Category Archives: Lecturer

How Paper Posters Evolved into Interactive Digital Presentations

dipp-1

Whether you love or dread them, conference presentations are a crucial part of any research-oriented career. Sharing and exchanging findings and information with others in your field is important. It helps to stay up to date on the latest developments, network with fellow professionals, and identify potential collaborators or new directions for your own research. Presentation methods continue to evolve as technology offers new ways to make research more exciting and accessible. Digital interactive poster presentations are the latest innovation sweeping the conference circuit.

From Paper to Digital

Visual accompaniment to presentations is a time-honored way to enhance or add depth to the research results being shown to an audience. In the past, students or young researchers who presented academic and scientific work created paper posters that featured the highlights of their work. With the advent of technology, e-posters began to grow in popularity in the 1990s. Also known as “digital posters”, these come in a variety of formats. Some may include stand-alone single elements such as a video, chart, photo, game, slideshow, while some may include a combination of several videos, charts, etc.

E-posters, as their name implies, are hosted online rather than in physical space. Their integration into conference poster sessions has highlighted the advantages of digital over traditional paper posters, including:

  • E-posters may be interactive and facilitate learning without the presenter nearby
  • These posters can present a great deal of information in a condensed format. Unlike paper posters, they don’t look crowded and messy
  • Addition of video, voice, slideshows, and photos provides a more interactive and enhanced experience for the audience
  • E-posters widen the audience as they are available online to anyone, not only to conference attendees
  • As they are available online, digital posters also facilitate discussions or “communities of interest” around the presented work
  • E-poster sessions mitigate the busyness of live poster sessions, allowing participants to learn more from sessions they attend

With these numerous factors in favor of digital posters, it’s no wonder that they have become the norm over the past decade in many academic disciplines.

From E- or Digital Posters to Digital Interactive Poster Presentations

During the 14th Meeting of the European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery in 2001, a new type of digital poster presentation was made, named digital interactive poster presentation. First proposed by De Simone et al. (2001), the digital interactive poster presentation, or DIPP, aimed to make poster sessions even more effective in communicating important data and discoveries by using an interactive format. The DIPP lets presenters project their posters on a screen or wall and give a brief, 3-5 minute presentation while highlighting important figures and charts. The popularity that the concept of DIPP had received at this very first session has grown ever since.

DIPPs are actually just soft copy or pdf versions of traditional posters that will be projected in the session followed. However, there are some advantages of DIPP over traditional posters. It allows the presenter to magnify or emphasize the portions of the presentation they find most interesting or relevant. It also provides opportunities for interaction between the presenters and audience in ways that traditional posters often do not. Traditional posters might end up in a trash can following a presentation. On the other hand, DIPPs can be preserved online, and later obtained in pen-drives if allowed.

Interactive Features of DIPPs

When a DIPP is created for viewing online or display on a screen or wall, the presenter can add different features to make it easier for the audience to interact more with the material and presentation. Hyperlinks and email addresses are one easy way to share contact information with interested audience members. For those of you who are more tech-savvy, you can include a QR code on your DIPP. That way, people who have a specific app installed on their smartphones or tablets can scan the QR code. It would direct them automatically to a website or receive contact information or text. Some people also include links that allow viewers to directly send their comments and feedback on the poster or presentation. With these new innovative presenting methods, scientific and scholarly community will be able to reach a much larger audience. This will, in turn, lead science and research to flourish.

Publisher Refrains from Charging Extra for Archived Papers

accessing archived research papers

The business of academic publishing is controversially inaccessible to its target audience; the academic community. Specifically, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis have been on the news regularly, due to disputes with universities in this regard. In recent disagreements, South Korean Universities cited the higher subscription rates that Elsevier charged. It also mentioned Elsevier’s misleading package deals of little-read journals. Meanwhile, librarians from UK/Irish institutions, and representatives of Research Libraries UK and beyond, urged Taylor & Francis to drop subscription charges. Overall, collaborative academic movements to improve accessibility to academic research journals could revolutionize the existing model of the publishing industry.

