Stories behind published papers

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Stories behind published papers

Those who are new to the field of academic publishing might have the impression that submitting research papers to journals and getting them published are orderly processes. The reality is, of course, different. In his book The Double Helix [1], Dr. Watson, the Nobel laureate who discovered the structure of DNA, gives a behind-the-scenes account of events leading up to the publication of the famous Watson-Crick paper in Nature. Publishing research papers, despite the aura of objectivity that surrounds the process, is very much a human endeavour. The choice of the journal, the reviewers’ personalities, prejudices, and preoccupations, and related work in progress elsewhere—all of these and more affect the chances of publication, and it is important to be aware of this.

Another interesting account, although of failure to get published in Nature, is that given by Luca Turin [2]. This book tells a story of a paper that was submitted, rejected, re-submitted, reviewed by a fresh set of reviewers, and rejected once again.

A particularly good source of such stories is the website ‘Web of Stories’—a site well worth visiting. The site began as an archive of life stories told by some of the great scientists of our time. As the number of stories grew, it became obvious that some were on related topics, which gradually led to a web of connected stories. Recently, when I typed ‘publishing papers’ in the search box of the website, the site returned as many as 467 stories featuring renowned scientists from such diverse fields as biology, physics, computer science, and astronomy. The short video clips are recorded by the scientists themselves, and a transcript is provided for each clip.   

[1] Watson J D. 1968. The Double Helix: a personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. New York: Atheneum. 226 pp.

[2] Burr C. 2002. The Emperor of Scent: a true story of perfume and obsession. New York: Random House. 332 pp.

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Published on: Nov 11, 2013

Communicator, Published Author, BELS-certified editor with Diplomate status.
See more from Yateendra Joshi


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