Scientific Journals: The Knowledge Storehouse

Scientific journals date back to 1665, when the publication of research results began. A scientific journal publishes scientific data periodically on recent breakthroughs in the field of science.

Who benefits from scientific journals?

At present, there is widespread acceptance of scientific journals and articles published in them. This magnifies the importance of the researches brought to light in such publications. It has been proven that scientific journals are of great import for academicians, researchers, and students of science and allied fields. The journals also have a profound impact on the overall educational system.

Advantages derived from scientific journals

  • Scientific journals promote and develop active learning skills among students and researchers. In fact, current research shows that reading journal articles provides an impetus for deeper thinking.
  • As you start browsing different research articles in journals, you will notice that the findings are  well organized and the overall conclusions are backed by evidence. The scientific articles carry research-oriented analyses or findings of researchers as well as students.
  • The research papers tend to keep pace with recent developments in the relevant field.
  • Researchers or students can derive valuable information for their own research area because they come across timely updates through these publications.
  • Scientific journals widen the scope for exploring one’s own research subject.
  • They help readers gain in-depth knowledge, especially through citation of case studies that can act as a research base. This encourages a thorough analysis and often leads to the formulation of novel hypotheses.
  • Even if you are engaged in research toward the submission of your doctoral thesis, you can benefit from valuable feedback if you publish papers in relevant scientific journals.
  • It is possible to search for and access the latest research topics easily from scientific publications.
  • Academic credentials of researchers receive a major boost from published papers in scientific journals, which stands them in good stead for their career objectives.
  • Scientific journals provide a platform for research scholars to express and pen down their research ideas at length.
  • Scientific journals represent a varied spectrum because each journal represents a specific stream of research. Such scientific publications bridge the gap between articles and books by publishing the researches of different authors, thus creating a single interactive platform.

BioArt from a Bio-artist’s Perception

BioArt is broadly defined as an imaginary live art form that involves micro-organisms; living, semi-living, or assisted living tissues; tissue-cultured cells or tissues; transgenic tissues; biological life processes; dead plants, animals, or even insects; body fluids or serum; and other living organisms.

Bio-artists collate the above-mentioned elements in terms of the technological aspects of science. Often, BioArt raises ethical queries related to the subject of the art.

History of BioArt

The term “BioArt” was coined by Eduardo Kac in 1977 in the context of his famous artwork Time Capsule.

Alexander Fleming was one of the early bio-artists. In fact, Fleming is arguably regarded as the father of BioArt because he was the first scientist to work on micro-organisms (especially bacteria) that were being differentiated by color when grown on a petri plate.

Scientific Domains of BioArt

Domains of BioArt or image making involve descriptions garnered through different scientific methods like genomic mapping, Electrocardiograph (ECG) Electroencephalograph (EEG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging  (MRI), electrophoretic patterns, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques, protein synthesis and visualization, and phenotypic or genotypic variations.

Advantages of BioArt

  • Artists have succeeded in making BioArt a platform for sharing the beauty of the research field and related innovative scientific ideas.
  • This type of biological art captures the essence of nature.
  • Although BioArt is a recent art form, it has encouraged a healthy debate among scholars, media, and the laity.
  • BioArt can also be used to represent complex scientific researches in simple forms such as visual or performing arts.
  • BioArt is a fusion of art and science because it is concerned with the presentation of complex life processes as well as vital interactions experienced in the environment.
  • Besides the scientific arena, BioArt has carved a niche in literature, psychology, and allied disciplines.
  • BioArt has led to the introduction of a sub-field called Biocouture, which is implemented in both fashion and textile industries. Biocouture has also reinvented the concepts of bio-designing and presentation of the art forms.

Dark Side of BioArt

  • A major concern regarding BioArt is the disposal of living tissues that are included in the art process.
  • Without the use of laboratory equipments and basic scientific expertise, creation of BioArt is a distant dream.
  • Many bio-artists transform their body into a work of art. One of the burning examples is the work of Stelarc. In his “Ear on Arm,” he incorporated a live tissue BioArt that resembled the shape of an ear and surgically introduced it into his left arm.
  • In some instances, manipulation of the genetic constitution of an organism was done for the sake of introducing an effective BioArt, just for entertainment and pleasure.
  • Many research scholars consider BioArt to be an unethical practice.

