Research ethics board: A test of quality

Academic research is founded on trust. Researchers work on the premise that the work reported by others reflects an honest attempt and will aid them accurately. Hence, it is imperative that all research must be approved by a formally constituted research ethics board. This body evaluates the ethical aspects of any submitted work that involves human participants, regardless of the descriptive label given to that work including research, audit, and sometimes debate.

Besides deciding whether the participants in a study have provided their consent, which is a very important factor, an appraisal of the ethical issues in a manuscript also evaluates whether the overall design and conduct of each entity involved in the work is morally acceptable.

In the case of a medical research, the committee investigates the following questions:

–          How much does the study deviate from the current normal clinical practice?

–          Is there any obligation imposed on the patients?

–          Are there any additional risks to the patients involved?

–          What are the benefits for the patients, if any?

–          What are the potential benefits for future patients as well as for the society at large?

Authors need to state clearly that their study was approved by the relevant research ethics committee or institutional review board. If human participants were involved, the manuscripts must be accompanied by a statement certifying that the experiments were undertaken with the informed consent of each. In case of animals used for experiments, the ‘Materials and Methods’ section must clearly specify the details of animal care and confirm that they were not harmed in any manner.

Even when a study has been approved by a research ethics committee or an institutional review board, editors may still have doubts on the authenticity of the submitted work. They may then ask the authors for more detailed information justifying the ethical conduct of the work. The credentials of the research ethics board that reviewed the work may also be sought in case the journal requires further information and justification from that committee. The editors can reject papers if there is any doubt regarding adherence to proper procedures.

If a paper has been submitted from a country where there is no research ethics board, editors should use their own experience and judgment to determine whether the paper should be published. If deemed fit for publication, the manuscript must include a short statement explaining the situation.

Importance of an apt title for your research paper

Writing a research paper with innovative and groundbreaking findings might be a difficult task in itself, but a carefully formulated title is also just as important.

A Good Research Paper TitleBy its sheer positioning at the top, the title occupies a pristine position in your research paper and readers, reviewers, and editors are inadvertently drawn to it first. This makes it imperative on your part to give considerable time and thought to go through several iterations before finalizing the title of your research paper. The title needs to be clear, concise, and indicative of the research topic.

Often, readers consider the title as the primary parameter to check the suitability and importance of a research work. Hence, the title should be enticing without being verbose, so that the reader is persuaded to read the abstract that follows the title. Much like the cover of a book, it is the main heading of a research paper that leaves an indelible imprint in the reader’s mind. Besides, in this age of Internet search queries, the title can technically act as a metadata string that highlights the aim of your research and helps other researchers locate your paper when they use a web crawler.

The following are some tips for making your title more meaningful and easily discoverable by search engines:

  • Use proper sentence structure in the title.
  • Consider the target audience of your paper before selecting words for the title and structure them accordingly.
  • Think of a short title that best expresses the salient features of your paper.
  • Avoid descriptive, interrogative, or rhetoric titles for scientific research papers.
  • Try to include the fine points of the subject population (e.g., children with autism and alcohol-withdrawn patients, etc.).
  • Focus of the title should be on the outcome of the study.
  • Restrict the use of abbreviations unless they are exceptionally common.
  • Never construct the title on the basis of statistical findings of the paper.
  • Use punctuations wisely.

Title tells the objective of the paperA title of an article or a paper, irrespective of its type and genre, should be able to express the main objective of the paper in order to be useful for readers or researchers. That will lead more web searches to your research paper and increase the chances of it being cited in other research work.

The Editor: A vital role barely talked about

One of the most crucial roles in the domain of manuscript publishing is that of the editor. While a manuscript undergoes a series of steps that finally leads to its publication in a journal of the author’s choice, editing is the first stage that breathes life into a raw document. An editor polishes the knowledge and skills of a writer and even supplements the manuscript with new material that a writer might not have, might not know how to use, or fail to see its relevance in the work. In short, an editor assembles the pieces of a manuscript to create a fascinating and appealing picture that the readers will want to explore in depth.

