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 However, there are special circumstances when an article might be withdrawn or cancelled even after its publication.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.

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.

Gift authorship: A provocative issue

Assigning authorship for the real contributors can be a tricky business for the scientific or the academic writers.

What is gift authorship? In simple terms, it is defined as the co-authorship, conferred to those having a little or no intellectual contribution in the study. Gift authorship provides just an authority stamp for the non-contributors.

Authorship criteria: The person affiliated under this type of authorship, do not meet the authorship criteria defined by various international bodies. According to one of the giant international body, known as International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), authorship criteria are stated as follows:

(i) Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition or collection, analysis and interpretation of data;

(ii) Drafting or revising the article, critically for important intellectual content; and

(iii) Giving the final approval of the edited version of the article, to be published.

Ethical viewpoint of gift authorship: Gift authorship is regarded as highly unethical and irrelevant, as the author honored with the title of authorship holds no contributing hands, neither in the designing nor in data analysis; he/she do not meet the authorship criteria. He/she may not have expertise in the field to which the study is related, which may bring dismay to the institute or the publishing journal. This kind of authorship has cropped up in an intense way in the medical writing field, demanding an immediate action to be taken against this illegal authorship, as this dilutes the credentials of the authors who have done the real work, related to the study protocol.

Reasons for researchers opting for gift authorship: There are many identified reasons that put the precocious researchers to opt for the option of gift authorship.  Some of the most cited reasons are:

(i) Superiority complex of the guide or the lead supervisor. They do not allow any research article publication by their junior counterparts; and

(ii) Certain researchers believe that assigning the names of their head supervisor or institutional head can lead to increased readability and help in publication of their articles.

The researchers should think of undermining such authorship that leads to the loss in the credibility of the real contributing authors and diluting their work profile.

Ghostwriting: The Paid Writing

Those who are new to this term should not apprehend it as writings by Ghost!!! However, medical researchers’, authors’ and editors’ fraternity are well-versed with this term.

Ghostwriting denotes to the practice of writing for and in the name of someone else especially a named author or writer. This practice has become a widespread trend these days.

Ghostwriters, as it sounds, are definitely not the ghosts but are those hired writers who do not claim their own creative works. They are the individuals who usually make significant contributions to the research or writing of a manuscript for the medical fraternity or institutions. They are heavily paid for selling their creativity.

Despite of its widespread usage, it is difficult to track down the ghostwriting practice in the medical writings, journals and research papers. No wonder, the secret behind the term coined is its invisible omnipresence.

A study done by journal PLoS Medicine revealed the rise in the practice of ghostwriting. This paid form of writing has raised both ethical and legal aspects in medical journals. It puts an impact on the integrity of the scientific facts and figures used for a particular medical research. Fingers are now being pointed on the ethics of the medical journal publications.

Moreover, it is now considered as a legal offense and can bring misconduct to the researchers or authors or writers paying for such malpractice. Legal experts are accounting such writing as professional fraud and misconduct.

The Internal Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has finally designed some guidelines to curb this ghostwriting trend and provide the credit to its original writer/author only. As per these guidelines, the authorship of a research paper is judged on the basis of:

  1. Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  2. Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
  3. Final approval of the version to be published.

We hope this article will surely help you in understanding the present practice of ghostwriting, which is gradually becoming a burden for the journals, especially medical journals.

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.

Is self-plagiarism ethical?

Research papers or journals are the medium of spreading knowledge and new ideas evolved. Innovative and original piece of work would certainly be more educative and admirable. Nevertheless, authors and writers are often found to be reusing their old piece of work or some extracts from their previous published papers while writing a new research paper.

When questions are raised against this content reuse, authors claim that those stuffs are their own works and materials, and thus, they can reuse them as they wish, and it cannot be termed as plagiarism since they have not stolen the ideas from any other author or source.

The ethics of plagiarism are not applicable to such reuse, as a result of which it has been overlooked till date. While the discussion is whether this reuse is ethical or not, the publications and the journals, on the other hand, have set certain guidelines for such works citing it as Self-plagiarism.

What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is a form of plagiarism where the writer reuses his/her own previously published work in portions or entirely while creating a new study paper. It can breach the publisher’s copyright on those published work when it is reused in the new study papers without appropriate citations. Let us now know more about the ethical aspects of self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can be detected when:

a)  A published paper is used to republish elsewhere without the consent of the co-authors and the publisher of the paper or work.

b)  A paper of a large study is published in small sections with an intention to increase the number of publications.

c)  A previously written work either published or not is reused again in portions in the new study papers.

Although the laws of self-plagiarism are not enforced, it somehow reflects the dishonesty of the author. Moreover, the journals and the publishers are rejecting such copy-paste works as they are seeking writings based on original research findings and proper citations of all the references.

Nowadays, journals are also pointing out questions on the reuse of one’s own work. In order to avoid self-plagiarism, one should try to keep his/her work original, and in case it is necessary to include any portion from his/her previous works, it should be then properly cited with proper references. I hope this article will surely help you in detecting prospective self-plagiarism before submitting your paper or work to publications or journals.

