(apologies to the Obama campaign for altering their nice slogan to fit my blog title)
When I was an early career scientist and still writing papers based on research I did as a graduate student and postdoc, I submitted a manuscript on a sort of side project I had done with some other graduate students. The paper had some interesting elements to it and was worth publishing, but it wasn't an awesome piece of transformative research, so I submitted it to a mid-level journal.
The paper was accepted and published, but when it came out, I realized to my horror that the editor had changed the title without consulting me. The title that my co-authors and I had submitted was something like "Moderately interesting topic with some significant implications for processes that people care about," but the editor had changed the title to "Totally obscure topic that 3 people in the world might have some vague interest in if they have nothing better to do". This made me angry at the time.
I just checked the citation index for this paper and it has just ooched into the double digits after ~ 15 years, but several of the citations are by one group of researchers who have recently started working on this topic. So, my pessimistic guess that 3 people would read the paper is an underestimate. The number is probably closer to 5 or 6.
This situation is not especially tragic, my career somehow managed to survive the sinking of this paper into obscurity, and life went on.
I mention it today because this month during some travels I met for the very first time the editor who changed the title lo these many years ago. I had sort of forgotten about the incident, but the moment the former editor introduced himself to me, I remembered. And I felt annoyed all over again -- not hostile, angry (anymore), or bitter; just annoyed in a semi-bemused kind of way.
My good intentions to let bygones be bygones were, however, cast aside because, when introduced to me, this man gave me a hug and a big smoochy kiss on the cheek. Did I mention that I had never met him before and have not had any communication with him whatsoever except for that required for the review and publication process of my manuscript more than 15 years ago? Did I mention that I do not like involuntary physical contact, even of this apparently harmless sort, with people I meet in a professional context, especially if they have negatively impacted my citation index at some point in time?
Instead of changing paper titles, this guy should change how he behaves with female colleagues. I cannot possibly be the first woman who expressed displeasure with his method of greeting and walked away, refusing to converse further with him, so I am not optimistic that he can make the change we need.
13 years ago