Flipping the Existing Business Model of Academic Publishing

 Elsevier’s business model, at $1000/year to access one journal title, alongside annual fee increase of 5%, faces rising academic resistance. A German consortium, Projekt DEAL, repeatedly attempted to negotiate better pricing with Elsevier, for improved open access. This spurred boycotts and similar negotiations across universities in Finland, Peru, and Taiwan. In a similar move, the Finnish library consortium also led the #NoDealNoReview boycott. As a cumulative result, a consortium of South Korean Universities, reached a new deal with Elsevier to access its database ScienceDirect.

Following on from the South Korean Universities, the Finnish Consortium (FinElib) similarly joined Elsevier to outline a three-year agreement. The agreement would provide Finnish academic organizations access to Elsevier’s extensive research collection. The agreement further allows Finnish researchers to publish their articles at a discounted rate in Elsevier’s journals. These articles have open access to the researchers. The agreement termed the Science Direct Freedom Collection, collectively allow Finnish Universities subscription access to ~1,850 journals on Elsevier’s ScienceDirect. Universities intend to seek more concessions, in similar negotiations, in the future. In addition, existing pirate open-access platforms such as Sci-Hub have also added pressure to change the traditional publishing model.

Publishers Reverse the Decision on Additional Charges for Archived Materials

Meanwhile, in the UK, academics have forced Taylor & Francis to retreat from increasing charges for accessing archived journals. This decision was in effect after more than 110 universities signed a letter of protest. The publishers initially intended to introduce a “moving paywall” that included a 20-year span of papers, in the “front file”. Essentially, these publications would move forward with time, causing additional costs to access these papers as a separate package. Head librarians of the UK and Irish institutions opposed the new policy, as it would increase administration activities alongside substantial costs. The letter of protest alluded the move would create confusion and annoyance while diminishing archival coverage considered ‘opportunistic’.

Improving Partnerships in Academic Publishing

In response to the backlash, Taylor & Francis issued a statement that the new policy would not be implemented. Historic access was reinstated as part of the main subscription, alongside an apology for concerns generated by the new policy. Following the statement, library directors greeted the development and appreciated easy access to scholarly publications for University students and staff. Negotiations between Irish Universities and their next deal with Taylor & Francis are ongoing. Increasingly, the academic institutions are challenging academic publishers to implement a more accessible publishing model, while diminishing excess costs. Perhaps revolutionary change can be progressively achieved to replace the traditional academic publishing model after all.

What is the Difference between a Lead Author and Co-author?

lead-author-and-co-author

At first glance, the status of a “lead author” would seem to be fairly straightforward. If most of the work of a particular study is done by only one researcher then his name should come first in the citation. However, unless an agreement is reached among all authors defining what “the most work” means, misunderstandings will inevitably ensue and could lead to a conflict of interest. This situation can quickly deteriorate further to even academic misconduct if the list of authors doesn’t accurately reflect the extent of involvement for each author.

Definition of a “Lead Author” and “Co-Author”

The definition of a lead author and co-author are commonly considered as follows:

  1. Lead Author: He/She is also called as the first author and is the one who carries out the research as well as writes and edits the manuscript.
  2. Co-Author: He/She is the one who collaborates with the lead author and contributes to the work in the manuscript.

Assigning Authorship

One of the most significant issues in involving multiple authors in a research paper is the tendency to not be able to equally attribute each facet of the project to a specific researcher. For example, deference to seniority should not automatically equate to lead authorship status, but very often it does. The second assumption is that having a supervisor or senior author listed will improve both recognition and the chances of publication in a prestigious journal.

Related: Made a decision on the lead and co-author for your research paper? Check out this post for some orders and rules of authorship now!

At the other end, it is often assumed that junior researchers and staff members are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team and do not expect to be acknowledged as authors. As they often do much of the legwork for large projects, this assumption is highly disrespectful.

