Friday, June 01, 2007

It's Raining Reviews

ANOTHER set of reviews came back today for another manuscript. I guess I will be spending the next few weeks revising manuscripts. The manuscripts were submitted over a 7 month period, but they are all coming back for revisions now.

The review process for this particular manuscript was the best of this current batch because it was fast and because the editor did a good job of evaluating the various reviewer comments. The editor sought reviewers on either side of a debate that is addressed in the manuscript, and then sorted through the less-than-objective comments to get at the essential points. That's the way the process should work.

I've been writing papers for many years now, but I still find it thrilling to go through the process of creating them and seeing them through the various stages to publication. There are certainly aspects of the process that can be annoying and disheartening, but, overall, paper writing/submitting/revising/publishing is one of the more fun aspects of this job.

I like it best when I have a number of different manuscripts in the works at various stages, from incipient to in-revision. I also like it when there is variety in terms of authorship and authorship order (and when everyone is happy with the authorship order..). Perhaps it is the variety that makes paper-writing (and being a professor) overall so much fun.


Ms.PhD said...

I think it has to be fun when somebody in your lab brings you the data. I wouldn't know yet.

At my stage, it's still really nerve-wracking. There's too much importance to each paper for it to be fun.

And it has to help if you can wait 7 months to get reviews. In the biosciences, you will certainly be scooped if you wait that long to hear back. The longest turnaround for reviews that most of us will stand is ~2 months, before we start pestering the editors to find out what's going on.

I can imagine that if you can wait longer, you're not so personally invested in the work, so it's easier to read the reviews and be a bit more detached about even the stupid/nasty comments.

That, and I've never heard of an editor like the one you describe. Kudos.

Female Science Professor said...

In the two manuscripts I've mentioned most recently, I have acquired the data. I find it more nerve-wracking when "somebody" in my lab "brings" me data.

Ms.PhD said...

Really! I'm amazed you actually have time to do that.

I guess my philosophy is based on what I've seen PIs do in my field: train people the best you can, and try to get them in the habit of checking in often enough that you can keep aware of progress and any potential mishaps before it's too late.

And then send them off on their own.

And then they bring you the data.

At least in my field, PIs can't expect to be able to do their own experiments when they're as high up as you are.

First of all, they're wayyy too busy. For us, data acquisition is by far more time-consuming than analysis or publication, especially since most experiments require ongoing maintenance.

Second, techniques change drastically every five years or so... Since they were actually at the bench, the vast majority of PIs in my field wouldn't know how to do even the most basic things now without a lot of help from their younger "apprentices".

Anonymous said...

FSM (is that what we call you)? I love hearing that you like the manuscript production process. I think something junior scientist need to hear much more about is the parts of the job that are not done in the laboratory. I think few incipient scientists realize how important writing is to the job of science as it is currently practiced in academia.

I do think it's interesting that you work in a field where you do collect your own data (what percent of the time?). It is rather rare in the biomedical sciences. Specifically, I think few NIH-funded PI's are significantly involved in the physical collection of the data in their manuscripts. The PI doing the experiments wasn't unheard of in the 1960's, but this has gradually changed so that it is very rare now.


(I am female biomedical science professor and PI at an R1)

Mr. B. said...

Yes, doing your own work has gotten rarer and rarer amongst the grant-chasing class. A lot of this does have to do with the never ending grant and paper chase.

But some truly outstanding scientists still work in the lab. It is therapeutic, keeps you in touch with how difficult this type of work really can be, and is even fun.

The opening of Janelia Farm by the Howard Hughes Insitute is an attempt to return to the emphasis of a small working laboratory group, unfettered by the chase for money. It will be interesting to see how this develops, but precedent from places like the Basel Institute for Immunology (gone now) is certainly encouraging.

A cheerful Bonzo on a nice day - the first day of research in the lab for the summer.