Writing a research manuscript

While editing different research manuscripts, I have often observed the lack of presentation in the content matter; as a result, in spite of having a good amount of results, the manuscript becomes very weak in terms of readability and clarity. Here are few suggestions that might be helpful for the beginner to understand how to write an effective research manuscript. A research manuscript can be of different types: original article, reviews, short communication, rapid communication, letters, etc. Here I will limit my discussion on how to plan for writing a manuscript for an original article.

Before you start writing the manuscript, take a few steps back, gather all your results and ask yourself few questions: Is it a new and original work? Does it have a clear objective or hypothesis? Did you make a significant amount of progress to achieve the goal? Are all your claims supported by appropriate data? Can you explain gist of your work in one or two sentences? If all the answers are YES, go ahead and start writing the research manuscript.

There is a general structure for each type of research manuscript. For writing a manuscript of an original article, the following structure should be followed:

Title

Abstract

Keywords

IMRAD (the main body: Introduction (I), Methods (M), Results And Discussion (RAD))

Conclusions

Acknowledgements

References

Appendices/ Supplementary

This should be the format and the order of final presentation; however, the order of writing would be little different.

First, prepare all your figures and tables. This will help you in assessing the standard of your work; accordingly, select two or three journals. Once you finish writing choose the target journal among them. Following is the order you may start writing:

1. Start with the “Method” or experimental section (if you are theoretician, first work on your Theory) of the manuscript. This section should be written in detail so that any reader, if needed, can reproduce the results by following the method you described. If you have used any previously established method, cite the appropriate reference without going into detail. For chemicals, cell lines, antibody, etc., mention the company or lab from where you bought or procured it. For instrument, it is important to mention the model number along with the company name. Same is for any software, for example, Sigma-Plot, SPSS, etc. (mention the version).

2. Next, start the “Result” section of your manuscript. Briefly writing the protocol could be effective. Present all the main findings;  you may present the secondary data in supplementary section. Refer the figures and tables in order. Use sub-headings while presenting results of same type together. Do not discuss and interpret the results here, if you have a separate “Discussion” section. However, in case of common “Results and Discussion”, you need to interpret. For this, you need to check the “Author guidelines” of your target journal and accordingly, plan your presentation.

3. Once you finish the result section, you will see a story has already built up in front of you. Now, start writing the “Introduction” of the manuscript. “Introduction” should reflect the background of the study, i.e., what made you interested or inspired to undertake this project. Discuss already published studies in the field. Remember, while presenting the previous literature, you should take care of the logical flow of the content. “Introduction” of a manuscript sets the beginning of your article; do not ruin it with irrelevant facts. The last paragraph should present the objective of your work clearly, and care should be taken to maintain the logical flow with rest of the introduction.

4. Once you have the “Introduction”, “Results” and “Methods” sections ready, it is easy to write “Discussion” of a manuscript. Start “Discussion” with the answer of the questions raised in the “Introduction”. The “Discussion” section of a manuscript not only involves interpreting your findings, but also comparing your results with the previously reported studies. This is very important. Often, I see the authors only discuss their result without comparing with the existing reports. If you have obtained improved results, explain the reason. At the same time, if your findings are not in accordance with the published report, try to give explanation. This could be some difference in methods or due to some limitation in your study. Besides explaining the significance your work, you must explain weakness or discrepancies of your work (if any).

4. Once you are done with the “Discussion” of your manuscript, go back to “Introduction” and refine it. Depending on how far you could achieve the goal, you need to refine. Go through the entire manuscript couple of times and find out if something is missing or over stretched. Once you are satisfied, think about “Conclusions”

5. “Conclusions” helps a reader or a reviewer to judge the work presented in the manuscript. Remember, “Conclusions” of a manuscript should not be the rehash of “Results”. In this section, you should briefly present only the key results, followed by how far you achieved the goal. Limitations (if any) should also be told very briefly and end with some future study or application.

6. Again, go back and refine your “Introduction”.

7.  Take utmost care while writing “Abstract” of your manuscript. It should be clear and at the same time interesting. Do not drag it (keep it within 250-300 words as most of the journal recommends). If your target journal wants a structured abstract (Background-Objective-Results- Conclusions), it is easy for you to write; however, you may always write the “abstract” following this structure in mind. Try to present a clear objective with highlighting the key findings and end with a robust “conclusions”. A clear “Abstract” sets the mood of a reader whether your manuscript will be considered for further reading.

8. Keywords are used for indexing and it increases the visibility of your manuscript if published. Therefore, choose keywords (generally five or six maximum) those exactly relate to your study.

9. “Title” is the most crucial part of a manuscript, attracting readers. Title should be crisp and chosen in such way so that it represents the content of a manuscript in a “nut shell”. Take more time to come up with an appropriate title.

Finally, revise, revise, revise…..

Technical Translation

Technical translation is the type of translation, which requires a considerable amount of understanding and skill. A technical translator is not only a translator, but also a specialist and an expert in the related field. Technical translation is required to translate machine installation manual, patent papers, user manual, research papers, project reports and thesis, etc. Technical translation consists of content related to scientific and technological data. A technical translator performs the duty of transferring the text from one language to another in an understandable and a logical way without changing the intended meaning. Somehow, a technical translator works as a technical writer. A technical translator should have high level of knowledge of the topic. Aside from the knowledge of the topic and the language, a technical translator should also have knowledge of psychology, technical communication and usability engineering.