Conference papers vs journal publications: Which is the better publication route?

In course of their research, academicians often need to interact and exchange views with their colleagues to provide a firmer ground for their inferences. Such meetings help them debate their research topic with other like-minded participants and then assimilate the information that is presented through audio-visual media to produce a more conclusive finding. Therefore, seminars and colloquia are an essential part in the growth of any research. Often the proceedings of such meetings are recorded in the form of a collection of papers that were presented during the event.

On the other hand, a journal publishes research work, either on the web or as printed copies, after a rigorous process of review and a long approval cycle. However, once published in a reputed journal, your paper has an audience that you would otherwise have never had access to.

Why opt for conferences?

Conference proceedings have several advantages for a researcher. This is because conferences:

– Give a platform for interaction among research scholars who share a common interest.

– Have a faster review process and generate a faster feedback.

– Are often characterized by short presentations, so they manage to present the aim of the research clearly without consuming too much time.

– Include discussions sessions, which encourages exchange of views and ideas on the presentations.

– Allow interaction of scholars from all over the world who are engaged in the same or allied research fields.

– Have a predictable and time-bound review time.

– Help the presentations to be properly archived for reference in similar events held elsewhere on related research topics.

– Involve sponsors, who allure researchers with publishing credits and personal and professional benefits for attending the conference.

– Have high visibility and often leave a greater impact on the academic fraternity.

– Mainly focus on recent researches or up-to-date academic endeavors, unlike a journal that often takes a long time to finally publish a research.

Demerits of a conference publication

On the flip side, conferences have the following drawbacks:

– The review process is often superficial or cursory, i.e., there is no second round of reviewing.

– They have a low acceptance rate.

– The feedback from the research fraternity may be lukewarm compared to a publication in a journal.

– Economies of scale work against good quality publications because the publication is one of many expense heads for the organizers. Therefore, the production quality often leaves much to be desired.

Why opt for a journal publication?

A publication in a reputed journal presents the following advantages for the researcher:

– Research papers that are published in journals are thoroughly peer reviewed, including multiple review phases.

– The quality of research published in a journal is of a high standard.

– Journal publications carry deep analysis of a research work.

– Useful feedback is received from the reviewers, which help bring about substantive changes in the paper to improve the research analysis.

– Word and page limits are longer in the case of journals. This gives more scope to the researcher to express his or her thoughts and interpretations.

– A journal gives a chance to authors to revise their work based on the feedback and then re-submit it for further review and publication.

– Conference papers are never considered the ultimate in publishing a research. Often, conference papers can be converted to journal papers and published in reputed journals with a high impact factor.

Demerits of journal publications

There are also few demerits of journal publications. These include:

– The publication process is time-consuming.

– Due to such delays, the research topic might get outdated.

– Selection of journals is a difficult task. Sometimes, a good research is published in a sub-standard journal.

Both these routes to publication have their pros and cons. It must also be noted that conference proceedings and journal publications are not mutually exclusive; a situation may arise where one form of a research work might be published in the conference proceedings and another, perhaps more developed, form might be published in a journal. Therefore, for a more diverse and in-depth research output, both conference proceedings and journal publications need to play a significant part.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

A fundamental requisite of a publication in any reputed journal is the need to provide readers with unbiased and unambiguous research. Toward this objective, a published article should disclose whether the author or authors had any competing interest or conflict of interest while preparing the article. Consequently, the onus is on the journal to publish such disclosures in the paper so that readers, who include researchers, professionals, practitioners and scholars, are aware of them while evaluating the paper.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), there is a case of “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Such conflict is likely to affect the credibility of the journal as well as that of the author(s).

Conflict of interest may arise from potential relationships or allegiances, or from hostilities against particular groups or organizations. It may occur when a specific factor influences one’s judgments or actions significantly. In such situations, personal gain has an ascendancy over scholarly output.

Today, most journals publish papers that are not only based on the output of the authors, but also largely impacted by the inputs of peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of the journals. All such participants, who play a critical role in the process of finalizing a paper for publication, also need to seek any disclosure from the authors that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.

