Publication Plan

Jun 03 2012 Published by under Scientific Publication

Occasionally I have a plan for publishing multiple papers that are related to a project. Whether due to the actual order of experiments (and therefore data availability), a plan to set up a cascading story or to get the "important" one out first before cleaning up the little details..there is a plan. (you "complete story" folks can stop reading now)

Do you do that? Maybe it is just me.

Anyway, the process of review has a way of screwing with these grand plans. Especially if you send out more than one at a time. Something gets stalled going to a third journal, something flies in even faster than you hoped....next thing you know your order is all screwed up.

Oh well.

12 responses so far

  • boehninglab says:

    Happened big time to me once. A mostly methods paper submitted about a month before paper with important results from the new technique. Important results paper accepted very quickly, while methods paper took at least 4 months. A bit uncomfortable but all worked out in the end.

  • GMP says:

    In math, physics, and related fields, there's arXiv (arXiv.org) where you can post preprints of papers prior to publication. It's very common to cite an arXiv preprint while the paper is in review, that way a reviewer of follow-up paper can look at it if they want. Of course, it's then easy to put the real citation in in the galley proof stage and/or add the real citation to the arXiv link when the paper is published.

    OTOH, my policy is that as soon as a coherent bit of a story becomes available, we write it up. When I have a multi-part story, the submissions are typically staggered and usually appear in the same sequence in print... It's also good for the students to start having publications sooner rather than later, it helps keep them motivated.

  • Dr24Hours says:

    I'm trying to do this now, but I'm not sure anyone wants the first paper.

  • A. Tasso says:

    I always try to have a paper plan, but I'm a splitter (split the findings of a single study into as many papers as possible -- real papers, not LPUs) not a lumper. If I am trying to stage the publications, then I typically aim low for the first papers so that we don't run into the problem that you mentioned.

  • Virgil says:

    Happens all the time. Not so much changing the order, but changing which data gets apportioned to each paper.

    Generally we'll "save" (mentally) a new piece of data which is the icing on the cake for a complete story, hoping to make it the beginning of paper #2. But then the reviewers of paper #1 will ask for that exact bit of data. Sure, it makes paper #1 better, but then it often means paper #1 should be sent to a higher journal, but by then its too late because it's already in 3rd round reviews and the grant deadline is approaching and your competitors are about to scoop you, so you just shove in the great data and get a middling paper. Everyone who reads it says to you "hey, this should really be in a better journal".

    Of course, it also happens the other way round... you strip a paper down, eliminating the fluff, to focus on a specific point, and then you're left with a folder full of "orphan" data that will never see the light of day because it's too diffuse by itself.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    AT: Interesting. Now I would have thought bigger story first so that it doesn't look like incremental advance from what you've just published. Then clean up the smaller stuff later.

    Virgil- ah yes the phenomenon of reviewers demanding data for which the answer is "if this paper had that it would justify submitting it higher up the chain". I love those.

  • Dr24Hours says:

    I'm trying to do what boehninglab did. I have a method paper under review right now. But I think it's about to be desk rejected after a MONTH. Which is annoying.

  • As a grad student, the sparkly big meta analysis was published before the two smaller stories describing new datasets included in the meta, which were caught up in politics of collaboration/revision/review and then, upon publication of the larger story ultimately deemed derivative. I scooped myself! Awesome!

    I still think that a report on the detailed analysis of those data is important, and the stories were orthogonal to the thrust of the meta analysis, but those data will never see the light of day. I'm now a fan of publishing the incremental advances first.

  • drugmonkey says:

    a report on the detailed analysis of those data is important, and the stories were orthogonal to the thrust of the meta analysis, but those data will never see the light of day.

    this is, in essence, one of my biggest problems with GlamourMag publication. They cause exactly this problem.

  • My first encounter with serious scientific publications ran into serious order difficulties. I had been working in a company which had been taken over by a bigger organisation, and the research division I was in was closed down, and the project was one of a number axed. I was given permission to publish (after having worked for several years in secrecy because of patent implications). I prepared a definitive account and it was accepted by a leading journal subject to some slight modifications.

    When I returned the modified paper I enclosed in the same envelope the draft of a follow up paper - which the editor sent to the printer by mistake. The error was only discovered at the proof stage and the editor asked me to make the minimal changes necessary within the same printed page length ... While this proved not too difficult (and not too obvious) the second paper actually appeared three months before the first.

  • miko says:

    We had this thing where a reviewer was asking for data we pretty much had, but it was "promised" as part of a collaboration with another group. If we put it in our first paper, it kinda screwed our collaborators, as there was no way to include their stuff in this paper. On the other hand, putting it in the first paper undermined the publication chances of the collaboration. It was awkward and terrible, with our collaborators graciously saying things like "do what you need to do," but it just made us feel like dicks. We ended up weaseling out of it eventually with a "beyond the scope" argument (it wasn't).

    Anyway, yeah, experimental science isn't anything like a linear progression, and it's painful and wasteful to try and force it took look like one either within or between papers. Just another way the publishing model distorts and sucks all the joy out of science.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'm sure you are all delighted to know my little problem has been solved. Back to the plan!

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