Funding your Research: A Far-reaching Aspect

In a research scholar’s career, the main hurdle to his/her accomplishment is the lack of grants for his/her research. At times, the scholars spend sleepless nights worrying about finding funding resources for their research studies.

Testing or developing theories calls for an in-depth research, with that comes huge funding needs. Hence, here are some of the suggestions that will surely mitigate the funding burden on the research scholars and help them to focus more on their research findings.

Suitable funding resources

National Institutes of Health (NIH): It is the largest public funding organisation for biomedical research in the world, which invests billions of dollars every year with an aim to enhance life, and reduce illness and disability through frequent innovative researches. NIH has funded varied studies that proved as breakthroughs in treatment and prevention, and helping people sustain longer, lead healthy life, and building a foundation for discoveries.

Grants.Gov: It is considered as one of the largest funding sources for research works in the USA.

National Science Foundation (NSF): It is a funding resource for scientists and researchers desiring federal grants for their research studies. NSF has gained fame in providing financial support to academic institutions for basic research and experiments. It has surpassed the margin marked by NIH.

Newton’s List: It is one of the globally available resources providing grants for basic experiments and research works in agricultural sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, or technology.

Terra Viva Grants Directory: It is a better option of funding resource with both information and opportunities for researchers seeking project grants for fields like agriculture, energy, environment, and natural resources.

Office of Extramural Research (OER) at NIH: It is one of the biggest sources of research grants in category of scientific research across the word. They do not restrict their assistance to funding only, instead they also guide the researcher with their leadership skills, oversight view, and tools required in administering and managing the NIH grants policies and operations.

The Spencer Foundation: It is the best place to approach for funding scientists and researchers who are initiating their studies on a low scale based only on the novelty of the research work.

Universities or Institutes: If you are affiliated with the University, You can directly visit your university office or the department head. Many recognized universities have offices that deal with sponsored programs. They can coordinate your request for grants and helps you unearth the various opportunities available with them.

Fiscal sponsorship: You can also enquire about the funding sources from your colleagues or peers. They can help you find out certain non-profit organization who shares your research interest. In this case, you might get hold of more grant opportunities.

Usage of machine translation software in academic writing

The number of research articles submitted by non-native English speaking authors is increasing rapidly. However, the language barrier and time constraints are hindering their publication in English journals. With an intention to expand the reach of such innovative researches to other scholars and researchers, automated or machine translation software is a trending tool among academicians.

Akin to online proofreading software, the machine translation system is readily available on the web at little or no fee. Software such as Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish are widely used in translating content through the rules-based systems. These systems are based on the translation techniques that analyze word patterns in the text in the documents that have been previously published or translated.

Cons of machine translation

Though useful to some extent, machine translation causes several errors in the document, thus affecting comprehension. Some serious mistakes recorded till date include:

  • Unnecessary fragments of the sentences in the translated material
  • Redundant and lengthy sentences creating confusion
  • Phrases ordered in an illogical manner
  • Word-by-word translation instead of contextual translation

The poor sentence structure along with errors in syntax and terminologies result in lack of clarity in the content and affect readability and comprehension. Eventually, the translated manuscripts or articles get rejected by journal editors because of a lack of clarity and coherence.

Machine translation software vs. Human Translators

Automated translation systems have been used for several years with the aforementioned drawbacks. Hence, the idea of utilizing machine translation software, i.e., Google Translate, Bing Translator, and Babel Fish, etc., is a risky one. Conversely, it is more advisable to use the expertise of academic translators to maintain or even enhance the integrity of the research material. Even if more expensive, manual translation services are worth it because they add credence to your manuscript.