Establishing Boundaries

Operating on assumptions seriously undermines the importance of correct authorship status since such a designation carries with it academic, financial, and career implications. If the team has never worked together before and is committed to avoiding conflict over this issue, there are several good sources for general rules or codes of conduct that can be used to establish rules to which everyone can agree to comply. For example, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) identifies four criteria that should be met to “qualify” for authorship status:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content
  • Final approval of the work to be published
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

 

Such rules may not help to resolve ego issues where individual team members expect recognition based on what they bring to the team, but by keeping the topic focused on workload and accountability; these rules carry the clear message that authorship is earned not granted.

Avoiding Conflict

No matter how many hierarchical ranks exist in your department, it is wise not to transfer the same bureaucratic headaches to your authorship team. There can be only one “lead author”, and the aim should be to recognize the remaining members as “co-authors” who agree, in advance, to what tasks they will each be responsible for. Any issues about the perceived fairness of such designations can then be addressed in advance rather than fighting over performance failure prior to publication.

Importance of Research Ethics

There are multiple reasons why it is necessary to adhere to the basic norms of scientific conduct during academic research. The credibility of the scientific community and the perception of the public to judge and accept new results strongly depends on the authenticity of the results that have been published. It is particularly important to have a clear distinction between acceptable and unacceptable conduct especially when human beings or animals are involved in a study. Given the competitive nature of research, it has become increasingly challenging for scientists to report unique and pioneering research. Nevertheless, the practice of misreporting data and scientific results continues to be followed by some members of the research community.

Reality of Research Ethics

The most striking example of how research misconduct can destroy the lives of people is the case of Paolo Macchiarini, a surgeon who became famous for a supposed medical breakthrough that promised to revolutionize organ transplantation. The Italian scientist used synthetic scaffolds seeded with the patients’ stem cells to create trachea transplants. However, it turned out that his experiments on humans had no sound preclinical research foundation. At least seven of the nine patients that received the treatment died.

Related: Interested in learning more about unethical publishing practices? Check out this infographic on predatory publishing now!

Several investigations showed that Macchiarini manipulated some of the data in his scientific publications and reports, omitting or even fabricating results to make his treatments appear more successful. There has also been severe criticism in regards to the decision-making around all the operations. In the meantime, the scandal has led to Macchiarini’s dismissal and the resignation of several authorities from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden (Macchiarini’s former employer). Various papers co-authored by the Italian surgeon have also earned expressions of concern, including two highly cited articles published in Nature Communications and The Lancet.

Dos and Don’ts of Research Ethics

Do’s Don’ts
Maintaining a good record of all your research activities and report your data as carefully and objectively as possible. Fabrication, manipulation or misrepresentation of data.
Disclose financial or personal interests that may directly/indirectly affect your work. Deceiving research sponsors, colleagues, or ethical committees by having bias in data interpretation, peer review, or personnel decisions.
Treat animals with care and respect when studying them in your research and adhere to ethical guidelines. Use any external research data (published or unpublished) without permission.
Respect intellectual property, privacy, and confidentiality and give proper credit for any contributions from other researchers. Support irresponsible publication practices. Your main goal should be to advance science and share your knowledge within the community.

Ethical Requirements

In general, analyzing non-adherence to ethical norms is extremely difficult, and in some cases, drawing a clear line between misconduct and misunderstanding is very difficult. Although researchers do recognize ethical norms, they are interpreted and applied in different ways at different institutes. Researchers usually are required to ensure conformance to ethical requirements during scientific research, including the proper design and implementation of studies that involve human or animal experiments, avoiding scientific misconduct (such as data fabrication or plagiarism), following environmental and safety regulations, adhering to norms related to authorship and intellectual property, and keeping confidentiality agreements.

Policies of Research Ethics

Ethics committees play an important role in defining the standards that need to be met for research ethics and ensuring that they are met. Some influential policies relating to research ethics include those introduced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Chemical Society, or the European Network of Research Ethics Committees. Other guidelines such as the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki have been fundamental in defining human research ethics.

Despite recent scandals, including the cases of Paolo Macchiarini, Scott Reuben or Olivier Voinnet, the awareness about research ethics seems to be increasing in the scientific community. Several resources covering the most important aspects in this area are available and many academic institutions are now introducing educational curriculums to help researchers resolve ethical dilemmas.

