Thursday, June 29, 2006


Yesterday, Felix forwarded me a slightly strange email. He's the corresponding author on the paper we submitted to Zebrafish in December, so naturally he gets the proofs to review before publication. However, it's really my paper, I'm the first author, it describes my work on my M.Sc., he's a co-author (and a very valuable one, too!). We decided to make him the corresponding author because a) I don't care and b) I'm going to be moving to an unknown place sooner than he is likely to, so if someone wants to ask a question about the work, Felix is easier to get a hold of.

The email itself was a little strange. The journal has been sitting on our accepted, revised manuscript for months without a peep from them, then suddenly we get this fax-back-the-corrections-in-24-hours message. Most journals (so I hear) mail out hardcopies of a manuscript to review and check; Zebrafish has decided on a rapid publication schedule so they provide a link to a PDF of the proofs. Fair enough, this is what the internet is for - but it would help if the link took me to my paper, not the paper appearing next in the journal. There were other weird little errors in the message, too - like they want me to clearly state that I'm returning proofs for the correct volume and issue of the journal, then they get that wrong (in bold type) in the email.

Oh well, now I've done that, for the first time ever. There were a few screwy little typos, nothing too serious, and some comments at the back basically asking for clarity in the references section. No problemo, and the fax went off this morning, inside (I think) the 24-hour deadline. After I sent the fax, I sent an email saying "I sent a fax, did it come through OK?", and got an automated I'm-on-holiday reply!

Why is there a 24-hour deadline if the person responsible for dealing with my proofs is going to be away for a week?

This episode made me think of the current discussion happening in the scientific part of the blog-o-sphere about the economics of journals. I'm wondering if the high cost of journal publication has anything to do with heavy salary costs - presumably, many skilled people are involved in reviewing, organising, editing, layout et cetera for each and every article in each journal issue. And, they apparently get time off (lazy bastards!).

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