Proper Citation: A Key Norm in Academic Publishing

What to Cite?
Academic publishing is important for the career enhancement of every researcher. A long string of publications under the belt of a researcher not only performs the constructive role of filling gaps in existing research, but also enhances the chances of the researcher being cited by other researchers. The number of times your research work is cited indicates the impact of the study in your research field.
Researchers usually draft their own investigations in the light of discoveries of other researches. In the process, it is vital for these study findings to be recognized as standalone researches by maintaining a strategic distance from issues like copyright infringements and plagiarism. To walk this academic tightrope, researchers take care to refer to previous studies by presenting the thoughts of the first researcher in one’s own writing and by referring to the earlier publication. Other than recognizing the work of different researchers, the citation process also helps readers discover the source article and refer to it to acquire more data or details.
The advent of the World Wide Web and the Internet has helped the process of identifying fitting, reliable, and logical scientific information and using it in one’s research with proper citations. The researcher takes recourse to online search tools, for example Google Scholar or PubMed, to gather information about publications revolving around the proposed research area. To disentangle the mass of search results, it is important to sieve research articles that could form part of the critical reading list.
Demonstrating In-Text Citing
The purpose of referencing or in-text citation is to give credit where it is expected. There are various reference style guides and it is up to the researcher and the requirements of the target journal to choose the most suitable one. If it’s a book citation, the author needs to consider the detailed referencing guidelines specific for books. In case of a thesis, the concerned university will have a favored reference style that needs to be followed. In case of research journals, one needs to visit the author page to peruse “Instruction for Authors.” Here, the author would get a bird’s-eye view of the required referencing style along with the in-text citation style. Once the reference style has been chosen, it is critical to remain faithful to the reference style in a consistent manner throughout the manuscript.
Here are three ways to use in-text research citations.
– Name-Year format: The surname of the first author is mentioned, followed by the publication year in brackets after the text.
For e.g.:
(Smith, 2017) or “Huron et al. (2017) stated that the tumor regeneration process was…”
– Citation-Sequence and Citation-Name: Both these citation styles are widely used by many journals. These two mainstream referencing styles are fundamentally the same. In both, in-text referencing is a number that compares to the full reference in the reference list. In case of Citation-Sequence, the number relates to every article’s ordered appearance. In case of Citation-Name format, the list of sources is arranged alphabetically. For example, if the primary article referenced in the manuscript was a work of Smith (an anonymous author name), this paper would be doled out the number 1. In the numbered book reference, if Citation-Sequence style is used, Smith would be the primary reference in the reference list. If Citation-Name style is used, the reference list would be arranged alphabetically, and the in-text number assigned to Smith would relate to whatever position Smith has in the reference list.
Hence, it is vital for a researcher or author to follow the reference style guide in an organized manner. Notably, footnotes are by and large not utilized as a part of logically written scientific work. Besides, there are style guides that demand abbreviating the journal names. For e.g.: International Journal of Civil Engineering can be abbreviated as ‎Int. J. Civ. Eng.
Fortunately, there are currently many reference management tools accessible to researchers and scientists. These tools assist academic research in maintaining consistency in reference citations with an assortment of style guides. Few examples are Mendeley, Zotero, EndNote, and Papers. These are additional reference directories, which are purchasable. However, all these reference managers also offer scholarly or understudy discounts.
Academic Publishing, Academic Research, Authors, Researchers

Is the world of academia facing the gender disparity issue?

Gender-biased selection is a prominent concern in academics. This gender disparity is not only restricted to scientists and researchers, but also in evidence during the selection of peer reviewers.

Peer review is a vital process before acceptance of a paper in order to evaluate the research methods and validate the findings. It is conducted by subject experts and researchers of the concerned faculty. Despite having the same expertise and knowledge, male authors are preferred as peer reviewers over their female counterparts. Although nearly two-thirds of published authors in Australia are women, peer reviewers of two-thirds of the books are men. This disproportionate ratio has been valid for the last 30 years.

A recent analysis has revealed that most of the authors or scientists suggest male reviewers instead of female ones. Based on these recommendations, the journals also narrow down their list of peer reviewers by adding few male reviewers from their panel.  Eventually, the list comprises more male reviewers than their female counterparts that leads to gender disparity.

Being assigned as a peer reviewer is also considered as a networking tool for scientific collaborations; these reviewers seek out authors whose work they admire. Moreover, they also mention the journals that selected them to review papers in their resumes while applying for positions in faculties, research grants, and awards.

Brooks Hanson, an earth scientist and publication director at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, commented that peer reviewing is not only about the manuscript or author that are being examined, but the reviewers also get varied benefits from it. Besides, the reviewers get a chance to view the manuscripts instead of only reviewing the substantial and factual data. Consequently, the process turns out to be a learning session for the reviewer also.

Empirical data also supports the existence of gender-biased selections. In its annual report, the Australian international body of Vida showed the disparities between the writings of women and men in Britain and the US. In another survey in UK, women were found to be the buyers of two-thirds of the total books sold in Britain, and 50% of women consider themselves avid readers compared to 26% of men who felt similarly inclined. However, male authors are recorded to be winning more awards for their research, which are included in course syllabi at both high school and tertiary levels. In short, male authors are considered (erroneously) to be academically more talented than female authors.

