Dumping Data

March 11, 2011

There was a recent discussion at Dr.Becca’s blog about the nervous dance regarding journal status and chances/timing of getting a manuscript accepted.

A comment in the discussion refers to publishing a “technical report”. Given the diversity of disciplines represented on these here Internets, I’m not sure what was intended. I reflect, however, on “Methods” journals. They exist in my subfields of interest. In theory I’m all over this idea of a venue for putting methodological improvements into the lit instead of languishing in lab lore.

In practice, I don’t use them that much. I’d rather just add a bit more methodological support to a regular old article and fend off reviewer complaints about the extra figures.

And then.

Every so often I am asked to review a methods paper for a journal that I’ve barely let register, or have never heard of. And usually the sausage is being sliced pretty dang thin, let me tell you. A couple of figures and a very limited focus. More times than not the thing ends up being published.

When I get that decision update from the editor for some manuscript I’ve reviewed, I always wonder to myself why *I* don’t just shell out similar bits of very limited methodological workup from our various models?

No Responses Yet to “Dumping Data”

  1. You don’t do that because your esteemed colleagues will think less of you and those journals aren’t worth your time any way.

    I could publish in the journal of recycled results and even get invites occasionally to do so, but it won’t get me anywhere. If I don’t get some good data though in the next few years, my tune will change, and I will be all about those journals so that I have at least something to show for my work.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    I don’t know about “think less of”, my assumption here is that there might be more pubs but the same number of good ones.


  3. Alex Says:

    The answer to this question will probably be different in every field and subfield, but the question to ask is simple: Is there a significant audience that reads the Methods journals and finds them useful for doing better experiments? If so, then disseminating in those journals is useful thing for scientific progress. If not, then you’re just padding the CV.


  4. In the last year, I’ve developed a really cool new method for my field. I could publish in a respectable methods journal, but I’m hedging my bets that I can use the new method to get some awesome results. If it works out, should be win-win. I guess one could argue, what good is a new method if you couldn’t find anything good with it??


  5. drugmonkey Says:

    The fact that you haven’t made hay, yet, doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t CE. Incremental advance, shoulders of giants and all that…

    Alex- As long as it is indexed, people will find the methods article. Unfortunately this leaves your point as “if someone would find it helpful, publish it”. Definitely some things I think people would find useful, I get emails and conference queries on methods now and again. But that just makes it a competition of the time and effort writing it up against some dubious sense of service.


  6. drugmonkey Says:

    One of the things I was trying to get at here is the Least Publishable Unit. Emphasis on the “Publishable” part. There can always be one or two that sneak through. But if there is a pattern…well that is telling you that your standards are certainly above the “Least” standard.

    This has implications not just for your lab, PIs, but also for your trainees. Look at it this way- suppose you are in a field where it just takes longer to generate the “real” papers. (Human-subjects work comes to mind…) Although this can be understood when CVs are being evaluated, numbers still count. Methodological pubs could be a way to boost your trainee’s numbers.

    And now I am getting uncomfortably close to criticizing myself on the same grounds as I criticize GlamourPubChasing PIs. The scale is much different…but perhaps the same principles apply. The field is saying that the standard for a paper is “X”…so if you refuse to publish an X-manuscript because it isn’t good enough for your personal standards than you risk hurting your trainees.


  7. TheGrinch Says:

    I kind of agree with DM—quality of your work is hard to gauge while quantity is quite easy.


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