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Editorial

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published

  • Philip E Bourne mail

    Philip E. Bourne is Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Computational Biology. E-mail: bourne@sdsc.edu

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Reader Comments (5)

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Good article, but somewhat idealistic

Posted by PLoS_CompBiol on 19 Feb 2008 at 10:20 GMT

Originally posted as a Reader Response on 12th April, 2006

Your article about getting published has some great advice, but I think it is a bit idealistic about the competency and fairness of reviewers. In particular, I disagree with your statement, "If reviewers are unanimous about the poor quality of the paper, move on--in virtually all cases, they are right." In my experience, and the experience of others I know, it is not uncommon for an editor to reject a paper outright (with no chance at resubmission) based upon a single very negative reviewer, who clearly had an axe to grind, didn't understand the paper, or (sadly) was protecting his turf. Although this is obvious to the author, it won't necessarily be obvious to the editor, whose expertise usually lies elsewhere. In such cases, the editor often will not bother with a second reviewer. The correct response from the author is to let the editor know that both his decision and his reviewer are wrong (and why), then submit the paper elsewhere (with perhaps a few changes). Unless the paper really DOES stink, you are likely to be successful the second time. And even if the paper is not as good as you thought it was, or doesn't receive the attention it should, a mediocre or overlooked publication is still MUCH better than nothing. It helps your career -- and present and future fellow scientists -- much better than nothing. I have read (and cited) papers that I found very helpful even though they had few previous citations. Especially in an age of Boolean keyword searches and electronic journal access, it is silly to only publish papers that receive universal applause and rave reviews.

Submitted by: 'David' 'Mackie'
E-mail: dmackie@arl.army.mil
Occupation: Research EE
Army Research Laboratory


RE: Good article, but somewhat idealistic

PLoS_CompBiol replied to PLoS_CompBiol on 19 Feb 2008 at 10:22 GMT

Originally posted as a Reader Response on 11th May, 2006

Thank you for your comment on the Editorial, "Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published." In an era where, indeed, papers are judged on one review, I concur with your comment that the paper should be submitted elsewhere. PLoS Computational Biology would not return a research article to an author with only one review, but it does happen in some journals. I stated, "If reviewers are unanimous about the poor quality of the paper, move on -- in virtually all cases, they are right." I should have said, "If three reviewers are unanimous..."

Regarding your comment: "a mediocre or overlooked publication is still MUCH better than nothing." This statement is sad (regarding mediocre) but true when it comes to how your work is evaluated. My point was to try and stimulate, particularly our young authors, to take fair, but harsh reviews of a manuscript as a challenge to do more work and publish a better paper. In time, the electronic medium will change the way we evaluate work such that quantity and specific journals will be less important than how the work itself is judged. That judgment will come from measures of utilization of that work that go beyond simple citations - citing begets citing and can be misleading. Downloads of a paper and the electronic dialog that the paper stimulates are examples of these new measures. This change will address to some extent the overlooked aspect, but mediocre will be so by any measure.

Submitted by: 'Philip' 'Bourne'
E-mail: pbourne@plos.org
Occupation: Editor in Chief
PLoS Computational Biology


One more point

PLoS_CompBiol replied to PLoS_CompBiol on 19 Feb 2008 at 10:23 GMT

Originally posted as a Reader Response on 12th May, 2006

I would add a corollary to your Rule 7: "Start writing the paper the day you have the idea of what questions to pursue." I would add: "Begin the writing by doing a thorough literature search (including patents)." I regularly see papers, both as a reviewer and as a reader, with scandalously deficient citations. And I regularly come up with great ideas that, alas, have already been published or patented. Young researchers would do well to remember to search the literature BEFORE they invest themselves in a project so to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

Submitted by: 'David' 'Mackie'
E-mail: dmackie@arl.army.mil
Occupation: Research EE
Army Research Laboratory