Importance of Ethics Committees in Scholarly Research

Ethics committees review research proposals involving human participants and their data to ensure that they agree with local and international ethical guidelines. They also monitor studies once they begin and—if necessary—may take part in follow-up actions after the end of the research. Their main responsibility is to protect the subjects involved in the study and also consider the possible risks to the community and the environment. Ethics committees have the authority to approve, reject, modify, or stop studies that do not conform to the accepted standards.

Role of Ethics Committees

Most journals do not publish any results unless they have been approved by an ethics committee and they may withdraw published articles that exhibit any ethical problems. Recently, a study published in the journal Disability and Society was retracted after the human research ethics committee at the University of Waikato in New Zealand expressed concerns over the publishing methods used in the study.

The paper described the case of a girl who was born with a brain injury and was treated with hormones to keep her small, making it easier for her parents to take care of her. The procedure—known as the Ashley treatment—is rather controversial but seems to be on the rise. Although the Disability and Society study only analyzed a particular case (without actually involving any clinical subjects), the report was apparently inaccurate. The girl’s family finally decided to file a complaint against it.

In a similar case, the European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery retracted another manuscript about a heart surgery technique after discovering that the researchers did not have ethics approval to perform the procedure on 130 patients. It turned out that the Iranian Cardiac Surgical Society had already asked the authors to stop using the method back in 2004, six years before the study was complete. In the retraction notice, the editor-in-chief also advised other surgeons to refrain from using this technique.

Greater Transparency in Ethics Committees

It is clear that poor regulation can cause severe harm to patients, as demonstrated in the case of Paolo Macchiarini, where a series of irregularities surrounding his recruitment and research activities at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm served as a platform for his unacceptable behavior. Thus, independent and reliable committees are essential to ensure high ethical standards in the scientific community.

In a study published recently in the British Medical Journal, a group of scientists have called for more transparency in the processes followed by the ethics committee. According to the researchers, any documentation related to the ethical approval of clinical trials should be freely available, allowing ethical decisions to be publicly reviewed and discussed. They believe that this could help researchers to minimize participant harms and maintain public trust.

Members of an Ethics Committee

Most research ethics committees include both individuals with scientific or medical expertise and non-scientists. The reason is that some risks, particularly those related to social, legal, or cultural considerations, may be more easily identified by non-scientific members, whereas the procedures and scientific validity of the study design must be evaluated by experts in the field. Ideally, gender balance and social diversity should also be reflected in the committee’s composition. Moreover, the membership should be designed in such a way as to minimize conflicts of interest in the decision-making process.

Good Team Work is Essential

There are several situations where researchers and ethics committees must work together. These include

  • Identifying and weighing up the risks and benefits of a study (considering human subjects, animals, the community, and the environment).
  • Recognizing any financial or personal interests that may affect the research.
  • Evaluating the recruitment process and any incentives that will be given to the participants.
  • Assessing the procedures and methods used to ask for participants’ informed consent.
  • Ensuring that all the research activities are recorded properly and reported in a responsible, honest, and objective way.
  • Guaranteeing fairness, confidentiality, and privacy for all the subjects involved in the study—or at least full transparency about data-sharing in cases where absolute confidentiality is not possible.

If the research also includes medical interventions, scientists and ethics committees must make sure that adequate care and treatment will be provided.

How to Cite the DOI of a Journal Article

DOI

DOI (digital object identifier) is an identification code for a journal article or other published works. The code was developed and introduced in 2000 by the International DOI Foundation (IDF) and is assigned by the publisher. A DOI is generated by a registration agency (Crossref) that contains an alphanumeric string beginning with “10” and a prefix of four or more numbers. The prefix is followed by a slash (/) and a suffix. The suffix is assigned by the publisher.