The world of academics cannot afford such gender disparity in writing and research. Therefore, decision-makers are urged to encourage the academics fraternity by providing writers, reviewers, and readers an equal opportunity, irrespective of their gender, for a more wholesome future of the scientific and academic community.

Choosing a journal: Open access or traditional publication?

journal selection : Open access or traditional publication

What is open access publishing?

Open access (OA) publishing provides researchers and readers free access to research articles online. In case of OA journals, an article processing fee is levied on the authors after acceptance of the paper. This charge is payable by the researcher, author or the institution the author is affiliated to. However, certain OA journals do not charge any fee and support their operations through sponsorship or subscriptions of the journals.

What is traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing refers to a type of contract between the author and the publisher. In this type of publishing, the author receives a portion of the revenue generated from sales of the journals. This is also known as the “royalty payment model.”

Which route to adopt?

Various factors play a determining role for authors adopting either the open access or the traditional route for publication.

Many researchers consider the open access model as economically unsustainable because it imposes an additional financial burden on them as well as on the institute they are affiliated to. But again, it comes with a basket-full of advantages, such as a much quicker publication process compared to the traditional mode and enhanced visibility of the research to a broader audience. On the other hand, traditional publications have incorporated many reforms in their business models. They ensure manuscript quality and a brand value.

Many publishing houses place the onus on the author. They give authors the choice of either disseminating the research to a wide research community through an OA publication, or opting for the traditional mode of publication.

With the advent of the Internet, we are habituated to rapid changes in business models of the publication industry. However, the journal publication business has been relatively more resistant to change. That is a function of the prevailing academic culture, where the importance of a publication is recognized through the brand value of journals and their ability to promote the publication and win research grants.

Preparing tables for research papers

How to effectively prepare tables for research papers

Tables and illustrations are important tools for efficiently communicating information and data contained in your research paper to the readers. They present complex results in a comprehensible and organized manner.

However, it is advisable to use tables and illustrations wisely so as to maximize the impact of your research.They should be organized in an easy-to-understand format to convey the information and findings collected in your research. The tabular information helps the reader identify the theme of the study more readily. Although data tables should be complete,they should not be too complex. Instead of including a large volume of data in a single unwieldy table, it is prudent to use small tables to help readers identify the important information easily.

Here are some points you should consider before drafting the tables in your research paper:

  • Finalize the results that are required to be presented in tabular form.
  • Include the data or results that are relevant to the main aim of the study without being choosy and including only those results that support your hypothesis.
  • Create each table in a lucid manner and style without cluttering it with in-table citations.
  • Number the tables in a sequence according to their occurrence in the text.
  • Don’t mix tables with figures. Maintain separate numbering systems for tables and figures.
  • Create tables in a storytelling manner. Remember that your tables communicate a story to the reader that runs parallel to the text.
  • If you are using or reproducing tables from other published articles, obtain permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) or/andacknowledge the source.
  • Do not repeat the tabular contents in the text again; that will create confusion among readers.
  • Use clear and informative text for each table title.
  • Take extra care while extending the data in your tables. If you have too many tables, consider using them as appendices or supplementary materials.
  • Create tables with sufficient spacing in the layout so that they do not look messy, crowded, or cluttered.
  • Do not forget to spell out abbreviations used in the tables, ideally in the footnotes.

For the reader, a research paper that is dense and text-heavy can be tiresome. Conversely, tables not only encapsulate your data lucidly, but also welcome a visual relief for the reader. They add value to the layout of your paper. Besides, and more importantly, reviewers often glance at your tabulated data and illustrations first before delving into the text. Therefore, tables can be the initial draw for a reviewer and deliver a positive impact about your research paper. If you can achieve an optimum balance among your text, tables, and illustrations, it can go a long way toward being published.

Preparing your figures for research papers

How to prepare your figures for research papers

Often a research paper is embedded with loads of data and complex results and it might not be viable to include all them in the space-constrained paper. Hence, this calls for effective presentation of the information in the form of figures or diagrams. In fact, figures are the most powerful tools that leave a strong visual impact for both reviewers and readers.

Here are few tips on how you can improve the presentation of figures in your research paper.

