Publishing in Scientific Journals

Not being a professional or published scientist, the workings of academic journals are foreign to me. As a semi-regular reader of them I really should at least understand the processes involved, and that’s where My Dominant Hemisphere‘s outline of the publihing process and list of 18 interesting journal facts comes in handy.

Multiple surveys have shown that journals are more likely to publish ‘statistically significant‘ findings. This is an important thing to realize. For any scientific study with a Type 1 error rate of 5%, if the null hypothesis was true you would get a statistically significant result 5% of the time. Purely as a result of random chance. But it’s the 5% of studies that report such a ‘statistically significant’ result that are more likely to get published than the remaining 95% of studies that don’t.

via Seed



2 responses to “Publishing in Scientific Journals”

  1. Cedar

    This is true, but statistical significance on its own is rarely the sole criteria used. Measures of effect size, as well as significance, are used by most journals and most reviewers in assessing the merits of an experiment. Further, these statistics are evaluated within the context of the particular experiment.
    This list is interesting, but also contains within it a lot of editorializing about, for example, “the political and arbitrary” nature of publishing. This is true, but mostly because the whole process is designed to be conservative, and mistrustful of large changes. The more entrenched the research, the more evidence must be used to topple it.
    Criticisms of the peer review process dwell on the fact that, well, it is run by humans, with vested interests, and businesses, who have to make money. But what would be better? While there are problems with our current system of scientific publication, I think in most cases it does preserve the spirit of peer review, which is a pillar of the scientific enterprise. it is still a human institution, but what isn’t?

  2. Thanks for the reply, Cedar—very interesting.

    My main gripes with the current process are: copyright transfer of published material, non-open-access journals.

    I don’t know enough about the processes involved in publishing to know whether this is such a big issue, but it seems it to me, a layman. With these two issues solved, a lot of the other issues may automatically be solved, too (“human institution” issues).

    Of course, I am guessing.