The present article on “Technical Translation” provides some basic tips that every translator should follow in order to improve their work.

Tips for Proper Technical Translation

Reading and understanding the text:

In order to offer outstanding technical translation services a technical translator should read the text carefully before translating it. This helps the translator to understand the subject-matter more clearly. In case there is any confusion, the translator must refer to the reference books and subject-specific dictionaries for guidance.

Using the correct language:

Avoid using inappropriate single word, which can make the whole text meaningless. For instance, mechanical parts and instruments should be translated carefully. A technical translator must have adequate knowledge about the location-wise meaning of that specific word as one word has different meanings of different regions.

Vocabulary and uniformity of words:

There could be a contrast in the words used generally and that which is used while doing technical translation. There are certain subject-specific words that must be used by the technical translator for the precise and valid technical translation. Besides, there should be uniformity in the terms used for a particular thing. If a specific term has been used for a specific matter the same term should be used throughout the content.

Using industry-specific words and terms:

A technical translator must use the industry-specific terms while performing technical translation. A single technical translator cannot be a professional in all fields. Thus, technical translation service providing companies appoint industry-specific technical translators for different sorts of technical translations.

Reviewing and proof-reading:

After completing translation of the text, it is important to review and proof-read the final work. This helps in preparing an error-free technical translation. Proof-reading must be carried out considering three parameters: (i) grammar, (ii) spelling, and (iii) technical vocabulary.

By following the above given tips, one can gradually learn to effectively translate any text from one language to another in a clear and coherent way without changing the intended meaning. Eventually, this can be mastered with regular practice.

Plan for Writing Ph.D. Research Thesis

After years of hardworking, it is the time to write your research thesis, an important aspect of getting the coveted degree (MS or Ph.D.). Writing thesis is Writing Ph.D. Research Thesis probably one of the hardest challenges in your academic career. However, a little planning in advance may simplify such challenge. So, do not panic and start the planning in the beginning of your final year research. First, know your institution’s requirement for a research thesis to be fulfilled e.g., minimum volume of work required to write a research thesis. Of course, volume of work is not same for a MS thesis and a Ph.D. thesis. However, the planning and organization are same in both cases. This article mainly discusses the plan for writing Ph.D. research thesis.

Develop a Ph.D. Research Thesis Plan:

First and foremost, sit with your data and judge whether you have enough data to write your Ph.D. research thesis. Second, discuss with you research supervisor for his/her expert comments and then plan the followings:

  • Always target a date for completion of the first draft of your research thesis and then divide this time to complete each of the chapters. Try to stick to your deadline.
  • Be clear about the objective of your research thesis.
  • Do in-depth literature survey for writing the “Introduction”, the beginning of your research thesis. The “Introduction” should include a complete literature review of your field at least for past 20 years including couple of classic/ breakthrough works done before 20 years, if your field is not so new. Read some basic books related to your field to understand the broader knowledge. Your “Introduction” should end with the “research question” or “objective” or the reason to undertake the particular project.
  • Plan the chapters and organize the chapters in such a way so that there remains a logical flow of the content throughout the theses, chapter after chapter. After going through a research thesis, a person should get a clear idea about the objective with which you started the research work and how far you achieved.
  • Now plan for each individual chapter of your research thesis. Make notes point by point regarding the content of each chapter and arrange the things accordingly.
  • While writing each chapter, divide the chapter in different sub-divisions with introduction, methods, results and discussion (IMRAD) and conclusions. Method section should be described in detail. All the research technique/ experimental/ theoretical modeling should be presented clearly. Therefore, sit with your lab notebook for exact description of the methods you used. Ready all the figures, graphs, and tables needed for writing the result and discussion. Most of us struggle how to start. Procrastination should be avoided. A small tip regarding writing individual chapter: first arrange your figures, graphs and tables and then you will find that the story has automatically developed in front of you. Therefore, start writing with your result section.
  • Make sure if your university has some recommended wordcount for research thesis. Then accordingly plan each chapter, so that together they do not cross the recommended word limit.

Research Thesis Structure:

Generally Ph.D. research thesis has more or less a common structure. However, check with your university research thesis guidelines, and a senior labmate’s (one or two year senior to you) thesis would be helpful in this regard. thesis_writing_rectangle_sticker

  • Title page
  • Synopsys (or summary of each chapters)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of contents
  • Symbols or values of important parameters
  • Main body of the thesis (Introduction and different chapters)
  • Appendices (if any)

Try to think your research thesis as a story and develop it accordingly. Work on each chapter in such a way that thesis as a whole is interconnected and tells a story of a scientific invention starting from the history of the particular field (how the field evolved: “Introduction”), which are the interesting points that one needs to address for further advancement of the field (“Objective”  of your work or” research question”), what can be done to address those issues or how to further develop the field (individual “Thesis Chapters”), how far you achieved (“Conclusions” including any limitation and future application or study to develop further).