  • Ensure that the components of the figures are clearly visible including the lines and text.
  • Always use a standard font style and size for the figure text.
  • Every figure needs to have a legend. The legend should support your figure entirely. The reader should be able to understand your figure, paired with its legend, without going to the results or method sections.
  • All abbreviations in the figure legends need to be consolidated and spelt out.
  • All parts of the figure need to be labelled. The symbols, lines, colors, abbreviations, error bars, scale bars, and other components need to be defined and described properly.
  • If you are using photographs of your human subjects, don’t forget to obtain an informed signed consent for the same.
  • Do not be afraid to use lengthy figure and table captions—better that than confusing or incomplete ones.
  • Do not forget to cite the figure that has been taken from another source and supports your present study. Use the same citation style throughout the paper.
  • All journals have their specific requirements for formatting figures, such as file format, font size, font style, image resolution, style of numbering, etc. Adhere to these guidelines before submission.
  • Cite figures in the main text at the appropriate place where the text is supported by a particular figure.

The figures in your research paper communicate a parallel story to the reader. In fact, the reader can derive a fairly good idea of your paper by just scanning the figures in the paper. Remember that figures are not just tools to beautify your text; they are the heart of your research and an intrinsic part of your research paper. This highlights the importance of organizing the figures well so that they are able to perform as an excellent prop for your text.

Research problem: A statement of intent

Research problem: A statement of intent
How do I devise my research problem?

A research problem is a statement based on the area of research, which is the first step in a research process. Devising an appropriate research problem depends on the in-depth knowledge, skills, and expertise of a researcher in their particular subject field. Therefore, a researcher needs to devote considerable time to select a suitable research problem.

Steps to formulate a research problem

There are two essential steps to follow while selection:

  • Identification of a research problem
  • Selection of a broad research topic and narrowing it down to a precise statement.

Sources to derive a research problem

Several factors, both extraneous and intrinsic to the research per se, help the researcher in identifying a research problem. They include the following:

  • Field conditions: The rich experiences in the field provide relevant ideas for developing an apt research problem.
  • Personal experience: This might help generate new ideas for formulating the research problem.
  • Previous related researches and theories, and critical review of the available literature: Relevant questions might crop up in our mind when we evaluate the articles, reports and reviews related to the subject area.
  • Expert advice: Subject matter experts are vastly experienced in the field of study. Hence, they may help the researcher find the current problem related to the research, and even devise a research problem.

What should be the nature of the research problem?

There are several guidelines that need to be followed while selecting a research problem. Your research problem needs to be:

  • An original and unique one.
  • An encapsulation of the nature of research.
  • Feasible vis-a-vis time required for its completion.
  • A realistic statement that can be achieved with the available financial resources.
  • Backed by support from your affiliated institution and peers.
  • Formulated in accordance with ethical considerations.
  • Based on recent or current problems persistent in the field of study.

Types of research problems

Research problems can vary according to the field of study and the scope of the research. Basically, there are three types of research problems:

  • Descriptive
  • Relative
  • Casual

A well-framed and appropriate research problem presents the researcher’s view in a clear and lucid manner, and helps readers understand the purpose of the research better.

Authorship Disputes: Tips to avoid conflicts

Tips to avoid Authorship DisputesAuthorship’ denotes the practice of providing truthful credits for intellectual contributions and innovative concepts. It not only helps authors acquire the credit for the work, but also ensures that they assume responsibility for the research conducted and presented. Moreover, it is perceived as a tool for personal satisfaction, prestige, and especially, a stepping stone in a writer’s academic career. Though the term sounds interesting, it involves high risks and problems in practice.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) often receives disputes regarding authorship. These cases usually involve disputes like the omission of a deserving junior researcher’s name from the authors’ list or a proposal by a sponsor for including the name of a non-contributing author. However, it also received a shocking complaint from a female author, who said that her name was replaced with that of her boss in the final version when she was away on maternity leave.

Apart from having a direct impact on the publication in question, authorship disputes can also have repercussions on a writer’s fair credit, collegial relationships, future collaborations, and reputations.

Following the adage that prevention is better than cure, the following are some guiding principles to avoid conflicting situations like authorship disputes.

  • Adhere to the authorship criteria of the publication

Each publisher follows specific authorship guidelines enunciated by organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), Council of Science Editors (CSE), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and Good Publication Practice (GPP2). Non-compliance with the concerned guidelines—i.e., unequal application of authorship criteria, granting authorship to undeserving individuals, and/or omitting authorship to deserving individuals—is considered to be a serious offense in the academic world and can be construed as  research misconduct.

