What Can You Do to Improve Your Manuscript?
Two Experienced Associate Editors offer words of Advice.
This week we are going to hear from two more Associate Editors who offer their useful advise in how to improve your manuscripts chances of acceptance.
Meet the Editor:
Professor Steven McIntosh is based at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, USA. He handles papers focused on electrochemistry and catalysis.
Professor Steven McIntosh, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, USA
- What is the most common reason for rejecting a manuscript without review?
There are a few reasons I reject manuscripts without review. The most common is a lack of fit for the journal with the manuscript not describing a true advance in chemistry. Some manuscripts fall down at the ”advance’ category in that they report work that is reproducing well-established results or appearing as a more preliminary investigation rather than a thorough investigation in a new area. Other manuscripts are better suited to specialized journals in other fields, I commonly reject manuscripts that are more focused on mechanical or chemical engineering topics rather than chemistry.
The other reason I reject manuscripts without review is when the manuscript clearly does not meet the depth of study required for the journal. Some submitted manuscripts contain experimental results without a supportive contextual discussion and literature review. A manuscript should have a narrative theme that describes and supports the claimed scientific advance.
- What is the best piece of advice you could give a submitting author?
My advice is to clearly make the case that the work is an advance over previous studies. This requires the author to describe the existing state of the art understanding, methodology, or performance level and then clearly show that their work advances beyond this. This requires comparison between their work and the existing state of the art in a clearly presented set of results. I’d also say not to forget to establish trends in your experimental data and provide negative tests. This can be as simple as providing data showing performance in the presence/absence of individual components or as a function of composition. Often these trends and comparisons are the key to establishing the purported advance in our understanding.
Meet the Editor:
Dr. Lubomír Rulíšek is based at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague (IOCB). He regularly handles manuscripts in computational and theoretical chemistry.
Dr. Lubomír Rulíšek, Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
- What are your most common reasons for rejecting a manuscript without review?
As an Associate Editor handling mostly manuscripts from the broad field of molecular modelling in biochemistry, biology, and material chemistry; I tend to reject manuscripts that do not have present the clear validation of the computed data.
Typically, a modelling/docking study is presented, carried out with fairly standard computer software, that ends with reporting computed free energies of binding for a series of (computationally) tested compounds. It ends with the statement: “Our modelling/docking study showed a potential of the compound X and Y to be the great inhibitor of the enzyme Y (where Y is very often one of the SARS-CoV-2 enzymes these days)” Then, then paper typically contains a very descriptive paragraphs of all interactions, detailed discussion of the computed data, etc. However, in my eyes, without experimental validation of the computed data, the results are meaningless; given the inaccuracies of the force-field based protocols. I am not saying that I expect the authors to do the experiment, but to clearly and convincingly show on a known series of compounds tested on the same target with the known experimental binding constants that the used protocol works and the data thus can be trusted. The second typical examples of the manuscript that I reject are those that are out of scope. This is mostly in material chemistry and such manuscripts almost entirely lack chemistry: molecules, compounds, structures, and their transformations, which is in my eyes the definition of chemistry.
- What would be your best piece of advice to a submitting author?
To read their paper with the critical eyes and ask yourself two questions: (1) Do I want to publish this manuscript, just to add one item onto my list of publications (requested, in some countries, by committees, grant agencies, etc.) or do I report a truly exciting science that I enjoy? (2) Does anybody else than myself and co-authors of the paper care about the results presented therein?
Tune in next week for our final blog with our academic Associate Editors! However, do not fear, we will be back with Bob Baker on how to improve your cover letter in a couple of weeks!
You are welcome to send in any questions you have about peer-review or publishing to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on Twitter @RSCAdvances #AdvancingWithAdvances.
Don’t miss out on our previous tips on how to publish and not perish below:
Advancing with Advances (Part 1): featuring Professor Robert Baker (Trinity College Dublin)
Advancing with Advances (Part 2): featuring editorial insights from staff editors at RSC Advances
Advancing with Advances (Part 3): featuring Professor Brenno A.D. Neto (Universidade de Brasília, Brazil) Dr. Donna Arnold (University of Kent, UK), and Professor Nestor Mariano Correa (Universidad Nacional de Rio Cuarto, Argentina)
Advancing with Advances (Part 4): featuring Professor Megan O’Mara (Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology), Dr Giacomo Saielli (University of Padova, Italy), and Dr Pablo Denis (Universidad de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay)
Advancing with Advances (Part 5): featuring Professor Franck Dumeignil (University of Lille, France) Professor Xi Chen (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China), and Professor Manojit Pal (Dr Reddy’s Institute of Life Sciences, India)
Advancing with Advances (Part 6): featuring Dr. Ranjit Koodali (Western Kentucky University, USA), Professor Luigi Vaccaro ( University of Perugia, Italy), and Professor Thierry Ollevier, (Université Laval, Québec Canada)