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One basic element of publication ethics requires that an author give proper credit to those who contributed to the research. There are two ways to violate this guideline: not giving enough credit and giving too much credit.

Too little credit:
Researchers are often accused of claiming more credit than they deserve for a notable research result. Claiming a breakthrough without acknowledging previous work leading up to it is quite common in the history of science and has led to some famous controversies over priority. In fact, Lavoisier may not have been the “Father of Chemistry” so much as the gifted pupil of several other researchers. He definitely built on earlier work in his field but had a way of writing his results that implied, without quite saying so, that he had come up with all the ideas on his own. If deliberate, this was unethical. Isaac Newton, though he modestly spoke of standing on the shoulders of giants, was not always so generous to living rivals. If he didn’t like a certain researcher, he wouldn’t cite him in an article any more than was absolutely necessary. This is unethical but is fairly common practice among researchers even today.

Too much credit:
Giving unjustified credit is just as unethical as denying credit although it rarely provokes the affected party in the same way. Giving copious but unnecessary citations to a colleague (“courtesy citations”) is one example. Including a colleague as a coauthor when he had contributed nothing to the content of the paper is more egregious, especially if the colleague happens to be a superior. This sort of author padding was said to be common practice in the Soviet Union. “Their equivalent of the chairman of the department gets his name on every paper in the department,” a friend informed me. Different customs and cultural factors make this a grey area. How much autonomy do the individual researchers have and how does the chairman actually involve himself in the work? When does an acknowledgement of “helpful discussions” transition to a coauthorship? A flagrant example of unjustified credit occurred in 1948 when grad student Ralph Alpher and his adviser George Gamow prepared a paper on “The Origin of Chemical Elements,” arguing that the Big Bang would have created all the elements found in the early universe. Before sending it off to Physical Review, Gamow added the name of his friend Hans Bethe as coauthor. His justification for doing this was nothing more than “It seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only.” Get it? Alpha, beta, gamma—A, B, C. Bethe was amused. Not Alpher. He thought that having two well known physicists listed as coauthors on the paper would minimize his contribution. As much as I like a good joke in science, I have to agree.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

08 November 2010  |  Posted in Journal requirements, Text formatting  |  1 Comment »

Authors are required to follow prescribed writing styles, formats and guidelines mandated by a research journal when submitting articles for publication. This is to ensure that an article is consistent with the language and presentation quality characteristic to that journal. These criteria are usually outlined on the “Instructions to Authors” (also referred to as “Guidelines to Authors”) page/s of the journal. The first step in preparing an article for publication is to check the requirements specified by the chosen journal.

There are several generic requirements and conventions, and in addition there are ones pertaining to specific subject areas. These are related to language and presentation, conventions, notations, citations and other aspects. These guidelines are typically updated at periodic intervals at meetings of eminent and experienced editors in specific fields. Some of the commonly used style guides and manuals are listed below.

Listing of style guides
 Type/Subject Area

 Association/Organization  Style Guide

 General  Modern Language Association

 MLA Style Manual: 3rd Ed.

 General  American Psychological Association

 APA Style Manual: 6th Ed.

 General  University of Chicago Press

 Chicago Manual of Style: 16th Ed.

 Physics and Astronomy

 American Institute of Physics  AIP Style Manual: 4th Ed.
 Chemistry  American Chemical Society

 ACS Style Guide: 3rd Ed.

 Biology  Council of Science Editors

 CSE Manual: 7th Ed.

 Mathematics  American Mathematical Society

 AMS Handbook

 Engineering  Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers  2009 IEEE Style Manual
 Medicine  American Medical Association  AMA Manual of Style: 10th Ed.
 Meteorology  American Meteorological Society  AMS Style Manual

The above list is representative, but is not meant to be comprehensive.

Once an article is written in conformity with the appropriate guidelines specified above, professional editing services can be utilized to crosscheck or improve on both language and presentation aspects. This can serve to expedite both the editorial and peer-review process, and increase the chances of acceptance of the article for publication.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

11 October 2010  |  Posted in Journal requirements, Rejection  |  Comment on this post »

Researchers usually dread the prospect of having their manuscript rejected when it is submitted for publication, since it represents a big setback to their endeavors. There are myriad reasons for this, and it is essential to understand the fundamental considerations involved in maximizing the probability of acceptance. This post outlines the journal requirements and research aspects with an example of relevant data.

The next post will summarize the typical concerns that a peer reviewer may have, and some tips to reduce the chances of rejection.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

15 September 2010  |  Posted in Choice of journal, Journal requirements  |  Comment on this post »

The first consideration should be to look at the pros and cons of open-access publishing unique to your situation. If you decide to publish in an open-access journal, you should be aware of the following:

You can locate the appropriate journal by consulting your peers or by browsing through the Directory of Open Access Journals, or similar listings.

Open Access does not imply that there are no publication charges for the author, though this is true in some of the cases. In some instances, the publication charges can be significantly more than traditional journals. Even when journals charge for publishing, you could request the charges to be waived citing special circumstances.

Once the journal is chosen, prepare the article in the format suitable for the journal. The fact that you are able to upload your article directly and have it visible to the world instantly (“gold” open-access journals) should motivate you to self-review the article in an even more stringent manner.

Keep in mind that peer review will be performed at some point in the future.

There are new models of open-access journals like overlay journals which accept preprints from archives, interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary journals which venture into areas at the interface of more than one subject area, and different level journals which are composed of different tiers within a topic.

Usually, you will be able to retain copyright on your article.

Everyone may not have access to your article. There may be barriers resulting from connectivity, language and filtering.

An example of popular open-access journals published in the fields of medical research and biology is BioMedCentral. Another example is J-STAGE: Japan Science and Technology Information Aggregator, Electronic, an online collection of over 600 journals.

It should be emphasized that open-access journals are distinct from open-access repositories or archives. This will be discussed in detail in the next post.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

13 September 2010  |  Posted in Choice of journal, Journal requirements  |  Comment on this post »

The term Open Access encompasses a variety of research contributions intended for dissemination to the research community. These can be broadly classified into two types:

(1) Open Access journals

(2) Open Access repositories or archives

The distinguishing characteristic between open access journals and repositories is that peer review is performed for journals and is not required for archives or repositories. The peer-review process allows articles published in open-access journals to retain a quality similar to traditional journals.

From the authors’ perspective, an additional advantage may be the ability to retain copyright in the case of certain journals.

Different categories of open-access journals are evolving depending on whether the article is accepted from a repository/archive, if the journal scope extends to inter- or multi-disciplinary topics, or whether there are different levels of journals embedded within a single one.

Open-access repositories are usually arranged by subject area (e.g. arXiv for Physics and other areas, CiteSeerx with a focus on computers and information science) or by institution. Although peer review is not performed, authors are limited in terms of how much they can contribute to a given repository. Both preprints and post-prints can be part of the repository.

In addition to preprints and post-prints, archives can host additional material like raw and processed data, audio/video files, dissertations or theses, lecture notes and other such content.

Open Access content can also be classified based on the rights of authors:

Color Code Features
Gold Gives access to its research articles right after submission
Green Permits authors to archive post-prints
Pale Green Allows authors to archive preprints
Gray None of the above

The above classification was defined by Peter Suber. The gold/green classification is almost universally recognized, though there are other, slightly different versions of the color code.

More about various ways in which you can disseminate content through the open access mode can be found in future posts.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

Research paper topics, editing proofreading serviceHow to publish in a research journal
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