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No research is complete without publication. Publication facilitates the open exchange of information among researchers and exposes research methods and findings to the scrutiny of the larger scientific community. It allows us to differentiate what is and what is not credible in research. Publication also allows us to track new ideas or discoveries, to demonstrate productive use of research funds, and it provides a record by which a research career can be judged. Publication is a central part to the practice of science, and scientists are under considerable pressure to publish.

For much of the last century, peer review has been the principal mechanism by which the quality of research is judged. The peer-review process is based on the notion that, because much of academic inquiry is relatively specialized, peers with similar expertise are in the best position to judge one another’s work. On the one hand allows us to evaluate the quality of research, on the other hand it is a valuable tool to provide feedback that can be used to improve on a manuscript or otherwise.  You can find more information on peer-reviewing here.

Between the different aspects of science, publication is handled in different ways. For example, for most medical journals, the guidelines for publication is a document from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). You can find these guidelines in this PDF. Journals often have their own rules and styles when it comes to publications, please make sure to look them up in advance.

Besides the formal requirements to publishing, there are some moral rules that are worth clarifying:

  • Publications should present some substantive and new results or analysis, and should not serve merely to increase the author’s number of publications.
  • Authors should seek to publish accurate, complete, clear and unbiased representations of their work. This includes the background, the methods used, the findings, the significance and contributions of the work, as well as a fair assignment of authorship and credit.

It might be possible that your research has not met the results you initially hoped for, and instead offering results that refute current ideas or carefully constructed hypothesises. These so called ‘negative results’ should not be viewed as a failure however, as they offer precious insight in the research subject. For example, the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine Journal offers means of publishing these results as well.

Publishing is an integral part of our scientific method, it should be done in a proper manner.