The general format of the conflict of interest form includes:

  • Author and co-authors’ conflict of interest.
  • Statements declaring whether the supporting sources are involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Explanation regarding the authors’ access to the study data, including the nature and extent of the authors’ access and validity.

Declaration of any conflict of interest is an ethical requirement for researchers at the time of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Being upfront about any potential conflict of interest is likely to increase the trust of the readers in the publication and places them in a position to make an honest evaluation of any likely bias in the research findings.

Retraction of Publications

Your published articles give you recognition as a writer and boost your academic credentials. However, there are special circumstances when an article might be withdrawn or cancelled even after its publication. This process is called retraction of publications.

Research articles go through a review process prior to publication. However, there are occasions when major errors are detected in a research paper after it is published. In such circumstances, the journal is forced to issue a retraction notice to withdraw the publication. Retraction enables journals to alert or inform readers about the errors in the findings or conclusions of the paper. Some journals, however, retract papers without citing specific reasons because they fear a loss of credibility in the journal. In recent months, there is a discernible increase in the retraction rate in the publication industry.

According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), publications can be retracted by journal editors if:

  • They have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g., data fabrication) or honest error (e.g., miscalculation or experimental error).
  • The findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper cross-referencing, permission or justification (i.e., cases of redundant publication).
  • It constitutes plagiarism.
  • It reports unethical research.

Even though retraction of a publication is the decision of the journal’s editor, sometimes the author of the paper may also be asked by the editor to formally issue the retraction. In some journals, both the editor and the author issue the retraction notice. Nevertheless, the journal’s editor can retract the published paper unilaterally in case the author refuses to do so.

The retraction notice should cite the reasons for the retraction and clarify whether the retraction is for misconduct or for honest and genuine mistakes. The notice also needs to mention whether the publication is being retracted by the editor or the author. Retracted publications should not be removed either from online or printed copies of the journal; instead, the status of the retraction should be clearly indicated in the publication.

Retraction of publications is likely to have an adverse impact on the credentials of both the author and the journal. Therefore, it is important to take precautionary measures to avoid such a scenario.

Transgenic Approach for Value Addition

Transgene: It is considered to be a gene or a genetic material of interest that is transferred from one organism to another, either naturally or by artificial transformation methods.

Methods involved in transgenics:

Transformation techniques: The transformational methods can be of different types, i.e., direct or indirect.

Some of the widely used direct transformation methods are microinjection, electron gun, electroporation (physical methods); calcium phosphate method, liposome-mediated transfer method (chemical methods), etc.

Indirect transformation methods are also known as vector-mediated gene transfer methods. The major biological vectors involved are Agrobacterium tumefaciens, viruses (for e.g., CaMV virus), etc.

Genome editing: As the name suggests, part of a genome is edited, i.e., either any sequence is inserted, or deleted or replaced by any other desired sequence, with the help of restriction enzymes (also termed as molecular scissors).

Value addition properties of the transgenic process:

  • It has ensured enhanced yields to the farming community, in quantitative terms, by introducing various superior crop varieties, that upholds various high performance qualities like insect or pest resistance, herbicide resistance, resistance to various other biotic stresses, as well as resistance to various abiotic stresses like drought, salinity, flood, temperature imbalance, etc.
  • The above resistance in the crops has also led to an improvement in the crop quality.
  • Transgenics have been a boon, not only in the field of agriculture, but also in other fields like aquaculture, sericulture, horticulture, etc., through an increase in the productivity and quality of the resembled products.
  • Transgenics have opened up the world market for various commercial products obtained through genetic manipulation. For e.g., Flavr Savr tomato, the first ever genetically engineered crop product to be marketed and commercialized by a California-based company, Calgene, which succeeded in introducing an antisense gene that interfered in the production of the fruit ripening enzyme (Polygalacturonase enzyme).
  • One of the landmark achievements of the transgenic technique was the introduction of the gene therapy. The technique aimed at treating a disease in a patient, those who experienced low concentration of any of the metabolically important protein or enzyme production. The introduced gene in the patient leads to altered functions of the genetic material, but in a productive way, only in relation to the disease.
  • Transgenic methodology has brought about a revolutionary change in the field of medical science by prologue of various therapeutic methods, which involve the development of modern vaccination techniques, new and more efficient vaccines for various untreated diseases, production of antibodies from various biological vectors (microorganisms as well as plants), production of monoclonal antibodies by hybridoma technology, and the production of certain other important drugs used in treating genetic diseases.
  • The field of transgenics has been considered important for the researchers and scientists, giving them an ample opportunity for creating substantive and commercially important products, which would meet the demands of the overgrowing world population.

