“8 Reasons Why Journals Reject Manuscripts” – I have a problem with #2

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The folks over at Editage recently released an infographic entitled, 8 Reasons Why Journals Reject Manuscripts. For the most part, it’s pretty good. Some of the reasons are common sense (e.g. poor writing, grammar errors), and some might take a little more introspection at the time of submission (e.g. poor study design). But one of the points struck a nerve with me: Lack of originality, novelty, or significance. Hear me out.

Not all research has to be cutting edge.* I’m sure that many of you gasped when you read that sentence, but it’s true. Are you less likely to get a grant? Perhaps. Should you make a career out of it? Probably not. Still, there is value to filling in knowledge gaps, and perhaps even more value in determining if results are actually reproducible.

A core tenant of scientific experimentation is reproducible. Even so, results are never [rarely] checked. This is highlighted by a recent study that reproduced 100 psychology studies and found that only 50% of the results were actually the same as when first tested. Now, one could certainly make the the N=2 argument, but still. If nothing else, the study highlights the importance of conducting studies that are not original or novel.

My primary issue with this guide is that it seems to be focused on higher-tier journals only. I learned very early on that there is a place for most scientific studies. There will always be the “quantity vs quality” argument, i.e. one Nature manuscript is worth 10 Copeia** (a herpetologist journal) manuscripts, but there is certainly a place for non-earth shattering research.

My old blog was called I do good science. The title wasn’t meant to be silly or tongue-in-cheek, it was meant to be truthful. I did solid science but I was never published anywhere extraordinary. Still, I have a good pub record. I did good science. So while I agree with most of the points on this publication guide and recognize that it’s difficult to create a one-size-fits-all solution, perhaps we as a scientific community should relax on the “if it’s not novel it’s garbage” (hyperbole obviously) approach.

* I can say this now without worrying about how I’m perceived in the scientific community since I’m out of the academic [research] game.

**Copeia is a great journal in which I myself published. It’s just herp-centric and thus has a smaller scope than larger journals.

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