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Saturday, August 26, 2006
Giants on my Shoulders
Prof. G. and I are getting ready to send out yet another version of what we now affectionately refer to as "The Unpublishable Paper." We wrote the very first, rough draft of this paper in 2002 and on a whim decided to send it out to the largest journal in the discipline, knowing full well that it would be rejected. It was, and we weren't surprised, but we were eager to read the comments from top-notch reviewers. We incorporated the comments and sent it out again, this time to another top-tier journal with wide readership. We weren't sure if it would fare any better at this journal; it didn't. We sent it out two more times, each time to top journals in our subfield. The third time three of four reviewers recommended it be published as-is, but the fourth reviewer hated it. Apparently that reviewer's comments held more sway than the others, because the paper was rejected by the editor. The last time we sent it out, in November 2005, it was dealt with very unprofessionally: the editor said that he had sent it to four reviewers, and none had returned a review after four months. We withdrew the submission so we could send it somewhere else.

I'm polishing the paper today, changing the citations to fit the rules of yet another journal. (Oh, how I wish I had known about EndNote earlier!) Prof. G. and I are fairly confident that the article will get good reception at this journal. The article has a rather narrow focus, and that was the major problem of reviewers at other journals: they didn't think the article had wide enough appeal. The journal we're sending it to this coming week has a smaller readership, but a readership we think would be very interested in our work and who could see its wider applications in our subfield.

Today, as I was modifying some citations, I Googled the paper's title just for kicks. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that the paper is cited in four other papers, all of them published and on topics distantly-related to that of the Unpublishable Paper, and two of them by Big Names in my discipline! I looked at these papers to see if they hated the article or thought it was stupid. No: one of them said, "For an excellent discussion of [boring discipline-related stuff], see Prof. G. and Prof. Me [unpublished manuscript]." The other said, "Prof. G and Prof. Me have found that, contrary to XYZ...." Clearly, someone is reading this manuscript. I'm not even sure where they're getting it, as I don't have it linked on my website and neither does Prof. G. It was presented at a conference in 2002, but the authors of these other papers are citing a 2005 version of The Unpublishable Paper.

Let's just pray that it gets accepted this time around. People are already reading it and using it (much to my delight and surprise!), so it's time to make it official!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 8/26/2006 02:13:00 PM  
7 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 7:56 PM, Blogger Peri said…

    Unbelievable! Just figures. At least they cited you two and didn't act like it was their own work. ;) That would REALLY be bad. I'm crossing my fingers for you that this time will be the charm. :)

  • At 10:45 PM, Blogger betty said…

    I'm glad they liked your paper but to me it seems unprofessional to cite an unpublished manuscript without your permission. Aren't you a little annoyed?

    At any rate, I hope it goes well this time!

  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger Prof. Me said…

    Hmm, I didn't think to be annoyed. I was too excited to see that someone had actually READ the darn thing, and someone important in my field!

    Maybe Prof. G. gave it to them. I'm going to ask.

  • At 5:13 PM, Blogger timna said…

    Seems like you could mention somehow to the next editor and reviewers that it's obviously an important work and they will be cited when publishing it!

    How exciting!

  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger ArticulateDad said…

    Sounds good. I guess getting citations is the real mark of scholarship. Publishing is only the door.

  • At 10:07 PM, Blogger Lilian said…

    Hmmm... such an interesting story! I hope the paper gets published this time, it sounds like it should have been published a long time ago :)

  • At 7:24 AM, Blogger hypatia said…

    It's not just unprofessional - I think it's unethical. You read articles for review 'on your honor' not to tell others about the paper or steal the ideas for use elsewhere. In fact you shouldn't even base a next study on their results until they've been published. And you can usually only include students in the review process with the editors permission - you certainly don't circulate papers sent to you for review amongst your lab members. I'd be ticked off. If it's good enough to cite, it's good enough to publish. I'd let the previous editors who have reviewed this manuscript know - maybe they need to send clearer instructions to their reviewers.

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