  • A writer can employ specific services and specialist editors; the choice depends on the stage in which the manuscript is in the publishing cycle:
  • A structural or stylist editor gives shape and expression to the work.
  • A proofreading editor examines and corrects the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical elements of the work.
  • A copyeditor typically reads the text and checks it for sense, clarity, and grammatical accuracy, and conformity with the guidelines provided by the writer.
  • A manuscript editor focuses on the structure and flow of the work as a whole.

An editor serves the project, the author, and the reader. Therefore an editor should preferably be a native English speaker or someone who is very well-versed with the nuances of the language. One of the primary functions of an editor is to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation and simultaneously be aware of the target journal guidelines. It is essential for an editor to maintain consistency and logic (ensuring the need of the target audience), and verify headings, statistics, graphs, and footnote entries. An editor captures the writer’s voice and sensibilities and presents the work in the best possible manner to meet the expectations of the audience. All in all, an editor balances the writer’s intent with the publisher’s standards and the reader’s expectations and finds a way to satisfy all three requisites.

Editors are sticklers for perfection. They have a great eye for detail, a strong vocabulary, and in-depth knowledge of grammar rules and conventions. Language is their forte and they are aware of its impact and significance. Hence, it becomes imperative to know the background and credentials of the editor you are entrusting your work to. Requesting testimonies and work samples is a good approach to know more about the editor and make an informed choice. By researching and being clear on the expectations and outcomes, one can be in control and convey the right message to the editor to ensure that the manuscript reaches its apt destination. A great editor is ideally supposed to make the journey toward publication a pleasurable one. Conversely, a poor editor will have an adverse effect both on the quality and the time taken to see the project reach a logical conclusion.

As Stephen King rightly put it, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Why opt for professional editing services?

Importance of professional editing

Professional editing services provide a broad spectrum of services such as basic and advanced copy editing, proofreading, and substantive editing. Substantive editing can be opted for by an author when the paper requires in-depth editing, restructuring, and rephrasing, or if the sentences lack clarity. In such cases of high-level editing, professional editors rephrase and rewrite the convoluted and imprecise sentences and paragraphs. This input considerably enhances the presentation of your manuscript and improves the chances of publication. Advanced copyediting is a less rigorous editing process that often encompasses an expanded copyediting service to fix minor errors in your paper. The service also includes rewriting of certain unclear sentences, but the amount of editing remains modest. Basic copyediting entails correction of general grammatical and syntax errors and improving word choice to enhance the manuscript in terms of presentation and clarity. Proofreading involves checking of overall errors in the manuscript including grammar, punctuation marks, capitalization, and better word choice at certain places to improve the quality of the paper. It constitutes the basic level of editing and polishes a manuscript. To avail such professional editing services, one needs to hire an editor who is well-versed with the aforementioned editing categories. The benefits of hiring a professional editor include the following:

  • Authors who have excellent ideas but find it difficult to express them on paper can gain substantially.
  • Professional editing services save the author’s time.
  • The chances of publication of the manuscript are enhanced manifold.
  • Minor as well as major errors in your manuscript are identified and ironed out.
  • Authors get acquainted with the general writing conventions, grammar rules, and proper usage of punctuation marks, which helps them avoid convoluted and incorrect sentences in their writing.
  • Professionally edited manuscripts have an edge in the peer review process.

Professionally edit for publication

Although professional editors can polish the manuscript by pointing out gaps in the paper, the onus of the research paper lies on the author. Therefore, a professional editor can ably serve as a helping hand in the publication process, but cannot assure publication of the manuscript. Nonetheless, if the author is able to take note of all suggestions by the editor and provide the necessary information, the paper has a much greater chance of success.

