Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Total Drek Tips for Publishing Journal Articles...

Folks outside the academy may or may not know that we use a system called "peer review." The basic idea is simple: when you write a scientific article you submit it to a journal for publication. Upon determining that it isn't written in some sort of crazy moon language,* they send this article out to about three other scholars who have some sort of expertise in the same area as the article.** These scholars read your work and try to find any glitches, errors, oversights, typos, pop culture references, split infinitives, or sentences with an insufficient number of polysyllabic words. They then either recommend that the journal accept the paper, ask the author to revise and resubmit (aka an "R&R") or reject it entirely. Editors also have the ability to issue a "conditional accept," meaning that the article is in assuming certain (usually) small changes are made and, increasingly, seem to be issuing "reject and resubmit," which seems to be code for "My reviewers think you're shit, but I'm hoping they're wrong."

Ideally speaking this process increases the quality of published articles by making sure that competent professionals review whatever is going to see print. It's an extra check on our ambitions. In practice it mostly does that but, as scientists are human, the quality of reviews sometimes varies. Every now and then a reviewer turns out to be a total nutball and the process goes a tad awry. By the same token, sometimes it isn't the reviewer but rather the author of the paper who is the issue. Some papers get submitted to journals when, in all honesty, they're not yet ready to be turned in at the end of an undergraduate research course.***

I haven't been a sociologist for all that long and have comparatively little experience with the publications system. I do not have a long vita chock full of publications and haven't reviewed dozens and dozens of papers. As such, you should take my advice with a very large grain of salt. Nevertheless, I have a tip for those who aspire to publish scientific work:

Publishing Tip #1: When the adjective that springs to mind to describe an article's choice of methods is "incomprehensible," it's probably a bad sign.

Thank you.****

* Not always a prerequisite, given some of the articles I've reviewed.

** Hopefully, anyway, Sometimes- given the comments I've received- I wonder if they even found someone in my discipline.

*** No, I'm not being harsh. I don't know who you're reviewing for, but some of the papers I see scare the crap out of me.

**** I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide whether this tip derives from a review I have received or a review I am writing. Either way, I feel it important to note that while I would never actually use the word "incomprehensible" in this sense in a review, I am quite certain that not all reviewers have as much restraint. For that matter, I'm convinced that one or more of my past reviewers wanted to kill me just to watch me die. I do not find this distressing, however, as it resembles nothing so much as my dating life prior to meeting my Sainted Fiancee. Even more amusing, some of you will think I'm joking about that.*****

***** No, really. Ask my Former Hypothetical Roommate- one of my ex-girlfriends is routinely referred to as "the one who hated you."

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Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

Re "incomprehensible" methods, my recent junket to Austria was primarily to deliver that message (in somewhat more polite language) regarding a paper submitted to the conference. An issue there was that four of the five co-authors were taking the the quantitative methods of the fifth on faith, and the fifth co-author is one of the sort who doesn't know what he doesn't know about.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just the solution: the blind reviewer voodoo doll!

Sunday, July 29, 2007 9:31:00 AM  

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