SCIENTIFIC WRITING FOR DUMMIES

Some weeks ago my first postdoc paper was accepted. Some of you might be familiar with what a paper is and what is mean “accepted”. Today´s post is for those of you who are not.
So after you come back from a cruise and analyze your samples, one has a huge amount of data to organize and graph. Then comes the funniest and more difficult part, writing stories about what’s going on in the field/experiments. Let’s say it is like, “Once upon a time…” but with scientific writing and structure: Abstract, Introduction, Material and methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, Acknowledgments and References. I should say this is the part I find more challenging; when I am starting a new paper, it takes me forever to speed up my typing. Some weeks are 0 words and at other times while revising, everything written before is deleted which equals negative writing speed.
However, suddenly, a good idea lights my brain, and then another and the words flows without effort. Once you have the structure, the main message, the main character (in my case it is normally CO2 with its different outfits) and an end, you send to the co-authors (people who participate in the same project, your bosses…). After this stage, I have different experiences: sometimes some co-authors do not bother to read, some flick through and pick typo mistakes, sometimes they disagree with the structure itself (and you have to reinvent your story) and others nit-pick the little details and the manuscript that returns has more of his/her works than yours. After some toing and froing with your co-authors, you send the manuscripts to a journal. You choose the journal depending upon your subject, the importance of your work, your past (or your boss) experience, free or open access…
Once submitted, you wait for the editor’s response. If the editor thinks the subject or the quality of your job is inadequate for his/her journal he/she rejects it immediately (that case never happens to me!) What the editor normally does is send the manuscript to different referees (expert in the area) who may agree to comment on your work. Of course, when you are in the play, you will be asked to review other authors’ papers (I still remember how happy I was after I received my first invitation! But now it starts to be too much work).

These referees can choose to be anonymous and a few, under the anonymity umbrella can be really rude (I have one in a paper from my PhD who even started writing in capital letters like he/she was shouting at me!!) They can be, like co-authors, skimming or diving through my work. Normally, one receive constructive comments that greatly improve your manuscript. These referees make a suggestion to the editor: reject, invite to submit again, major changes, minor changes or accept as it is. I have always had to make adjustments. Again, you modify your manuscripts according to the referees’ comments and send back the manuscripts. Some referees ask to read the manuscripts again and at other times the editor makes his/her own decision.

It’s like a tennis play, you fight to get the ball to the other end against co-authors, editors, referees and it takes a lot of back and forwards until you succeed.
After so much effort and pain (and time, the whole process can take more than a year), you can imagine who happy you feel when you received this email:

Email informing about acceptance of my last paper

I received the email confirming my first accepted paper when my partner was in my office and in the attempt to embrace him, I was so excited that I erroneous bit his head, hahahaha… now we always laugh when I tell him I have another acceptance, he always answers: “Congrats my darling, should I need to put on a helmet?!”

Helmet and papers :)

Helmet and papers 🙂

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