The Daily Dose • Monday, April 30

Developing Research from an Idea to a Publication: The Editor Perspective

By Dr. Christian S. Guay, from the IARS 2018 Annual Meeting*

Doctors Hilary Grocott and Kate Leslie offered scholars insights from the perspective of editors into the publishing process of some of the most esteemed anesthesiology journals. Using a Q&A format, they reviewed the development of protocols, obtaining approvals, conducting a project to completion, selecting a target journal, writing a manuscript, how reviewers are selected, how to respond to reviewers and how a decision to publish is ultimately determined.

Some key points to consider in the early stages of your project are clinical trial registration, various data-sharing options, and of course, the development of rigorous experimental protocols to test a well-defined hypothesis. In order to complete your project, you have to recruit an adequate amount of participants. Therefore, be sure that you’re recruiting from an appropriate participant pool, that your collaborators will properly implement your protocol and that you have enough funding to carry the project to completion.

Once you’ve completed your project, you need to settle on a target journal. Your initial literature review is an excellent time to identify journals that are publishing similar work. Although impact factors are often used to compare journals, they should not be the main driver for your ultimate choice. So long as the journal is indexed in PubMed and other commonly used databases, your work will be available to others who search for it. However, beware of predatory journals that solicit authors to submit their work at a significant cost under the pretext of being “open-source”. There do exist many legitimate open source journals (e.g. PLOS ONE, BMC Anesthesiology), but they need to be distinguished from the former. Several online resources exist to make this distinction.

Writing a manuscript is often the most dreaded process of the publication process for authors, especially for those whose first language may not be English. However, it can be a determining factor for where your work is published. Both Drs. Grocott and Leslie recommended setting aside dedicated blocks of time for writing, and to start with the methods section. This should be the easiest section to write because you’ve already done it once with your protocol! Afterwards, move on to writing up your results and figures, followed by a discussion section that focuses on how readers should interpret your results. Only then should you write your introduction, with a clearly stated hypothesis in its last paragraph. Finally, they recommend finishing the writing process with perhaps the most important section: the abstract. This is where you will either hook or lose readers, so it needs to be clear and compelling.

As editors, Dr. Grocott and Dr. Leslie could offer attendees unique insight into how reviewers are selected for a manuscript. The reviewer team usually consists of an editorial board member, a statistical reviewer and two expert content reviewers. They noted that finding reviewers can be a challenge due to “reviewer fatigue” and noted that they appreciate when authors recommend reviewers that are experts in the field. Manuscript keywords are also used to search author databases for expert content reviewers. When responding to reviewers, try to make the second review as effortless as possible. A good strategy is to highlight the reviewer’s remark in one color, your response in another color, and to add details of what (and where) you changed in the manuscript. It is imperative that you respond to every single comment. Finally, they reflected on how the decision to publish (or not) is ultimately made. Factors such as interest to their readership, scientific importance and quality, as well as literary quality are most important. Ultimately, if your manuscript is not accepted for publication in one journal, be sure to reformat it precisely according to the guidelines of another journal before re-submitting. Also consider that the manuscript may be assigned to the same reviewers, so retaining the peer-review revisions can be beneficial. When your manuscript is finally accepted for publication, celebrate… and move on to the next challenge!

*Coverage from the Scholars’ session, From the Editor’s Desk: A No-Nonsense Guide to Successful Publication