On publishing papers

Recently I was able to have a paper published in the  International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control. The paper summarizes the work I did during the first two years of my PhD (which, funny enough, was about 2/3 of the time but only about 1/3 of the research of my PhD….) and is an absolutely amazing read 😉 .  The process of getting a paper published can be a long one, and  me and my co-authors have been working on the manuscript ever since I gave a talk about our work at the EGU in Vienna (see this post) and subsequently published some of the work in a conference paper.  So it has been nearly three years since I started working on the first draft! This makes me (and my co-authors) sound pretty unorganised and slowly working, but that is not the case. So for those who have not (yet?) published a paper a short summary of how it works:

  1. You have an idea about a paper, because your research is really interesting and you want to share it (and you need to publish to find a job later..)
  2. You start writing a first draft.
  3. You send it to your main co-author(s).
  4. Depending on the workload of your co-authors it takes a while to get feedback on the first draft.
  5. You write a second draft, implementing suggestions/feedback from your co-authors.
  6. Redo steps 3 to 5 until you have a draft that you feel can be shared with all co-authors (read people that are so busy that sending them any earlier draft could be regarded as a waste of their time). This step may take a long time.
  7. You get feedback from all co-authors (and decide to change the focus of your paper).
  8. Repeat steps 2 to 7.
  9. You have a manuscript you all feel can be submitted to a certain journal. Journals are like scientists newspapers where scientists like to share the work they have done. However,  they are not all equal. Some are read by scientists of all kind of backgrounds (e.g. chemists, biologists, psychologists, geologists) and thus the manuscript has to be written in a way that all the readers can understand it. Other journals are only read by a handfull of very specialised scientists (e.g. theoretical astrophysicists) and these articles can be much more in depth (or sciency). Selecting the right journal is quite important as you want to make sure that your work is read by the right people, but you also want it to be read by as many people as possible (oh, the glamour factor!). There is even a ranking system that deems some journals much more important than other journals, and having published in the “right” journal may have a big impact on your future career (as a young academic that is).
  10. You submit your manuscript to that journal, where an editor decides whether it is worthy to be published in the journal or not. Editors do not judge the scientific quality of your mansucript but rather if it is fits the journal.
  11. If the editor thinks your paper might be a good fit for the journal it will be send out to review to two to three anonymous reviewers. Their task is to critically judge the science of you manuscript. If the editor thinks you paper is not good enough/not the right fit for the journal try steps 9 and 10 again.
  12. The reviewers send their judgements back to the editor who now has to decide if the manuscript has good enough science in it. If it does not, repeat steps 8 to 11. If it does…
  13. You recieve the feedback from the reviewers. This often includes a general paragraph about what they think is good or bad and then in which lines of your manuscript they feel improvement is needed.
  14. You feel that reviewer 1 is a really nice guy/gal because he likes most of your work and suggests only minor changes. You also feel that reviewer 2 has no idea about the field  whatsoever and that he should not ever ever review any papers again (at least not yours, because he dared to critizise most of it).
  15. You address all the feedback from the reviewers and send the now corrected manuscript to your coauthors.
  16. Your co-authors give you comments/feedback on your feedback/comments on the feedback/comments of the reviewers. You address those. Remember, everyone just wants to publish the best paper possible.
  17. You send your corrected version to the editor.
  18. The editor accepts your corrections.
  19. You recieve a version of the manuscript as it will be published in the journal for proof-reading. You find several spelling mistakes (how is that possible after that many revisions?!) and then approve the final version of the manuscript.
  20. Your article is now in print and will be published soon!
  21. In order to have a greater impact you write a press release (with help of the press office of course) which is published in the same week your article is published.
  22. Congratulations, your article is now published!
  23. If you are lucky your work will be picked up by others and you even may have phone calls by journalists who are interested in your work.
  24. If you are unlucky someone contacts you to point out that the legend on one of your graphs is wrong. But hey, at least they read your paper!

As you can see, publishing your work on a journal can be a lengthy process. But let me tell you, it feels good afterwards 🙂


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