Stijn and I are in the process of editing a manuscript that has been a looong time in the making. We had submitted it for the first time last summer to a prestigious journal and, after extensive review, it was ultimately rejected.
The four reviewers’ comments were fair and, after briefly licking our wounds, we took them to heart. A lot of lab work followed, Stijn and Hugo’s pipettes were practically on fire, and from the ashes emerged a better story.
The process of editing a manuscript prior to submission is hard, and at times very boring work. I dust off the perfectionist glasses that I had put aside during the fast and furious writing of the first draft and begin weighing each word from the perspective of our most intimidating possible reviewers. Are we over selling or under selling anything? Have we anticipated and addressed the readers questions in the discussion? Have we anchored our arguments to the best citations?
I say it is boring work because all of this polishing takes sooo much time and has less conceptual pay off than the initial draft assembly phase. Maybe its my inexperience. After all, I have only submitted a couple of papers as a PI and I’m just developing my writing method. But what I know for sure is that a scientific paper is just like any other product, the packaging matters. How the results get packaged into a story is critical in reaching the right audience be it respected peers, future collaborators or grant reviewers. It communicates not only the scientific findings, but the values of the authors and the ‘brand’ of the lab.
When was the last time you particularly enjoyed the experience of reading a paper? Did you go back and analyze the style or quality of the paper that made it extra appealing?
2019-09-27 Update. One year after the initial rejection, Stijn’s paper is finally out!!! Success!