Apart from all these advantages, the mounting costs of the products are making it less appealing, for both the researchers and the customers who tend to buy it. Even certain ethical issues, related to the genetically engineered food products are preventing its market exposure and availability.

Open Access Publication and its Significance

Hundreds and thousands of articles are published every year irrespective of their category and subject in about 25,000 journals worldwide. Published research works and articles help in laying a foundation for future progress in medicine and healthcare developments. This aim of publicizing the new successful researches is possible when the articles published in journals are accessed by the people without any restrictions. The open access can help in disseminating knowledge by promoting the innovations and the solutions to the prevailing incurable problems in medicine and healthcare.

The readership of the open access journals are more in comparison to the subscription mode of publication. This mode of publication increases the number of readers and significantly increases the citations per article rate.

The more the research articles are freely accessible, the more are its utilizations by the health care providers, clinicians, researchers and students along with the public. This free access to the articles is technically termed as Open Access Publication. This mode of publication make research works more useful by allowing an easy access to it for study or further analyzation and creating a chance for further researches, manipulation and mining of the study/research.

Generally, the research works target those health problems which lack solutions. Even if any researcher or medicine practitioner addresses the proposed solutions to such incurable health problems after conducting numerous researches for it, the result or the findings remains unapproachable by the public and other health care practitioners due to the restrictions on the access of the article by the journals by the subscription mode of publication. One who can subscribe the journal or pay for the article can only access those valuable inventions done in the field of medicine and health care.

Nowadays, the prices of the subscription mode are no longer reasonable for a new researcher, academician or student. Some university libraries pay large amount of fees for subscribing to these journals in order to make their students have an easy access to the journal articles on-line. In some countries, the journal subscription prices are so high that the institutions are incapable of accessing those published up-to-date research articles.

Keeping all these points in mind, some journals have shifted to only open access mode of publications, i.e., they have become Open Access Journal. Such journals make their articles available for free through charging for the publication services before publication, rather than after publication through subscriptions. This initiative might now put an impact of the economic aspects of the research work. As the open access publication charges can be included in research funding, the charge for access is handled by the research funder and not the institute’s library.

We hope this detailed portrayal of the open access publication will be a guide for understanding its impact on the field of research and findings.

Importance of Statistical Review of manuscripts

Statistics: It is a branch of mathematics that deals with the collection of data, its analysis, interpretation, presentation and sequential organization. In simple terms, it deals with philosophy, logic, and expression of data.

Who does the statistical review?

Statistical review is basically done by the expert statisticians or authors and journal editors with statistical knowledge. It comprises of statistical and even methodological questions that are to be answered by the author or even the journal editors that are put forward by the reviewer.

Role of the statistical reviewers:

  • The statistical reviewers find out the possible statistical error sources in the manuscript, in turn increasing the statistical accuracy of the paper as well as ensuring quicker publication of the manuscript.
  • All forms of statistical data checking is performed by the statistical reviewers like checking the missing data, checking whether correct statistical methods were followed or not, checking whether the statistical methods were used appropriately or not, checking for statistical errors like error in level of significance during analysis of the data, checking whether appropriate name of the statistical package is mentioned or not along with the version used, checking whether the measurable units are properly mentioned or not, checking whether the tables and figures displayed in the manuscript hold a proper self-explanatory footnote or not, and so on.
  • They ensure proper statistical presentation of data throughout the manuscript; proper use of statistical language is also ensured by the reviewer in the data presentation section.
  • The reviewer also checks whether the conclusion section in the manuscript is justified or not with regard to the presented data.
  • They also cross check the feasibility of the discussion section based on the results.

Significance of statistical review:

  • If there is any kind of major statistical errors found in the data presentation section, then it may lead to the rejection of the research paper. So, reviewing of the statistical data and its proper presentation is of utmost importance for the author. The frequent statistical problems in the manuscript are found in data interpretation and presentation, its analysis and the study design.
  • Sound statistics is the foundation to high-quality research work interpreting quantitative studies.

