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mardi 24 mai 2011

How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps ?

A nice novel, a true story...

Have a look at this paper written by Rick Trebino from Georgia Institute of Technology School of Physics. rick.trebino@physics.gatech.edu


He isn't a consumer, but his job is scientific research. The power and the essence of science are ideas, methodology, discussion and results. But also debate. So, if you don't agree with something reported in a scientific paper, you can write a “Comment” on it. But curiously, editors are reluctant to publish comments. 

Why ?

Rick Trebino gives us some interesting insights :

"Some believe that this is because Comments reveal their mistakes—papers they shouldn’t have allowed to be published in the first place. Indeed, scientists often complain that it can be very difficult to publish one. Fortunately, in this article, I’ll share with you my recent experience publishing a Comment, so you can, too. There are just a few simple steps:
 

1. Read a paper that has a mistake in it.
2. Write and submit a Comment, politely correcting the mistake.
3. Enjoy your Comment in print along with the authors’ equally polite. Reply, basking in the joy of having participated in the glorious scientific process and of the new friends you’ve made—the authors whose research you’ve greatly assisted.


Ha ha! You didn’t really believe that, did you? Here’s the actual sequence of events:
 

1. Read a paper in the most prestigious journal in your field that “proves” that your entire life’s work is wrong.
 

2. Realize that the paper is completely wrong, its conclusions based entirely on several misconceptions. It also claims that an approach you showed to be fundamentally impossible is preferable to one that you pioneered in its place and that actually works. And among other errors, it also includes a serious miscalculation—a number wrong by a factor of about 1000—a fact that’s obvious from a glance at the paper’s main figure.

3. Decide to write a Comment to correct these mistakes—the option conveniently provided by scientific journals precisely for such situations.
 

4. Prepare for the writing of your Comment by searching the journal for all previous Comments, finding about a dozen in the last decade.
 

5. Note that almost all such Comments were two to three pages long, like the other articles in the journal.
 

6. Prepare further by writing to the authors of the incorrect paper, politely asking for important details they neglected to provide in their paper.
 

7. Receive no response.
 

8. Persuade a graduate student to write to the authors of the incorrect paper, politely asking for the important details they neglected to provide in their paper.
 

9. Receive no response.
 

10. Persuade a colleague to write to the authors of the incorrect paper, politely asking for the important details they neglected to provide in their paper.
 

11. Receive no response.
 

12. Persuade your colleague to ask a friend to write to the authors of the incorrect paper, politely asking for the important details they neglected to provide in their paper.
 

13. Receive no response.
 

14. Ask the graduate student to estimate these parameters herself, and observe that she does a very good job of it, reproducing their plots very accurately and confirming that the authors were wrong by a factor of about 1000 and that their conclusions were also wrong.
 

15. Write a Comment, politely explaining the authors’ misconceptions and correcting their miscalculation, including illustrative figures, important equations, and simple explanations of perhaps how they got it wrong, so others won’t make the same mistake in the future.
 

16. Submit your Comment.
 

17. Wait two weeks.
 

18. Receive a response from the journal, stating that your Comment is 2.39 pages long. Unfortunately, Comments can be no more than 1.00 pages long, so your Comment cannot be considered until it is shortened to less than 1.00 pages long.
 

19. Take a look at the journal again, and note that the title, author list, author addresses, submission date, database codes, abstract, references, and other administrative text occupy about half a page, leaving only half a page for actual commenting in your Comment.
 

20. Remove all unnecessary quantities such as figures, equations, and explanations. Also remove mention of some of the authors’ numerous errors, for which there is now no room in your Comment. The archival literature would simply have to be content with a few uncorrected falsehoods. Note that your Comment is now 0.90 pages.
 

21. Resubmit your Comment.
 

22. Wait two weeks.
 

23. Receive a response from the journal, stating that your Comment is 1.07 pages long. Unfortunately, Comments can be no more than 1.00 pages long, so your Comment cannot be considered until it is shortened to less than 1.00 pages long.
 

24. Write to the journal that, in view of the fact that your Comment is only ever so slightly long, and that it takes quite a while to resubmit it on the journal’s confusing and dysfunctional web site, perhaps it could be sent out for review as is and shortened slightly to 1.00 pages later.
 

25. Wait a week.
 

26. Receive a response from the journal, stating that your Comment is 1.07 pages long. Unfortunately, Comments can be no more than 1.00 pages long, so your Comment cannot be considered until it is shortened to less than 1.00 pages long.
 

27. Shorten your Comment to 0.80 pages, removing such frivolous linguistic luxuries as adjectives and adverbs.
 

28. Resubmit your Comment.
 

29. Wait three months, during which time, answer questions from numerous competitors regarding the fraudulence of your life’s work, why you perpetrated such a scam on the scientific community, and how you got away with it for so long.
 

30. Read the latest issue of the journal, particularly enjoying anespecially detailed, figure-filled, equation-laden, and explanation-rich three-page Comment.
 

31. Receive the reviews of your Comment.
 

32. Notice that Reviewer #3 likes your Comment, considers it important that the incorrect paper’s errors be corrected and recommends publication of your Comment as is.
 

33. Notice that Reviewer #2 hates your Comment for taking issue with such a phenomenal paper, which finally debunked such terrible work as yours, and insists that your Comment not be published under any circumstances.
 

34. Notice that Reviewer #1 doesn’t like it either, but considers that its short length may have prevented him from understanding it.
 

35. Also receive the topical editor’s response, pointing out that no decision can be made at this time, but also kindly suggesting that you consider expanding your Comment to three pages and resubmitting it along with your responses to the reviews.
 

36. Expand your Comment back to three pages, replacing adjectives, adverbs, figures, equations, explanations, and corrections of author errors you had had to remove earlier to meet the 1.00-page limit. And, in an attempt to enlighten Reviewers #1 and #2, include a separate extended response to their reviews.
 

37. Resubmit your Comment.
 

38. Wait three months, during which time, receive condolences from numerous colleagues regarding the fraudulence of your life’s work and how sorry they are about it having been debunked.
 

39. Fail to enjoy your colleagues’ stories of other deluded scientists in history whose work was also eventually debunked, and try to explain that, in fact, you feel that you don’t actually have that much in common with alchemists, astrologers, creationists, and flat-earthers.
 

40. Read the latest issue of the journal, which includes another detailed three-page Comment, almost bursting with colorful and superfluous adjectives and adverbs, some as many as twenty letters long."


The end of this story :  How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps  ?

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