Journal Impact Factor: All That Matters

The impact factor, often abbreviated as IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations that a paper published in a journal receives over a defined period of time. Conceptually developed in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield, founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), IF is now frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field. Journal impact factors are published annually in Science Citation Index (SCI) Reports.

Researchers are often conditioned to believe that IF matters the most. Publication in journals with a high IF is regarded as an indication of the quality of the research published, and by implication, the quality of its authors. Therefore, it is not surprising that publishing in high IF journals is an aspiration for most scientists as it often plays an important role in their career prospects and progression.

High IF journals are widely read. But there has been a discrepancy regarding the importance of journal IF among researchers. Journal ranking systems have evolved in the present-day world and allow for better comparisons. Sadly, they are often ignored even when such rankings may benefit a given journal. But even these systems are not foolproof and can be quite flawed, especially those assuming that the scientific value or quality is less if the scope of a discussion is small. A more appropriate approach could be to say that the best journals are those that can rank high in one or more categories or ranking systems, rather than reducing the overall journal quality and usefulness to a single number.

IF, originally designed for purposes other than the individual evaluation of the quality of research, is undoubtedly a useful tool provided its interpretation is not stretched far beyond its limits of validity. Having said that, the research quality cannot be measured solely using IF. It should be used with caution, and should not be the dominant or only factor accounting for the credibility of a research.

Why journal articles face rejection?

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it undergoes a thorough quality check under the peer review process before being sent to the chief editor. Most articles face rejection during this process. There are several reasons for this.

1. The article is beyond the scope of the journal

Your article can be immediately rejected if it is not appropriate for the journal’s readership and does not meet the journal’s aims and scope. Besides, it is also likely to be rejected by the editorial board if it does not match the specified journal format. For example, if a review article is submitted to a journal that does not have the scope for publication of such articles, the editorial board is likely to reject the paper summarily.

2. The paper lacks key elements

The paper is unlikely to be approved if it is incomplete and lacks any important information, such as author’s affiliations, e-mail address, keywords, figures and tables, in-text citation of figures and tables, references, a proper structure, etc.

Lack of novelty and originality in the paper or suspicion of plagiarized information can also lead to an almost instantaneous rejection. Incomprehensible articles that show poor language skills of the author are also not acceptable.

3. The paper failed the technical screening process

If you have submitted your paper to more than one journal simultaneously, a particular journal might consider it unethical. Consequently, the paper is likely to fail the technical screening process. Even papers that do not meet the technical standards of the preferred journals are also rejected in the screening process. For example, a paper might be rejected for non-compliance with certain points in the submission checklist.

4. The paper is conceptually weak

While conceptualizing the paper, the author might fail to resolve certain fundamental problems that could result in unoriginal or impractical results. These problems include flaws in the study design, incomplete data analysis, use of an inappropriate method for statistical analysis or a poorly formulated research question. These basic defects might lead to rejection of the paper.

5. The paper is not well prepared for the journal

A paper is liable to be rejected if it is not formatted according to the journal guidelines. Disregarding such guidelines might result in excessive use of jargons, deviation from the focus of the journal, improper formatting of figures and tables, poor organization of contents, inadequate description of the methodology, poor writing standards, complex and convoluted sentences, and frequent grammatical errors. These factors will have a negative impact on the reviewers and will probably contribute to a rejection.

6. The journal is overloaded with submissions

Sometimes, a journal receives a flood of submissions within a short period. This restricts the available space to include papers in several forthcoming issues. Consequently, rejection is inevitable for many submissions, including some high-quality manuscripts. Conversely, a journal might receive several papers on the same or related topic. In such a situation, the journal will be forced to cherry pick and might return some well-conceptualized papers in the process.

7. Journals have their decision-making policy

Rejection of the paper also depends on a journal’s decision-making policy, which varies from journal to journal. Some journals forward the paper for a second screening if they are unsure about the quality of the manuscript. On the other hand, editors of certain journals aim to publish papers that are related to current research topics and their acceptance rate is directly proportional to the number of articles received in this genre.

