Authorship Disputes: Tips to avoid conflicts

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

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

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

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

  • Adhere to the authorship criteria of the publication

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

  • Hold prior discussions with co-authors

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

  • Stick to the plan of action

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

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

Publication Pollution by Predatory Journals

Publication Pollution by open access publication mode

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

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

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

How do such predatory journals thrive?

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

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

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

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

Misconduct in Research

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

Subpar publications

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

Sudden blackout of such journals

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

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

How to promote your published articles for maximum impact

Tips and ways to promote your published research articles

Now-a-days, you need to utilize various online mediums to get the added eyeballs for your research articles and promote your research findings and publications to a wider audience. These mediums include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and blogs.

Nearly one million scholarly articles are published each year. However, for authors like you, that should not be an end in itself. You must promote your published articles and increase the impact of your research and cultivate a stronger reputation as a researcher. That added exposure can help you move your career forward

Here are some effective ways to promote your published research.

Leverage your social media presence

Once your paper is published, take advantage of the many social media platforms to inform your close peer groups, followers, and other academicians in your network to read and follow your research. If you have an account on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, you can update your research status by sending them a message. Some social media also offer features to track feedback and count “likes” generated by your article.

Connect with scholarly reference platforms

The top rated scholarly or academic reference managing platforms such as Academia.edu, MyNetResearch, ResearchGate, and Mendeley help keep scholars of the same discipline or research branch connected and updated about their latest achievements.

Link your publication to your academic profile

Provide links to your latest articles on your institutional website and online academic curriculum vitae. Interested readers can read, follow, and cite your latest research and publications.

Blog

Maintain your own academic blog and link your article to your blog to enhance the chances of discoverability on web crawlers and search engines. Moreover, post small write-ups about your published research works. Every day, scholarly articles are receiving approximately 12,000 mentions via blogs, otherwise known as Altmetrics. You could be among them.

Attend scientific conventions

Present your papers at conventions. That will enable not only fellow researchers, but also the journalists covering the conventions, to access your research and promote your publications.

Apart from these post-publication tips, you can also promote your article even before it is published. You can use SEO tools for increasing the number of hits. Use clear and widely searched keywords, especially in the title and the abstract. You can add these keywords while creating headings and subheadings for better visibility in search results. But you need to avoid overdoing this because unnecessary repetitions can have a detrimental effect on the visibility in search results.

Thalidomide: Is it the next-gen cancer drug?

History of the wonder drug “Thalidomide”

In 1957, thalidomide was first marketed under the trade name Contergan in Germany. It is one of the most widely used immunotherapeutic agents to treat immune responses that involve suppression or induction of the immune system. It was prescribed as a sedative in cases of hypertension, sleeplessness or insomnia, and anxiety attacks.

Thalidomide was subsequently administered to pregnant women to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. However, the drug was found to cause deformities in the neonates. The deformity, called phocomelia, mainly affected the limbs. It was concluded that thalidomide causes two major health complications: Embryo-Fetal Toxicity and Venous Thromboembolism. Besides, risks increase significantly when the drug is used in combination with other potent chemotherapeutics, such as dexamethasone.

Potential of thalidomide

Despite its dark past, thalidomide has many beneficial attributes that are continuously being explored by researchers and scientists. In fact, thalidomide is now being considered as an effective drug for treating cancer, especially blood cancer known as myeloma.

The drug is found to inhibit the COX-2 gene activity that plays a vital role in the upregulation of cancer. Another wider class protein called NF-κB is an active regulator of anti-apoptotic factors.  This protein is also inhibited by thalidomide. Thalidomide elevates the levels of immune cells, such as T-cells and natural killer cells.

Although researches on thalidomide as a potential cancer therapy drug are yet to reach a conclusion, they have shown the efficacy of the drug in shrinking and attenuating malignant tumors.

There are other drugs available in the market with similar cancer treating properties as thalidomide, but they are not cost-effective and have many side effects. Conversely, thalidomide is cheaper and off-patent, which makes it more conducive for exploring its potency in cancer treatment.

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.