Green revolution and its loopholes

Green Revolution for Mass: The advanced Mexican agricultural technology introduced by Norman Borlaug made a way out for the evolutionary technology in India, which was initiated as a trial project by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan in the northern states of India, especially Punjab and Haryana. The technology received various approbations from the scientific circles: “Green revolution describes the spectacular increase that took place during 1967–1978, and is continuing in the production of food grains in India”– was cited by J.G. Harrar.

Advancements: Green revolution proved to be a track changer in the traditional farming techniques (introduction of tractors, thrashers, harvesters; use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, for instant increase in the yield, etc.) as well as replacing the traditional seeds with high yielding varieties or seeds with genetic superiority.

Prolonged Loopholes: Apart from the advantages, green revolution proved to be a bane in disguise for the farmers. It has over burdened them with the increasing costs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides as well as other chemicals. The technology aimed at increasing the production of only the staple cereal crops, like rice and wheat, that too only in the north Indian states. The technology was not well implemented or did not give a proceeding result in many parts of the country.

The genetically superior seeds demanded more water, fertilizers and other accessory chemicals, for their growth and development. The overuse of these chemical ingredients has led to the detoriation and deformation in the chemistry and structure of the soil. The natural soil microbiotas are kept aloof of the soil organic carbon content, which is their nutrition source. The unavailability of the soil carbon leads to a decrease in the concentration of the beneficial soil microbiota that plays an important role in maintaining the structure of the soil. Due to this, the soil particles are left apart and they become compact and lose the water holding capacity.

The depletion in the soil organic carbon leads to the decrease in the soil’s buffering capacity that in turn affects the pH level of the soil. Lowering in the pH level affects various parameters like the unavailability of phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, which in turn affects the physiology of the plants; stunted growth of the plants, decreased root biomass and length, etc. whereas high pH level leads to a decrease in the availability of micronutrients like copper, zinc, boron, etc., which also affects the overall growth and developmental process of the plant. Decrease in the buffering capacity also leads to an increase in the thatch layer, which in turn aggravates the pathogenic population in the soil. In order to kill these pathogens, it is needed to use chemicals that, on the contrary, kill the beneficial organisms in the soil too.

Apart from these drawbacks, the technology of green revolution has neither proved to be a long-term solution, nor has it ensured food security for the rising population of our country.

Impact Factor: Criterion to evaluate a journal’s quality

Researchers, writers and authors start scratching their heads when it comes to select a journal to get their articles or manuscripts published. The present article will surely help you in this regard and turn out to be a guide before selecting a journal.

Selecting an appropriate journal and publication type is a challenging job. Getting it right increases the chances of having a successful publication of your article. Eugene Garfield, the founder of Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), proposed a tool to evaluate the journals’ impact within a particular discipline both quantitatively and qualitatively in the year 1955. Finally, Journal Impact Factor (JIF) was indexed in 1975 for analyzing the journal’s quality.

The journal impact factor refers to the average number of citations of the previously published articles in a journal; it may be books, case studies, reports, thesis or web documents, etc. Practically, higher the impact factor of a journal, higher is its influence. The value of the impact factor of a journal is regulated by two elements. Firstly, the sociological aspect comprising of journal’s subject area and the type of journal and article. The journal impact factor keeps deviating in accordance with the quantity of citations in different journals and the type of articles in them. Secondly, element constitutes of size of the journal, i.e., the quantity of articles published in the journal within a span of time. Usually, citations between two and five years are two benchmarks used to judge the size of the journal.

At times, the authors or researchers consider journals with the least acceptance rate. They have very strict procedures to select the best article before publication and, eventually, such journals show to have the highest impact factor.

Journal impact factor is a very useful aid for evaluation of journals; nevertheless, impact factor is said to have some demerits too. Factors like peer review process, editorial board members and the article rejection rates are some of the considerable features along with the impact factor to help you out during the journal selections.

Whatever may be its influence, bad or good, impact factor is going to prevail for a long duration as other options are no better in its comparison.

We hope this article will surely help you in judging the journals before you select one for publishing your article.