As evident, there is a gamut of reasons for the rejection of a paper and the author needs to take cognizance of these facts for a better understanding of the rejection process. The author needs to keep in mind that the quality of a paper is not the sole reason for rejection; several other reasons can also contribute to the rejection of a submitted paper.

Effective Peer Reviewing

What do you mean by “Peer Reviewing”?

A peer review is a planned and well-organized process that aims to improve the quality of a research paper. It is the most effective feedback-generation system that takes place during the development of a research paper.

Who is considered as a “peer”?

A peer is someone who is related to the field of study, doing similar kind of research, and an expert in the mentioned area of research. A peer is neither the author nor the person who has provided grants for successful completion of the research paper.

Types of Peer Review:

In broader terms, peer reviews are classified into two types: internal peer review (which includes the editorial team members) and external peer review (which includes experts in the particular field of study).

The peer review process looks for:

  • Suitability of the paper for the target journal, which may include cross checking with the journal requirements and scope of publication of the research article. The reviewer’s objective is to identify the uniqueness of the conducted study.
  • Relevance of the intext citations as well as those in the reference section.
  • Accuracy of the statistical analysis and correct presentation of the data.
  • Proper and accurate formatting of the text, tables, figures, references, etc.
  • Confirmation of the inclusion of the conflict of interest disclosure, copyright forms duly signed by the authors, citation of the ethical consideration, etc.
  • Relevant citation in the conclusion.

There are several advantages of peer reviewing. The process:

  • Leads to the generation of a high-quality publication by improving the contents.
  • Helps in the improvement of the structure of the paper.
  • Provides a logical view of the research paper.
  • Enables the author to use critical feedback in a productive or constructive manner by incorporating important changes in the research paper.
  • Helps authors by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the research work.
  • Helps authors in their learning process for future research.

Conversely, an inadequate or below-par peer review might lead to the following problems:

  • Poor error and fraud detection.
  • Slower process for finalizing the paper.

 

Nonetheless, the advantages far outweigh the cons. Therefore, the peer review process needs to be adopted by research writers as it helps them improve the quality of the research writing.

The Knowledge Web: Illuminating Your Research

The scope of research is beyond measure and cannot be structured or contained in a single research guide for which knowledge web is need of the hour. Considering the vast well of information, researchers often face problems in zeroing-in on articles that are most suited for their research area. They often take recourse to the World Wide Web in their quest for articles of interest. In this process, researchers use the web crawlers of their favorite search engines. This generates hundreds of sites that store information on the topic of interest. Usually, the first few search results show articles that are cited repeatedly and are the most relevant references for the research. This leads researchers to the important journals and authors related to the field of interest and helps them adopt strategies accordingly.

Although the search results are displayed within few seconds, the researcher needs to devote considerable time in building a mental model of a research field and giving the most apt query for the search engine to return the best and most relevant results. Therefore, a mechanical search on the Web will be grossly insufficient. Instead, the researcher needs to conduct a search for material other than that found on the Web, and must follow up with a wide reading on the subject. That will help the researcher identify the precise data or information require from the search engine. Even after thorough scrutiny of the material, there is a high risk of information masking that could lead to missing out on an important piece of work.

The best way to obtain an overview of a research field is to conduct knowledge domain visualizations. This process expands the ability of researchers to recognize and analyze a knowledge area through several quantitative and qualitative methods. They are able to use tools such as visual analytics and information visualization to analyze data, retrieve information, and mine text from available sources. This process will answer most of their research queries and help avoid repeated searches on the Internet.

Knowledge domain visualizations save valuable time of the researcher in searching, indexing, and structuring data. Knowledge domain visualizations are not only beneficial for individual researchers or a single subject, but also provide a platform for accessing specific publications. It even provides a quick overview of a research field.

In searching for research material on the Web, the automated or mechanical procedure falls woefully sort. On the other hand, manual interventions can improve results significantly and lead to a more substantial research output.

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.