Cover letters for journal submissions

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I think one of the sillier rituals in academia is composing cover letters to accompany our manuscripts when we submit them to a journal.

We stopped submitting manuscripts by post about 20 years ago. You’d put three copies of your manuscript into a manila folder, and cover these manuscripts with a letter, as a form of explanation. “Hi, I’m sending you these manuscripts because you’re the editor and I’m submitting it to your journal.” And while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to write few lines why you think the paper is exciting and relevant for the audience of the journal.

But now that we’re not doing manuscript reviews by post, why are we still doing cover letters?

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Unordered thoughts on the Pruitt situation

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If you’re not one of those folks who pays close attention to social media and the lil’ blogosphere of ecology and evolution, it’s possible you haven’t heard about this, yet. But I imagine you will, soon enough. Before this ends up in the pages of Nature and Science and the New York Times, I have some thoughts I’d like to share (though not in any particular order), but first, I’ll give you the lowdown.

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Down with bar graphs

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Some folks really hate pie charts, but I think for some purposes, they can communicate precisely the information we want them to. But, on the other hand, who’s our real enemy? Bar graphs.

Introducing Exhibit A (which is Figure 1 from Weissgerber et al.):

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Bar graphs tell us the mean, and some kind of measure of variance (standard deviation? standard error? confidence interval?). And that’s it. Continue reading

Gender inequity at every step of publishing

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I sat down to my laptop this morning and was looking forward to getting to work. But then I looked at the news.

And I saw this:

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) came out with a report last week about biases against women in the publication process. The highlights — or rather, the lowlights — are in the story in Nature about this report. It’s a one-minute read, please read it. Continue reading

Massive editorial failures harm authors and readers

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Have you heard of the newly published misogynist paper in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine? Here’s the start of the abstract:

It is unknown whether female physicians can perform equivalently to male physicians with respect to emergency procedures. Endotracheal intubation is one of the most critical procedures performed in the emergency department (ED). We hypothesized that female physicians are not inferior to male physicians in first-pass success rate for this endotracheal intubation.

There has been much outrage. But hold on. This might not be what it might look like.
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Sizing up competing peer review models

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Is peer review broken? No, it’s not. The “stuff is broken” is overused so much that it now just sounds like hyperbole.

Can we improve peer review? Yes. The review process takes longer than some people like. And yes, editors can have a hard time finding reviewers. And there are conflicts of interest and bias baked into the process. So, yes, we can make peer review better.

As a scientific community, we don’t even agree on a single model of peer review. Some journals are doing it differently than others. I’ll briefly describe some peer review models, and then I’ll give you my take. Continue reading

Impatience with the peer review process

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Science has a thousand problems, but the time it takes for our manuscripts to be peer reviewed ain’t one. At least, that’s how I feel. How about you?

I hear folks griping about the slow editorial process all the time. Then I ask, “how long has it been?” And I get an answer, like, oh almost two whole months. Can you believe it? Two months?!” Continue reading