On Sun, Apr 07, 2013 at 11:38:24AM -0400, John Clark wrote:
> But why do you agree with the odds? If a very low ranking journal got
> astonishingly lucky and published a paper of HUGE transcendental importance
> before much higher ranked journals then it's just a matter of time before
> the much higher ranked journals catch on and start publishing articles on
> that subject of their own. But I'll tell you what, because I like you for a
> limited time only I'm willing to increase the odds to 100 to 1; if you
> accept this bet before noon tomorrow on the east coast of the USA and if
> Science or Nature or Physical Review Letters publishes a positive article
> about life after death before April 5 2014 I will give you $10,000, if none
> of them do you only have to give me $100. But wait there's more! As a
> special bonus if you win not only will I give you $10,000 but I will also
> kiss your ass and give you 10 minutes to gather a crowd. Operators are
> standing by, don't delay.

The top two journals have a policy of not even sending out half of
their submissions to peer review. This editorial rejection rate really
means that the next big thing will almost certainly not be published
in Science or Nature. Of course this leads to high impact factors for
those journals, as they're only publishing papers in established
"bandwagon" fields, with lots of people citing each other's papers.

What's somewhat disturbing is that a lot of middle ranked journals are
now doing the same - not sure about Phys Rev - articles from that
journal still appear on my to read list, but articles from Nature or
Science almost never do.

IIUC, PLoS One has a policy of peer reviewing everything that is
submitted to it, and publishing everything that passes basic
scientific principles. If a referee says "I think its wrong, but can't
figure out what is wrong", then it should still make sense to publish
it. Maybe someone else can figure out what is wrong. Possibly,
referees should be able to attach a comment to published papers
indicating potential problem with it, although usually that can be
handled by getting the author to add caveats and so on.

In my mind, this is a more mature approach to scientific
publishing. There is no need for scarcity of scientific publications,
it costs almost nothing to add the paper to the journal when its
online. And getting rid of the obvious rubbish does prove a benefit to
both the reader and the author. About 3-4 of my papers were rejected,
mostly because someone else published the same idea earlier, but in
one case was just plain wrong (whoopsies). And that's great. I can
just move on. When a paper is rejected for editorial reasons, however,
then I must then reformat and submit the paper for a different
journal, which gets plain tiresome. If I thought the paper was worth
publishing in the first place, then having a journal editor reject the
paper because it didn't satisfy er standards for being interesting,
does not change my initial opinion. Only someone pointing out flaws in
the paper, or pointing out that someone else got there first, can do that.
I'm starting to prefer sending my papers to journals that have that as
a policy. I haven't bothered sending articles to Nature or Science for
more than a decade, as its almost certainly just a waste of my time. I
wonder how many other scientists do the same.

So, yeah - I do think the next big thing will be published one of
these newer journals first with a low impact rating. Which one will be a bit
of a crap shoot, though :). Once it is recognised as a big thing, then
followup articles will start to appear in Nature and Science.


Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics      hpco...@hpcoders.com.au
University of New South Wales          http://www.hpcoders.com.au

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