Sunday, 31 May 2015

I love technical notes and short manuscripts

One of my first papers in 2012 (here), was related with support vector (SVM) machines. It was a simple algorithm, that improved the method to compute the isoelectric point of peptides using SVM. The first time I presented the results to my colleagues, one of them ask me: "are you planning to publish this?". One of the senior co-authors said, "we can write a big research manuscript, explaining other algorithms, compare them, use other datasets, etc". Another said (computer scientist), "we can explore other features from peptides including topological indexes.. and write a full research manuscript about.."....
"I was very clear from the very beginning, We will write a Technical Note or Letter. "     

This decision was based on my preference for short and concise manuscripts (except for reviews). I hate when I read a research manuscript and it contains a lot of "redundancy" and side results/discussions that only obscure the final claims of the authors. Some of the reasons that convert the original manuscript in a big and heavy "Frankenstein" (in my opinion) are: 

Review process
  • Authors like to explain every detail of their conclusions including secondary/side  experiments, analyzes and references (using complete paragraphs) to previous papers.
  • Co-authors like to add new ideas, claims, and results that only increase the content of the manuscript but not the value. The main authors of the manuscript normally know what they want to achieve, their claims, goals and How they want to present it. Co-authors over-complicate some of the ideas and results.   
  • The reviewers.  
My conclusion is: In many cases as most people interact with the original idea (manuscript) less clear is the manuscript. Specially in those cases when a lot of smart people with lot of ideas are surrounding the paper. My formula is trivial and simple: short manuscripts.

This advice can be summarise in three main tips:

  • Try to publish if is possible in Technical Notes and Letters Schemas. Most of the journals accept these kind of manuscripts, they are short description of a novel algorithm, tool or technique. Also protocols, new analytical methods can be publish in this way. 
  • Even if you ambition a research manuscript, you should always fight and play for concise and clear manuscript. The limitation of size works (100%), it means that you should fit yourself to a limited pages even in a research manuscript. This is one of the features that makes Technical notes and letters strong, by making the authors to express they results as most concise as possible. 
  • Make strong your points with reviewers and fight for your idea. Reviewers normally start by asking new references to previous work. Then, it can continue with more data analysis or other experiments. To avoid that, during the revision process you should try to make clear your points, provide extra data to reviewers without including it in the original manuscript. The review process is basically a discussion process of the proposed manuscript, some ideas can be improved, but other can be publish as you claim. 
This is what I try to do, and when I was discussing my last manuscript (here), my first idea was: We should go for a Bioinformatics Technical Application.

Hope this help!!! 

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