Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Journals online are leading to more recent and fewer citations

When The Economist is covering a story about science publishing, you know it has got to be interesting!

James Evans published an article in Science that studied 34 million articles published in journals that made their archives available online. He found that "as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles."

My observation is consistent with Evans's results that more and more authors are forgetting where we came from, not citing older literature, and limiting the number of research citations. Also, more specialized fields, like data assimilation and ensembles, don't have as rich a history (despite recent historical reviews in MWR by John Lewis on the scientific origins of these fields).

Evans's article reminds us all that part of being a scientist is conducting the scholarship of where our science came from. Being aware of and reading articles, not only the most recent ones, but the historical ones, as well. Without those shoulders to stand upon, we risk not seeing farther.


Evans, J. E., 2008: Electronic publication and the narrowing of science and scholarship. Science, 321, 395, DOI: 10.1126/science.1150473.

Lewis, J.M., 2005: Roots of Ensemble Forecasting. Mon. Wea. Rev., 133, 1865–1885.

Lewis J, Lakshmivarahan S (2008) Sasaki's Pivotal Contribution: Calculus of Variations Applied to Weather Map Analysis. Monthly Weather Review: In Press

(Thanks to Roger Edwards and Steve Weiss for alerting me to this article.)

(Photo from Jupiter Images, as appearing in The Economist)

Monday, August 11, 2008

What if your manuscript gets rejected?

If the editor has encouraged you to revise and resubmit to the same journal, you should do so. That means the editor thinks that your paper has the potential to get published, if you follow the advice of the reviewers and the editor. Consider the recommendations of the reviewers and editor seriously, revise the paper, decide on a strategy (same journal or different journal), and resubmit the revised manuscript if you think the work is good enough. If you resubmit to the same journal, state in your cover letter that this manuscript was previously rejected and include what revisions you have made to address the reviewers' concerns.

This last point is important. Even if it is not required, I encourage authors to write a response to the original reviewers and send that response to the editor when they resubmit, as if they were resubmitting following major revisions. There are several advantages of this approach. First, like writing the manuscript helps clarify your argument, I believe that writing a formal response benefits the clarity of the revisions to the manuscript. Second, the authors get their say against hostile reviewers. Third, the response allows the editor to weigh the relative views of the author versus the reviewer. Fourth, based on how effectively the editor thinks the author rebutted the reviewers, the editor can choose to send the revised manuscript back to the original reviewers (with the response) or choose entirely different reviewers who are unfamiliar with the struggles of the manuscript.

(Image from