Research Tips & Stories for Everyone
Publishing academic papers - the job located at the heart of most researchers' work life - is the major source of spectrum of emotions researchers face in our academic life including anxiety, hope, destress, anger, frustration, satisfaction, and happiness. It is also an integral part of our research career and arguably the thing cultivated somehow toxic over-competitive culture in the academia. Well, whatever love-hatred relationships we have with paper publication, it is a cold fact that we have to write paper and make sure it is published as it is our key way to communicate with our peers and the world to share our findings and cherished science out of our lab notes and laboratories.
In the recent decade, non-traditional pre-print publications have become a welcoming trend for expedited and free early destination of manuscripts (for example, arXiv, bioRxiv, etc). I also recently fall into love with pre-print publications and found lots of benefits. But, the pre-print publication has some limitations due to the lack of peer-review and filtering mechanisms of quality and other issues. Hence, despite some ongoing debate on the problems of traditional publication practices, the majority of academic papers still be published through the formal editor-curated & peer-reviewed academic journals. So, more or less, knowing how to publish your work to those journals is something similar to learning how to speak for baby in the academic world. In short, it is important and likely one of the governing factors in your academic life/career (sadly...).
When I started writing my first papers around 10 years ago, it seemed like just a bit slower version of term paper I submit for undergrad courses. After few years spent in graduate schools, I realized that it is pretty naive view. It's complicated and stressful like a hell! One major source of all problems is a pretty realistic aspect of our academic life - it is highly competitive to publish in prestigious journals. In other words, it is inevitable to face lots of rejections, tepid responses, and crushing of hope (especially after sleepless nights while waiting the initial editorial decision) that all require stone-cold reality checks on questions like what was wrong? and what should be the next step?
Sadly, no one might be able to give a miraculous tip to cope with all stressing situations around paper publications. But, at least it would be helpful to know the rather tortuous (often hidden) steps in academic publications toward the ultimate acceptance with some checkable examples for each step. While my research experience is not something comprehensive enough to give deep wisdom, but I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to experience various situations of publication processes to share some tips and experience. As this is a topic worthy of detailed touches and examples, I wish to divide this tip post into several sub-posts in the coming weeks. But, wait, I prepared a starting gift for you!
A flowchart for paper publication process (drawn by Lucidchart):
I plan to discuss each step in the above flowchart with some personal examples & templates (for example, cover letter I used for each case, etc).
Part I: Overview (this post)
Part II: Presubmission Inquiry & Initial Submission
Part III: Desk Rejected, What Can be Next Step?
Part IV: Revision, Art of Rebuttal
Part V: Rejected After Review, End of World?
Part VI: Acceptance & Post-Acceptance Jobs
Disclaimer. The contents are my personal opinion and do not represent the view of any institution or company I am affiliated/employed. If you find any incorrect information, please feel free to let me know via my email.