How to publish a paper in Nature
June 09, 2011 Advice, Humor, Opinion
Nature Publishing Group (@NatureAuthors) recently posted to Twitter
How to submit a paper to a scientific journal http://j.mp/iHYqj9. Something of a "golden oldie" but still very relevant, esp for new authors
It was written by Maxine Clarke, an executive editor of the prestigious journal Nature, and originally shared with the world via http://www.scidev.net on February 11, 2008 (11-2-08 for our European readers). It takes us through the processes involved in submitting a paper to a scientific journal. However, since the post was written over 3 years ago (clearly a golden oldie), I thought it might need a little updating. So, here's the new version, with
edits and additions.
How to submit a paper to Nature
Before submitting a paper to a scientific journal, two factors should be kept in mind. The first is the need to ensure that you have a clear, logical message. The second is to
present your paper in the correct format for the journal to which you intend to submit the paper. have a little luck.
first second of these is the most important. However the first is important too, as careful and beautiful the presentation, a paper will not be published unless it has a clear, sound conclusion (editors of reputable journals will always be happy to advise authors to publish elsewhere whose scientific conclusions are publishable but who have difficulty in presenting these conclusions in, say, a foreign language).
Before submitting a paper to Nature, therefore, be sure that you have something important and publishable to say. To know this, you should discuss your results with
others working in the field, both in your own institution and elsewhere your Grandparents; if they get excited about your research, you might have a shot. [editors note: if either has a Ph.D., a Nobel Prize or can complete the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, try asking your niece/nephew] The best way to do this is It is also important to present your results at scientific meetings — if you can get to them afford them. An additional (or alternative) strategy is to join an email list relevant to your field Twitter, and use that to obtain feedback about your research plans, and learn about results from others in the field your colleague's failed experiments, lunch plans, and thoughts on #scientificwriting.
Discuss your ideas and proposed paper with
people whose work you respect and admire anyone who is not too busy to listen; you might have to bribe them with @drunkensci's favorite libation. It may be a good idea to send one or two key scientists a brief summary of your paper post your paper to an #openscience website, and ask them to send you some informal comments on whether it is worth your while writing a full paper, or if whether you should to do some more work first (and if so, what).
Internet series of tubes and email @mendeley if you cannot speak to people directly at meetings. If you can discuss your work by telephone with a person, then do so; but send the recipient a synopsis or draft of your proposed publication first, so that you have something concrete to discuss they will have some scrap paper to write their grocery lists. Writing#Madwriting a draft
When you are sure you are ready to write up the paper,
prepare a first draft, including the figures, and repeat the consultation process. post this message to Twitter
Ask people at this stage
Anyone up for #madwriting in < < insert time > >?
which journal they think would be most appropriate for publication of your work if they are ready for #madwriting in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Once you feel you have
a solid conclusion to present done enough #madwriting, you need to prepare a final draft of your paper (see "How to write a scientific paper") in the format of the journal to which you intend to submit and give it to your advisor; he/she will change the entire corpus, and you won't recognize it. Don't worry, this is normal.
In deciding on the journal, you should
bear in mind the advice you have received from others in the field (some of whom may be academic editors of journals and referees themselves, and hence experienced at judging which journal is most appropriate) aim for the 'Big 3', because you never know; right?
You should also be aware of which journals are publishing similar papers to yours, and whether the journal that you have selected has any rules that make it particularly easy — or difficult — for you to submit, such as curing cancer, Alzheimer's, or another major disease.
For example, some journals impose page charges (although many do not), which are typically US$50–100 per page but vary greatly, and is much more for color images. A journal will state its page charges in its instructions to authors, but this is totally irrelevant because you'd clearly pay much more for publication in a top Journal. If your institution cannot pay these, you should ask the journal before you submit whether it will waive the charges
— many do under such circumstances. although they will wonder how you afforded all those expensive experiments...
Another factor to bear in mind is that although some journals allow electronic submission via the Internet or by email,
others only allow 'hard-copy' submission by post. no one yet allows submission by Twitter; this may affect your decision about where to submit.
Most journals or their publishers (for example, a scientific society) have websites containing information that will help you to make this decision. Alternatively you may be able to look at the journal of your choice in your library, if they are still in business, and you know where the library is.
Follow the guidelines
Make sure you read thoroughly the journal's editorial policy, guidelines to authors and any other relevant information — for example,
which people in your scientific field are on the editorial board because if you have too many words, we'll send it back!— before you submit.
