Painful Science – getting published is tough!

By Eloise Mikkonen

jdborjon

Eloise tweets @DrEllaOfScience

I thought it would be important to point out a few of the struggles related to being a researcher, and how exhausting some aspects can be. I’m pretty sure many have written about the pains of writing grant applications and how the majority of your submissions are rejected (the national Academy of Finland had just 11% funded from last year’s postdoctoral researcher call). It’s a sad state in reality, but that’s not even the worst of it.

If you are successfully funded, or still trying to publish without funding, there’s an aspect behind it all that is unknown to most of the general population. Publishing your work. It’s not simply a matter of finalising the experiments, analysing the results, writing up your work and bam! New publication added to your list. Noooooooo. Far from it. At least in my experience anyway. I’ve had 7 publications in total. That’s not really a lot compared to many, but 5 of them I’ve been the corresponding author, which means I have the responsibility of checking everything before sending it off to the editors of various journals.

It all starts with thinking about where you want to publish. Go for a high impact factor journal? Impressive on the CV, but can be a lot of work. Open access? Can cost THOUSANDS of euros (at least in the realm of €2000-€3000). Then there’s the topic and scope of the article and journal itself to consider. Lots of things to think about. This is followed by formatting the manuscript text to the chosen journal’s guidelines and then filling in all the forms in the online submission regarding what the article encompasses, and topics covered, suggested reviewers (and reviewers you don’t want to see your work – for various reasons such as they are competitors or you know they have a disagreement with your work), as well as mundane things such as word count and picture files (which need to be of a certain high quality, but not too high initially that they take forever for the reviewers to download).

Submit! And….wait. Reviewers can take anywhere between a couple of weeks and months. Depending on the journal, and the prestige behind reviewers who are well known in particular fields and chosen for their expertise, you can be waiting a long time. Or, as usually happens to me, you get a response from the editors a couple of days later announcing they aren’t interested in your work, or it isn’t broad/specific enough for their journal scope, or “we have so many submissions we can only accept a few,” bla bla bla.

Then, it starts again. Choose a new journal, reformat the entire thing for the new guidelines, which can involve redoing images, reformatting reference lists, reordering parts of the manuscript and different requirements for what should be included in the materials and methods etc… and then submit again. Phew! This can happen multiple times. At least it has for me. On average I send a paper through to about 4 journals before it gets reviewed. And even after being reviewed, it can still be rejected or require a heap of additional experiments before being accepted for publication. It can take in the least months to get a paper accepted for publication, or even years.

Talk about painful. But without sharing our work, we don’t get recognition, can’t develop collaborations, can’t get further funding… So, we persist and hopefully, eventually, we’ll succeed and receive the recognition that we deserve. Just thought you all should know it’s not that simple and get as excited as some of us early stage researchers do when we get things published! J

Good luck to all the other researchers getting their work published out there!

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