8/20/17

Scientific Journals, for the love of all that is good ... please grasp that editorial style is not science!

How many times has this happened?  You spend a tremendous amount of time on a study -- designing it, collecting data, conducting your results, writing up your paper, re-examining your results, making sure you've got everything right, getting all of your collaborators to agree the study is finally ready to go -- only to get to the "pick a journal" stage and come to a screeching halt!

And why?  Is it because you cannot find the right journal?  NO!  Is it because your ideas are not sufficiently cutting-edge?  NO!  Is it because your study is no good?  NO!  It's because your study is formatted incorrectly!  You chose the wrong font; your abstract is ten words too long; you need to use some arcane heading series that went extinct a thousand years ago; or you used APA when you should have used some bizarre hybrid referencing system that only the journal you want to publish in uses.   THAT IS WHY.  

So, you do what is asked, you convert everything to the exact style required -- none of which has anything to do with intellectual content whatsoever -- and then you submit the article; only to get an email back a few days later saying, "SORRY WE COULD NOT MOVE YOUR ARTICLE TO THE REVIEW STAGE BECAUSE YOU USED A SOFT RETURN AT THE END OF YOUR PARAGRAPHS."

What?!

Please Journal Editors and Publishers, stop the ridiculousness and do what your more enlightened colleagues do.  Here for example is the GUIDE FOR AUTHORS of a well-known journal with a high impact rating:
Your Paper Your Way
We now differentiate between the requirements for new and revised submissions. You may choose to submit your manuscript as a single Word or PDF file to be used in the refereeing process. Only when your paper is at the revision stage, will you be requested to put your paper in to a 'correct format' for acceptance and provide the items required for the publication of your article.

Does that not make sense?

Now, do not get me wrong.  I am actively involved in the field of visual complexity and take the issue of writing and presenting my work very seriously -- in fact, I probably spend too much time on it. Such concerns are different, however, from demanding that each and every time we submit an article we have to entirely reformat and sometime significantly rewrite it to meet the idiosyncratic needs of editorial style!  Please, science is hard enough without such nonsense.

Let people submit their studies, keep the formatting to the basics, and stick to the intellectual argument and the science.  And, if the paper is worth publishing, then run us through the hoops of meeting your arcane table formatting requirements.  But, until then....

On a humorous note, I leave you with this brilliant cartoon in The New Yorker by Tom Cheney (Published February 8th, 2016)