Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Joys of Publishing!

I owe a VERY BIG hat-tip to Arthur Charpentier (he of the Freakonometrics blog) for alerting me to this one!

Getting your work published can pose interesting challenges at the best of times. But what about at the worst of times? 

Rick Trebino, of the School of Physics at Georgia Tech., tells us "How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps". I just love it!

Here's how Rick's story begins:

"The essence of science is reasoned debate. So, if you disagree with something reported in a scientific paper, you can write a “Comment” on it. 
Yet you don’t see many Comments. 
Some believe that this is because journal editors are reluctant to publish Comments 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. ................Read Rick's paper to see where the saga story goes from here!

© 2013, David E. Giles

1 comment:

  1. This is a comically tragic story and worth circulating. However, the truth is that the more common problem is that it is completely impossible to publish a comment that shows really important work is wrong.

    ReplyDelete