Importance of pre-submission peer review

As the name suggests, pre-submission peer review refers to the review of your research paper before submitting it to a journal. Here, a peer other than the co-authors reviews the paper. This review enhances the quality of the research paper and reduces the load on the peer review system of journals. In other words, this process is a win-win solution for both the authors and the journals.

The below points highlights the importance of pre-submission peer review in the publishing process:

– This process improves your paper by filling in the gaps or fixing errors that might have been previously overlooked.

– It makes your paper more readable and hence, increases the readership of your paper and that of the journal.

– This process gives you the option to choose the person to review your paper, ensuring you get constructive comments from people who know the topic.

– It gives you important feedback from experts in your field of research. Thus, this not only improves your paper but also helps you to make significant contributions to the literature.

However, whether this pre-submission peer review should be implemented or not is still debatable. With increasing workloads and academic pressure, authors often do not feel like wasting time on pre-submission feedback. In addition, they are also reluctant to ask colleagues to do extra work, given that they are always pressed for time. Moreover, with the increasing number of co-authors on scientific papers, most authors do not seek additional external feedback.

But, by adopting pre-submission peer review as an integral part of the publication process, one can substantially reduce the burden on the journal peer review system. Moreover, this also reduces the risk of publishing flawed ideas or inaccurate analyses. peer review

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.

Sci-Hub – A New Napster for Academic Publishers

Sci-Hub or Scientific Hub is an open access online search engine that has gained popularity in the academic publishing industry in recent years. It is a repository of scholarly works with more than 58,000,000 published researches that are available for free and can be directly downloaded by the scholars.

How does it work?

Users can look up publications based on three search criteria: URL of the article, digital object identifier (DOI), and text search. The platform searches for the particular article in its library called Library Genesis (LibGen). If the platform is not able to locate the publication in LibGen, it tries to do so by using various institutional access systems. This can also enable access to articles published in the subscription mode by bypassing the paywall. These articles are usually donated by scholars or publishers.

Benefits of using Sci-Hub

This is a hub for not only research articles but other forms of research publications like monographs, books, book chapters, and so on. It offers free access to most of these researches and saves both money and time of the users. Sci-Hub shares similar goals as open access journals, making many scholarly publications available to anyone who searches for them. The site seeks to remove barriers to science through clear hints of piracy for those who cannot afford to pay the high subscription charges levied by journals or publication houses.

Sci-Hub has accomplished certain important breakthroughs. Its ambit covers many publications by scientists or researchers who have opted to publish in open access journals that can be accessed by anyone. In addition, it has brought academic publishing to the mainstream. As scientific credibility mostly depends on scientific publications, most of the chargeable journals own the copyright for their published articles. In this scenario, Sci-Hub helps researchers access these articles without any hidden cost.

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.

Trump releases his 100 days plan- What for Science?

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Electing Donald Trump as the 45th American President will bring about scads of policy reforms, even faster than the people realize. Starting from freezing the employee recruitments to the scrapping of Obamacare initiatives are all on the list! In addition, the breakneck statements and views of Donald Trump on various scientific facts have also sparked strong reactions among academics. However, the term “Science” has turned out to be a jargon for the Republicans and has found no special mention in the 100 days plan. However, we will have a bird’s eye view on the Trump’s blueprint that he would gift the Americans and the world community this New Year, and figure out if the science facts have been addressed to.

Trump – Throwing on off Policy fetters
Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration — including his commitment towards barring Muslims or terror-prone nationals from entering the US, a plan for wall building across the Mexico borders, imbibing visa restrictions, prioritizing American workers, and the termination of job programs for foreign youths, have surely perturbed the research advocates. Such decisions could sidetrack many talented international students or researchers from studying or working at US institutions. The future of foreign research scholars in the USA could be jeopardized due to such visa restrictions.

Science Facts vs. Trump’s Contradiction- Will it affect R&D funding?
The US has been a major investor of federal dollars in the field of R&D. “The entire business of the US academic biomedical research enterprise is based on federal dollars. Without that, it would collapse,” says Ethan Weiss, an associate professor, University of California. Trump’s shockingly ignorant views on vaccination for children with autism, and calling climate change a hoax and data to be unrealistic, pulling out US (the second most carbon generator) from the Paris climate change submit), curtailing the funds to UN for supporting climate change initiatives, and calling NASA as a logistics agency, have surely put him under the scanner of the intellectuals.
As per the statement released in September, by Donald Trump, he says that “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget; we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.” In an interview by sciencedebate.org, Trump added that “scientific advances do require long-term investment.” In spite of such speculations, the fate of R&D industry is too early to predict. However, before the commencement of 2017, the present US Congress Govt. could approve spending bills before Christmas. These bills will raise the National Institute of Health funding as well as the NSF budget. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the public funding will be secured.

