Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Joy of Revising a Scientific Research Paper

The title of this blogpost is neither an oxymoron nor satirical.

I really mean that one can find joy and, perhaps, even pleasure, in revising a scientific research paper of yours.

Of course, prior to submission of the original paper to a journal you thought, as did your co-authors,  that the paper that you all labored on for many weeks or months and, sometimes, even years (although, hopefully not to the exclusion of everything else), was "perfect." You found the results original and noteworthy and well-argued and presented. And, with Latex, you even made the paper "look good" with illuminating and captivating figures, tables, and results!

The journal Editor handled your paper expeditiously and, before you knew it, although sometimes the waiting seems like an eternity, you were reading the referees' reports from the anonymous peer reviewers of your paper.

Sometimes, when I revise a paper, I do feel like a lawyer in that one has to argue the validity of one's case (and innocence, of course).  And I get satisfaction in revising a paper according to (good) reviewers' reports that offer constructive criticism and insights.

Also, in revising a paper, one sometimes can better clarify the contributions. These may be apparent to you, the authors, but should also be clear to the readers of your paper.

I, typically, unless its a minor revision or accept as is (have, amazingly, had a few of those), will first read the reports and then ruminate over them over several days, during which my mind percolates as to the strategy associated with the revision.

Then I sit down, and, if the paper is co-authored, discuss with my colleagues, as to the strategy of how we will revise and address the reviewers' concerns.

It is very satisfying (at least to me and, I am sure, to others), when you work very hard on revising the paper and the pieces all fall into place.

The revised paper comes out stronger and better than the original and everyone learns and benefits from the process.

One resubmits the revised paper to the journal, along with the accompanying responses to reviewers, which itemize the changes made.

And, then hopefully, the story has a happy ending, and you hear good news, in time, that the paper is now accepted (or maybe just a minor revision, easily handled, is required).

The scientific process is iterative and doing one's best, whether in conducting the research, writing it up, revising and resubmitting the revisions to journals, etc., brings joy!

And, remember, even Nobel Prize winners have had some of their (eventually, best-known) papers, initially rejected for publication (sometimes multiple times)!