DOIs create unique uniform resource locators (URLs) that begin with https://doi.org/. For example, the DOI https://doi.org/10.1086/679716 will take you to the article titled “Scott’s Editing: History, Polyphony, Authority” by Robert Mayer, published in the May 2015 issue of Modern Philology. DOIs are used as electronic links to an article’s location and helps identify an article’s subject matter. They should always be used in your printed or electronic articles or in any other published materials. DOIs are usually placed on the first page of a journal article.

Crossref recently changed the DOI format to make it more web-friendly and secure. There is only a slight difference between the old and new formats, but be sure to check the new format and incorporate it into your references.

Citations and References

Citation and reference are two different things. A citation is a note within the text in parentheses and a reference is the full expansion of that note (all the information necessary to find the referenced material). You can cite passages or quotations and provide a citation for that within the text.

An example of in-text citation would be (Johnson 2017) in parentheses, or it could be just a numeral in brackets or superscript. A reference list would then list all the citations in alphabetical or numeric order, depending on the author guidelines.

Note that some style guides prefer to use the word “bibliography” instead of “references.” Be aware that these two words actually mean the same thing.

The following is a list of some style guides and how they prefer to list DOIs in their references.

American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association (APA) style guide is used mainly in the social sciences. APA uses the “author-date” style for in-text citations (e.g., Johnson, 2017). Note the comma after the name and before the date.

When referencing the citations in the reference list, APA style is to include the DOI for all electronic media. The typical reference in APA style would use the following format:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or http://dx.doi.org/10.0000/0000.

An example of a reference in APA style is as follows: (boldface type added for emphasis but not included in the reference):

Morey, C. C., Cong, Y., Zheng, Y., Price, M., & Morey, R. D. (2015). The color-sharing bonus: Roles of perceptual organization and attentive processes in visual working memory. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 3, 18–29. https://doi.org/10.1037/arc0000014.

Note the DOI is placed at the end of the reference.

American Medical Association

The American Medical Association (AMA) style is a guide used by medical researchers and those who are part of the medical and scientific publishing industry. The DOI included at the end of a reference in AMA style is similar to that in APA style, except that AMA does not require the preceding “https://” notation. An example of AMA reference style is as follows:

Coppinger T, Jeanes YM, Hardwick J, Reeves S. Body mass, frequency of eating and breakfast consumption in 9-13- year-olds. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2012; 25(1): 43-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2011.01184.x

Modern Language Association

The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is most commonly used in the liberal arts and humanities fields of study. MLA style is a bit different from APA or AMA in that its in-text citations include a page number (e.g., Johnson 15) instead of a date after the author name. If the author name is used within the text itself, only the page number is noted in the citation.

Although MLA does not require that a DOI or URL be used in a reference, it is a good idea to do so, especially when the journal or your professor prefers it. An example reference in MLA style is as follows:

Alonso, Alvaro, and Julio A. Camargo. “Toxicity of Nitrite to Three Species of Freshwater Invertebrates.” Environmental Toxicology, vol. 21, no. 1, 3 Feb. 2006, pp. 90-94. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1002/tox.20155.

Note that in MLA style, the full names of the authors are listed, not just the last name and initials. The names are arranged by the first author’s last name first and subsequent authors’ first then last names. The title of the work is in quotation marks.

No DOI?

Many older published papers might not have a DOI. If your article has no DOI, you can use the words “retrieved from” in your reference with a link to the journal’s homepage on the Internet. Do not use the web page that hosted the specific article. An example of an APA reference in which there is no DOI is as follows:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number. Retrieved from http://www.journalhomepage.com/full/url/.

As always, be sure to check author guidelines of your target journal for specific rules on citations and references.

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.

Organization

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.

Abstract

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.

Introduction

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.

Conclusions

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.

References

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: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/title
  2. The Journal of European Psychology Students has a blog article focusing on APA-compliant research paper titles: http://blog.efpsa.org/2012/09/01/how-to-write-a-good-title-for-journal-articles/
  3. This article by Kristen Hamlin contains a step-by-step approach to writing titles: http://classroom.synonym.com/choose-title-research-paper-4332.html

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!

 

References

  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: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/title