Education: The Publication Process

You wondered. How can you see a post on the web, but the actual report only appears in the news stands (scientific literature) about a year later?

If you read the comments don’t bother reading this as I posted on this a few days ago, but if not read on.

The quickest way to get an idea into the open is to stick it directly online or to speak to a journalist who sticks it online in a blog or some other electronic medium. Alternatively you can speak at a scientific meeting and journalists are in the audience looking for a story/scoop, quickly filter out things and report anything with a bit of juice that can be squeezed to sound interesting. Sometimes your data is so hot off the press it may be burning your fingers as you have only got the information a few days before the scientific meeting.

ECTRIMS is a good example of information that is circulated quickly. At scientific , compared to clinical, meetings there are fewer journalists lurking in the wings. Scientists may be less likely to present their hot data if it is broadly spread round the world the minute it is said because there is more competition from other scientists and so you can get scooped when it comes to publishing the work. Therefore some people tend not to present work until it has been published or accepted for publication.

Clinical studies such as drug studies take years to do and inariably need to involve alot of people in order to recruit enough people for the trial. Also the drug supply is controlled by the drug company and so there is little chance of being scooped and indeed the marketing people from pharma will co-ordinated the presentations and press releases to create a big splash.

So how long does it take to get the work published in the scientific literature. Well it usually takes a minimum of 6 months from submission to publication.

First you select your target audience and pick an appropriate journal. You aim high and work your way down the pecking order.

Many years ago it was done by snail mail and you had to draw the figures and then photograph them. Now its all electronic. After circulating around all authors for comments and agreement of content, you submit your paper and the Journal Editor will send it out to 2-3 independent referees for Peer review.

This can be a positive experience as the reviwer may see an angle of the work that you have not even thought about or a hole that you have not thoughtabout. The idea is tat it is a constructive process. However it can be and often is a negative experience where your work or you directly (which is not OK) can be assassinated.

Generally reviewers are given 2 weeks to a month to do ther review. One reviwer does not review it on time (Many people are very busy you do not get paid to do it). Therefore getting the review back can take 1-4months (Maybe a reviewer may just sit on it whilst they do similar work or worse they quickly repeat the study as they now know what to do as the paper they are reviewing tells you what to do…Trust me it happens)

The reviewers then want changes made and a month or 3 could laspe whilst you do the things that the reviewers want.

It then goes back to the Editor who sends it back to the original reviewers (or new ones that come up with new questions). They may take another month or more to deal with it. They are happy and it goes back to the editor the manuscript is accepted.

The manuscript then must be typeset at the publishers. A few weeks go by, you then have to review this and correct any mistakes and then it may be put online then take quite a few more months for it to be published. So most of the year gone before it gets to the BLOG.

Now let us have the common scenario you send it to one journal (you aim high and work your way down the pecking order) it goes through the reviewing process and then gets rejected after being reviewed once, twice maybe three times. Therefore months have gone by and you are back to square one. You then go through the process again and sometimes again.

So it is not hard to take a year to get something published.

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  • Gosh, that means they may have already cured multiple sclerosis but we'll have to wait 6 months to find out about it.

  • Re: "Gosh, that means they may have already cured multiple sclerosis but we'll have to wait 6 months to find out about it."

    It will take 20 years or more to prove and innovation can cure MS. In addition, to that you would have to convince the world you have done it. That could take another 20 years.

  • Re: "Is PPMS a hopeless cause? Is it the worst type of MS to get?"

    Not hopeless at all. It is not too dissimilar to non-relapsing SPMS. All we need now is effective treatments to slow down the loss of nerve cells. This is a major focus of our current research programme.

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