Author information of this type is usually on 'free access' areas of journals' websites, even if the content of the journal is only available to subscribers; if you didn't know this, please don't submit to Nature. But if your library does not subscribe to the journal of your choice and that journal has an online version, it is worth sending the journal an email saying that you are planning to submit a paper, and asking the journal if it will
arrange for you to have online access to its contents waive the exorbitant subscription fee for a limited time.
This will allow you to look at the level and format of published papers,
information that will be helpful when you prepare the final version of your own paper and quickly download all of those expensive publications to @Papersapp
Submitting your paper
Once you have read the journal's instructions to authors and prepared your paper, you must submit it according to the journal's instructions; this is why they're called instructions.
Different journals have different rules about number of copies of papers to submit, how to prepare figures and tables, whether to include other information supplementary to your paper, whether all the authors have to sign the letter of submission (known as the 'cover letter') or just one, and so on; again, the "instructions".
When you submit your paper, the cover letter should contain:
• Your name, address, phone and fax numbers and email address;
Alternative contact details if you will be away for any length of time;
• A brief statement,
in a sentence or two less than one page, why your Grandparents agreed think the paper is important and why the journal should publish it (in other words, state the main conclusion of the paper);
• Names of anyone in the field who has commented on the paper previously particularly if they are individuals of high standing in the field and/or if they are on the editorial board of the journal; this is known as greasing the wheels
• Suggestions of a particular person you would like to referee the paper (although you must be confident that the person is independent, in other words does not collaborate with you or have any other reason to be biased in your
• Details of anyone you would not like to review your paper because
you think they would not give an objective assessment; they are direct competitors and you don't want them to know you're submitting; and
• Any other details you think are relevant -- pleading is frowned upon.
It is important to keep this cover letter as
short awesome as possible, as the editor who will read it probably receives many papers, and will find it easier to assess yours if you can be succinct awesome.
Reacting to a journal's response
When your paper has been submitted, the journal will probably acknowledge receipt. If you do not hear anything from the journal for a couple of weeks, send the editor a short email asking for an acknowledgement of receipt of your paper, a reference number, and the name of the editor who is handling it. He/she will probably tell you to wait longer.
Use this reference number in any subsequent status enquiries. A journal usually provides an email address on its list of staff (known as the 'masthead') that is published in each issue, usually on the front or the back page, but don't bother trying to reach the editors, as they are shielded by junior staff so they don't have to deal with you.
When the journal has assessed your paper (
usually hopefully with the help of qualified referees, who are independent competent scientists in the field selected by the journal's editors), the editor will write to you with a decision about publication, and enclosing referees' reports.
It's not so bad.
Sometimes an editor's letter will be clear, and it is obvious how you should revise your paper for resubmission.
If Most of the time, the letter is not clear, so you will be required to write back to the editor (by email) explaining what you do not understand there has been a terrible mistake, and ask for an explanation — for example if the referees' comments are difficult to understand, or you are not sure what the editor means in his or her instructions for revising your paper, or why the editor chose such an incompetent reviewer.
What to do if your paper is rejected
If the journal declines to publish your paper, it is a usually a good idea to discuss this decision with
a several colleagues in the field, showing them the reports and editor's letter, before proceeding further. Alcohol helps. It might be is always worth appealing the decision. If that fails , or it might be better to submit your paper to another journal.
If you do decide to appeal the journal's decision, send a letter stating your case, sticking to scientific points (for example, those parts of your conclusions that may have been misunderstood or not appreciated). Make your case strong. Saying the reviewer was incompetent is not a strong case. Do not send angry or abusive letters, as this will not help your case.
What to do if your paper is accepted
If your paper is accepted for publication, ask the editor immediately, certainly before the paper is published, about the journal's policy on copyright and reprints, and whether there are other conditions of publication.A journal may provide you with some reprints free of charge if you do not have funds to pay for them. But it is important to ask about this before your paper is published; the journal may not be able to provide free reprints after publication, as they are much more expensive to produce than reprints made at the time of publication of your article.Alternatively the journal may be prepared to waive its standard copyright restrictions. But you will probably need to ask for such concessions, explaining your circumstances.
Celebrate; you just accomplished the hardest thing in science
When you are given a publication date for your paper, tell your institution so that it can include this information in its annual report or other documents promoting its research.
Graduate/Get a Job
Remember to thank personally all those who have helped you in preparing the paper, letting them know that it will be published and in which journal.
Go do some more experiments.