Uncertain change in the climate
Trump’s election could factor into climate negotiations and be a setback for the upcoming climate change meets. When the world is thinking of implementing Paris agreement, the exit of the US from the Paris summit can be an unfortunate development and the pledge of 800 million USD as the annual contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may cease. However, legally Trump would not be able to sign off the Summit within his four years tenure.

Donald trump on Healthcare reforms
The Affordable Care Act, an initiative by Obama, which is in its current incarnation, won’t survive if Trump makes good on his campaign promises. By this logic, the funds linked to birth control programs would fade away, though not immediately. Trump may defund Obamacare and associated programs like state grant for medical care. A Trumpian shift to insurance premium deductions and insurance plans sales and the opening of tax-free Health Savings Accounts may not remedy the ultimate problem of high-cost health care services in the US.

Tech Boost and Trump
The Silicon Valley may be benefitted by the manufacturing revival initiative by Trump’s govt. “There are several things that a Trump administration could do that would be beneficial to tech,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The export industry will flourish over the import, which will be part and parcel of the shifting away from the traditional start-up model and the adjusted tax and trade policy.

We know very little
The research policies and development across a wide spectrum in the US political scenario are still up in the air and have kept the scientific community optimistic (though cautiously). The outcomes of Trump’s immigration policies are also not clear. This is considered as the central pillar of his campaign, which might or might not affect research. Leighton Ku, a professor at George Washington University, said that “it’s likely that the kinds of highly-skilled scientists who immigrate to the US for school or work would still be welcome. But will they want to come?” This is a billion dollar question that still remains unanswered.

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.

Post-submission actions: Editorial decision and peer review process

Post submission action : Peer Review

Annually, approximately 3-4 million manuscripts are submitted to various journals for publication. Each journal initiates the ensuing publication process with the screening of the manuscript before finalizing it for the peer-review process. Screening includes analysis of the paper based on the journal’s aim, scope, and reader’s interest. The decision is also influenced by the clarity of the content and adherence to journal instructions. In most journals, around 60-70% manuscripts are rejected during the initial screening process.

Once selected by the journal editors, the paper is sent to peer reviewers. Peer reviewing is a critical assessment of the manuscript by subject experts who are not part of the journal’s editorial team. Hence, journal editors carefully select the reviewers, also known as referees, based on the latter’s expertise in the subject area so that they are competent to review papers that include technical aspects. Some journals ask the authors to recommend both preferred and non-preferred reviewers to save their time while searching for appropriate reviewers for the paper.

Peer review has become an intrinsic part of the journal publication process because it gauges the quality of the paper and determines whether the manuscript is worth publishing. Generally, journals complete the peer-review process within 3-4 weeks; however, some journals have no time restrictions.

The peer review process is categorized into three types: single-blind, double-blind, and open. The first type hides the identity of the reviewers, whereas the second hides the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. Conversely, an open peer review reveals the identities of the authors to reviewers and vice versa.

Based on the feedback received from the reviewers, the journal arrives at the following decisions:

  • Acceptance. The manuscript can be published in the submitted format.
  • Rejection. The manuscript is rejected.
  • Acceptance with minor revisions. The manuscript needs minor revisions and can be published after incorporating the revisions.
  • Acceptance after major revisions. The manuscript needs major revisions by the authors and can be considered for acceptance after the revisions are incorporated.
  • Revision and resubmission. The paper requires additional statistical and/or editorial revision followed by resubmission.

Apart from these decisions, there are few more scenarios in which a manuscript can be published. Some journals follow a reject and resubmit policy. For the authors, this involves a repetition of the entire submission process after making fundamental changes in the paper as advised by the journal editor and peer reviewers. On the other hand, few publication houses reject the paper for the target journal and advice the authors to transfer the submission to another journal within the same publication house. This is referred to as the journal cascading process.

Even if the post-submission processes apparently showcase more cons than pros of the submitted manuscript, they eventually help enhance the quality of the manuscript.

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.