Monday, August 31, 2009

Quote about submitting a paper

As a reviewer, I see a lot of papers that are sent in with the idea that they will do the final editing after the reviews (or perhaps that the reviewers will provide what they need to edit to final form). My personal view is that when you submit a paper it should be in final form and that you should be comfortable with the paper going directly to press as is. It is a waste of time for all of us to review anything less.
-Prof. Jim Steenburgh, Chair, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah


Blogger jimmyc said...

Having recently reviewed two papers in which one was well written and the other not (as per the quote), I was struck by how much more meaningful my review was with the former paper. The latter paper was frustrating, left itself open to interpretation, and took considerable more time.

Perhaps the relevant lesson is that time needs to be factored in to the submission process on the authors side. Put the paper down for a month. Re-read like a reviewer. Correct the paper then submit. If you can find a local pre-reviewer, then maybe you can save some time.

August 31, 2009 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger David Schultz said...

Hi jimmyc,

You are correct about writing a review of a poorly written paper. It takes a lot more effort to write that review well. Another thing that often happens is disparate recommendations from the reviewers: one major revision, one minor revision, and one rejection.

This is another reason why you should always start early. If you have time to leave the manuscript sitting for a while, doing so always helps. Stephen King in On Writing recommends letting your book manuscript sit for at least six weeks before picking it up again and making revisions.

August 31, 2009 at 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to point out that in my opinion, there is no such thing as "final form". One can edit to what they think is a 100% perfect manuscript to find that three people have three completely different re-works of the paper. I have seen this in several reviews. I always try to do my very best with submissions, but the nature of the review process (subjective) could make editing go on forever.

As a young scientist, I often struggle with how to handle responses to reviewers. Should I change everything they say for fear of rejection even though I disagree or should I be bold and stand up for my data/interpretations? So far, I have done something in the middle. Any advice would be appreciated although I have a feeling it is both reviewer/editor dependent.

September 8, 2009 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger David Schultz said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, you are correct. When is a manuscript ever in final form? I think an author can never be too disconnected from their own writing, so peer review points out aspects of the science and writing that could be improved.

Even after I've written and rewritten a manuscript, had a dozen people informally review the manuscript, had three formal peer reviews, and scrutinized the page proofs, I can still discover things I could have said better, let alone nagging typographical errors.

I think Jim's point in the quote is that if in some fantastic reality all reviewers said the paper was perfect as is, then you should be comfortable with it going to press.

September 8, 2009 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger David Schultz said...

Anonymous raised some good points about responding to reviews. I will address them in a separate post.

Good question!

September 8, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

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