchers that were part of the study. The third person point of view is used for writing methods and results sections. Consistency is the key and switching from one point of view to another within sections of a manuscript can be distracting and is discouraged. It is best to always check your author guidelines for that particular journal. Once that is done, make sure your manuscript is free from the above-mentioned or any other grammatical error.

Open Access Policies and Funding Agency Mandates

The open access (OA) model has changed the dynamics of traditional publishing by providing access to view, share, and reuse research findings. With the development of variants of OA such as gold APC, gold no-APC, and green OA, government organizations, research institutions, funders, and universities are not only promoting but also adopting OA policies. Moreover, several well-known funding bodies such as NIH, The Wellcome Trust, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have mandated open access to published materials.

Searchable databases such as the Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies (ROARMAP) and SHERPA/Juliet provide updated information on the growth of OA policies and funders’ OA requirements for researchers, libraries, and more. As the number of OA policies and mandates continues to increase, it has become equally important to monitor the compliance to these mandates. This not only ensures fair use of public funds in research but also the wider dissemination of research findings for social benefits.

In this infographic, we present interesting statistics on the contribution to OA policies and mandates by different policymakers and regions.

Open Access

How Research Institutes Should Promote Ethical Behavior

Ethical Behavior

Research ethics is the essential code of conduct that governs academic research. It is a set of norms that define acceptable behavior. Unethical behavior often affects academic publishing. For instance, researchers may publish falsified data. However, many groups are now promoting research ethics. So how does a one maintain ethical conduct in academic research?

Ethics is Essential

Ethical research first requires honesty. This means that researchers should not falsify or misrepresent data. Each researcher must clearly report their data as is including the methods and results even if they are not favorable. They should not at any point change the data in order to deceive colleagues, funders, or the public.

Linked to honesty is objectivity. Studies must be designed to minimize bias. Researchers must also actively avoid bias in data analysis and interpretation as well. Any personal or financial interests should be disclosed along with the research. This will alert readers to any potential influences that may have affected your work.

In addition, all animals used in the research must be properly cared for. Experiments should be designed well. This means that the design must be statistically sound. This will help researchers to use only the number of animals that is necessary. A thorough literature search should be done to avoid repeating animal studies. It is wasteful to experiment on animals if conclusive published data exists.

When humans are the subjects of research they must be treated well. Every effort must be taken to minimize risks and maximize benefits. At every point, the rights to autonomy, privacy, and dignity must be respected. Special care must be taken when working with vulnerable populations.

Some believe that bad researchers behave unethically. The alternate theory says that misconduct happens because of external factors. These include the pressure to publish or win grants, incentives, or constraints. Misconduct can also occur because of poor supervision, career ambitions, or the pursuit of fame. Every researcher will face pressure at one time or another. What is the best way to ensure that they do the right thing?

Promoting Institutional Ethical Behavior

Ethical conduct is essential in inspiring trust. When scientists abide by research ethics, their work is trustworthy. Academic research institutions often wish to encourage their staff to behave ethically.

Institutions can promote ethical behavior by having formal and informal research ethics education. Formal education will expose researchers to ethical standards and policies. Using real-world examples can teach researchers about the importance and consequences of alternate responses to an ethical dilemma. Public discussions in an ethics course may discourage unethical behavior. This happens because participants talk about the potential harm that can result.

Institutions should do a few things to teach faculty and students research ethics.

  • Use specific examples as much as possible in the course. This is the best way to provide guidance.
  • Encourage more ethical behavior. There should be opportunities for experts to explain why certain ethical practices exist.
  • Use non-science fields to assist with rethinking controversial issues. Studies in moral philosophy or the social studies of science may help.
  • Chosen topics that are intellectually stimulating. They may be in a specific ethics course or part of a more general course.
  • Discuss institutional codes of conduct. This will help make everyone aware of what acceptable behavior is. It will also help staff and students learn how to address or report a breach of ethics.
  • Share and discuss unique ethical dilemmas among researchers. These talks should help them find the best ways to promote research ethics in their own niches.

Guidelines for Ethical Conduct

Fortunately, there are ethical guidelines available for various disciplines. For example, HEART has issued an ethics statement for publishers. (HEART is a group of editors of major cardiovascular journals). Medical laboratory staff can learn from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science’s code of ethics. Professors may adhere to the American Association of University Professors’ professional ethics statement.

Research ethics can be a very tricky subject. Ethical conduct is essential to researchers being trustworthy. Many institutions are now promoting research ethics. Academic research and academic publishing only have value when researchers behave ethically. You can get detailed guidance on the ethics of working with people here. Furthermore, if you are thinking about implementing an ethics course, you can read this for more tips.

How Sharing Peer Review Data Helps Counter Scientific Misconduct

Life science research is going through a reproducibility crisis. Indeed, 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments. This has prompted scientists to question peer review models and promote the sharing of peer review data. All of this has come as an effort to promote scientific integrity and effectively minimize instances of scientific fraud.

Analyses in psychology and cancer biology have revealed shocking facts about experimental reproducibility. According to a recent study, only 40% of the reports from psychology and 10% from cancer biology are reproducible. This lack of reproducibility is largely due to the selective reporting of data, pressure to publish, low statistical power/poor analysis, insufficient replication, poor experimental design, or unavailability of raw data. One way to address this is to promote the peer review of manuscript data. This will significantly facilitate the assessment of data accuracy.

Sharing Raw Data
Efforts to promote data sharing have been increasing. Nevertheless, only a few journals have actually implemented policies to meet the goals of establishing transparency.

Some journals review data sets, but they do not share such data sets. Furthermore, peer review itself has not been systematically reviewed for efficacy (perhaps, this has consequences for reproducibility too). There continue to be discussions on enhancing resources that are available to editors and researchers. One possible solution is to work with meta-researchers and create experimental peer review systems that can be validated easily. Incorporating plagiarism detection software for detecting copied data sets could also help to some extent.

Peer Review of Shared Data Sets
Currently, several journals require that authors submit data sets for peer review. Journals then perform a technical and subject-area review of data sets, which includes an assessment of the following:

– Data logic
– Consistency
– Formatting
– Open access plausibility
– Quality
– Handling/reuse
– Units of measurement
– Quality of collection methods
– Presence of any anomalies

Meanwhile, several researchers still hesitate to share data sets, presumably because of the extreme competition and reduced research funding.

Journals Should Share Peer Review Data
Sharing all aspects of peer review could help promote transparency. PEERE, a large European cohort, worked with Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley to develop a protocol to do so. Ultimately, their efforts seek to develop a normalized system for publishing peer-reviewed data sets.

In addition to the PEERE initiative, several peer review models need modifications to enhance the transparency of manuscripts and experimental data sets. In summary, the peer review of shared data sets is expected to decrease instances of scientific misconduct.