The Sassy Scientist – Publishing Lulls

The Sassy Scientist – Publishing Lulls

Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here or leave a comment below.

Through an overwhelmingly frustrating waiting period, first due to an editor that went AWOL with an unresponsive email account as a result, and then due to my interlude on the earthquake cycle, Candide furiously asks:

My paper is taking forever to be published. Do you know any way to speed up the process?

Dear Candide,

Let’s suppose I’m an editor for some journal and I have been awarded your manuscript to review. After finally having found some reviewers that accepted to do this job, I have another twenty papers I am supervising. Whilst waiting on reviews to come back, I’ve got journal administrators on my back because my reject/accept quotum is way too high; I’ve been disallowing a lot of papers. Mostly because of a lack of … let’s call it “improvement of scientific understanding”. Do you think you’re the only one who isn’t particularly thrilled by the peer review process? Join the club. Disgruntled due to the duration of the process? Write a better paper. Irritated by limited response? Yes, you’re the only one sending me an email. The only one. You’re unique in the world.

I got a little bit side-tracked there. Let’s regroup. Sending a myriad of emails to editors and journal administrators will not always result in a positive outcome for you. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t a proper way to speed up the process, other than submitting an absolute pearl of a paper in the first place. As I am sure you thought you did. Even though job security for early career scientist is … let’s say not great, and productivity is a major factor in the decision process, there are no widespread – nor outspoken – special conditions for papers submitted by early career scientists. Since it is certainly fair to consider that the priority of shuffling these papers through the system is fairly low – I mean, other scientists who also depend on publication lists to obtain grands and such also want their papers published asap – maybe it is not unreasonable to assume that official journal guidelines will not change on this principle. It’s just another one sliding somewhere in the never-ending pile. You’re then left dependent on the editor-at-large. Exercising patience is the only thing left to do. Whilst conferences, and especially workshops, have recognized the need for additional focus on (mostly) PhD students, we’re left hanging by the journals. Through the promise of optimism in the background, that this sour taste of a lack of early career scientist sympathy will be washed away by the sweet taste of expeditious peer review and knowledgeable legislation, the reality of a pragmatic solution is wavering. I wonder whether the EGU journals cannot take the lead on improving this…

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written whilst waiting on my own editor to respond… Thanks Iris. Bosses, right?

The Sassy Scientist
I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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