Lesson No. 4: Embrace the Rigor of Publication
Nov 15, 2021 Erin Peterson, Illustration by Joey Guidone
This article is one in the series How to Think Like a Scientist: A Crash Course. In this series, we investigate the practices and mindsets that help drive great science. We asked Cedars-Sinai researchers and experts to weigh in about the processes scientists use to shape their work and drive progress.
The unique and challenging process of scientific publication can help root out the most egregious mistakes in research before they reach a wide audience. The process isn’t perfect, but it’s been honed over the course of centuries—and continues being tweaked to help illuminate the best work.
A Time-Tested Approach
The peer-review process in science requires authors of scientific papers to have their work assessed by other experts in the field to determine its worthiness for publication in a journal. The first fully peer-reviewed journal, Medical Essays and Observations, was published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1731.
What Does the Publication Process Look Like?
According to the information and analytics company Elsevier, some 2.5 million scientific articles are published annually. The best go through a rigorous process that, all told, can take months or even years. Here’s the process, distilled.
Step 1: Come up with a great question.
Step 2: Conduct the research and analyze the results.
Step 3: Choose your target audience and write up your results
Step 4: Send to a publication for review.
Step 5: Get your research reviewed by peers. Was it accepted?
- Yes? Go to step 7.
- Yes with revisions? Go to step 6.
- No? Go back to step 3.
Step 6: Revise. Go back to step 4.
Step 7: Publication. Congratulations! Time to start again. Go back to step 1.