  • Hold prior discussions with co-authors

All the authors of a paper should discuss and finalize the authorship order and contributions along with respective responsibilities before beginning to prepare a manuscript and, if possible, even before starting a study.

  • Stick to the plan of action

In few cases, it has been observed that even if the authors have agreed to the sequence of authorship and contributions, fraudulent authors make last-minute changes in the manuscript or research paper just before submission. This leads to conflicts in publishing the paper, and some even end with retraction of the paper. To avoid such anomalies and unpleasant situations, it is advisable to comply with the agreement made between the author and co-authors.

However, even the best plans sometimes fail. So it is better to track and revisit the issues and monitor any changes or modifications in authorship or contributions. If one discovers any changes before publication, it can be revised after discussions with the co-authors. Conversely, if the detection is made post-publication, one can contact the journal along with the written agreements and evidence of contributions, and request for a correction or a retraction of the paper.

Publication Pollution by Predatory Journals

Publication Pollution by open access publication mode

In a commentary published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings Journal New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan convokes scientists and physicians to take a stand against predatory publishing, plagiarism, and fraudulent publications, which are polluting the fields of science and medicine. He also warns that if the medical and scientific communities continue to remain in denial of these trends, the trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine will be irreparably damaged.

In this era of digital publication of research works, the popularity of online scholarly journals has led to the emergence of an open-access publishing mode in which authors are often asked to pay to get their accepted papers published. This mode has become so widespread that some online journals have started misusing it. They use deceitful practices to cheat the author and pollute the network of scholarly publications. This is why they are categorized as predatory journals.

When the problem of predatory publications was posed to Jeffrey Beall, the well-known librarian and associate professor at Auraria Library in the University of Colorado in Denver, he stated that researchers, science communication, and science itself are the victims of this publication pollution.

How do such predatory journals thrive?

In the initial stage, these publishers approach authors through personalized and deceptive spam e-mails to persuade them to publish their research works in their journals. They also falsify impact factor rankings to allure researchers and authors. However, they hide the names of the owners, editors, and reviewers, and don’t even disclose their business address. They deliberately hide the fact that an article processing fee has to be paid prior to the publication of the paper. Thus, authors remain unaware about publication charges until they receive the invoice from the publication office. Later, they are forced to pay because of a sense of obligation and the urge to get their research published. This style of publishing pressurizes the author to search for alternative means to cover the unforeseen expense. The publishers also include a list of reviewers and editors on their journal pages without seeking their consent.  The journals pay no heed to the requests of authors to remove those names.

This trauma adds to the highly stressful experience of authors as they struggle to publish their research for better job prospects. In a bid to make their CVs more impressive by increasing the list of published works under their belt, authors fall easy prey to predatory journals.

The eagerness to publish articles has led many authors to the path of open-access publishers operating hundreds of journals. Barely four years earlier, the market share was dominated by larger, long-established institutions, each with 100 or more different journals in the field of science. However, according to a survey mentioned by Cenyu Shen and BoChrister Bjork in their research on predatory publications, approximately 8,000 journals of 963 predatory publishers have published nearly 420,000 articles.

These predatory journals are not only deceiving the authors, but are also polluting the academic and scientific research world. Here are some glaring problems in these predatory publications.

Misconduct in Research

Predatory journals encourage plagiarism, self-plagiarism, image and data manipulation, salami slicing of one research into several papers, and host and honorary authorship. Though some of these practices also occur in legit journals, the frequency is much more in fake ones because the prime driver of spurious journals is revenue growth. Therefore, predatory journals publish articles without subjecting them to a stringent review process. As a result, non-science and fake research articles are published in science journals with manipulative data and findings. This weakens the process of academic research. Moreover, the whole scientific research world experiences a breakdown when such articles are cited in other scientific articles in cyclical effect.

Subpar publications

Predatory journals gradually turn out to be a tool for unscrupulous authors who desperately want to obtain the annual published articles margin in their names. With fake journals offering to publish articles within a short span of time, the complicit authors succeed in publishing subpar articles. They don’t even hesitate to publish articles authored by others in their name.

Sudden blackout of such journals

In case the journal disappears from the academic community, authors not only lose their publishing fee, but also their published research work.

Therefore, in order to shield yourself from this pollution, you must carefully review contracts with your publishers and assess the publisher’s rights and assertions. That will help you ensure a long and durable relationship with your publishers. Even if the process of getting your paper published in well-known real journals is tedious and painstaking, it is definitely worth it to protect your research from being misused.