Updated February 16, 2013
Words of Wisdom:
How to win the Nobel Prize... Or at least, get some recognition for your scientific accomplishments.
If you want to win the Nobel prize in your field, I would suggest an organized campaign aimed at getting powerful senior members of your chosen scientific community to think of you as a Nobel candidate.
Just doing the science is not enough, you must promote your work and explain its importance, significance, impact, and generally tell the world why your stuff is great. Of course, it helps a lot if it's really, objectively, truly great stuff.
Step zero is to do the work. Step one is to get it published. So, here's how that goes.
Most refereed scientific journals require the author(s) to pay page charges, a fee per journal page published. If you are an academic employee of a university or laboratory, the institution will usually pick up the page charges. If you are publishing as an individual, most journals offer a discount rate or may waive page charges entirely.
The journal editor makes the decision to accept, or request revisions by the author(s), or reject the paper. This decision is based on the written referee reports, and the editor's own judgment and discretion.
Usually, the author is provided with copies of the referee reports when they become available. The names and institutions of the referees are confidential and not shared with the author(s). The author usually has the opportunity to respond to referee reports and argue for acceptance, or submit revisions to the draft paper that aim to resolve the referee's objections.
The journal editor has the ultimate authority to accept or reject your paper. The editor in some cases will suggest an alternate appropriate journal to the author, instead of formally rejecting the paper.
The author should endeavor to write a paper that passes through the referee process with flying colors and speeds into print. The referee process takes time. Typically several weeks, or even months to complete the process.
These guides are usually published in specific issues of the journal itself. They will specify the format requirements and other rules for authors. You must obey the rules, or your paper will be immediately rejected. Of course, minor formatting mistakes can be corrected, but usually the editorial staff will ask the author to make the required format changes before the paper is submitted to the referees. Format mistakes can result in delays or rejection of your paper. Learn and follow the rules!
Graphic images in scientific publications such as data plots, images, and diagrams are called Figures. Figures are numbered sequentially, and all Figures must have text captions in addition to any graphic text contained in the Figure itself. When a Figure is referenced in the text, an abbreviation like "Fig. 3" is commonly used. Not Figure 3.
Main equations set between lines of text are usually, but not always, required to have an equation number, like "Eq. 3," adjacent to the equation. Referees and readers often need such numbers for reference. Text lines may have short formulas or symbols embedded. These are not numbered.
The format for mathematical equations and symbols differs among scientific Journals.
Journals will also specify a format for references or citations in your paper. Examine published articles in your target journal to see the format rules in action. Be sure to know and adhere to the format rules specific to your journal of choice. Follow the rules to avoid delays or rejection.
Well written papers will impress the referees and attract readers.
The writer should strive to accomplish all of the following writing goals:
1- Clearly state the main results in a well crafted title and abstract
2- Succinctly describe the methods used
3- Place the result in wider context
4- Explain the significance, and novelty of main results
5- If you claim an original, exciting, and new result or finding, be specific
5- Don't forget to acknowledge those who contributed to, or supported the work
The referee process at arXiv is a kind of “crowd sourcing” activity called moderation. Your arXiv paper may receive useful comments from all over. The online publication system requires papers be written using the LaTex or Tex scientific document system. Open source and commercial versions of LaTex and associated document creation software are available. Check the arXiv Primer for more information on document format requirements at arXiv.
- metadata (separate title, author, abstract, etc.) preparation and LaTex, Tex, etc. file verification
- pending submission status
- announced submission
- additions that can be made without submitting a replacement document
- revision preparation
There is a downside to publication via arXiv.
That is, if you have a paper that has been accepted for publication in a refereed scientific journal you will be given a publication date. The publication date is the date your paper will appear in print as a journal article. Usually there is a delay of weeks to months between the acceptance date and the publication date. It makes sense to post a pre-print of your paper on arXiv so people can see your stuff early. Many journals allow and or encourage this method of publication of pre-prints.
Most scientific journals now accept references to papers published via arXiv. arXiv papers are referenced in the usual way using the arXiv reference code numbers, author list, title, etc.
Some referees may be skeptical of an arXiv published result. So you may have to provide a solid justification, should it be requested by a referee.
If you publish a result via arXiv, will you have priority and recognition as the person who gets the credit for discovering the result?
Although there may be some uncertainty about this, generally, if you have a good valid result in an arXiv paper you will be recognized and credited for your work in traditional refereed journals.
It would be very bad form for someone to scoop a result from arXiv and try to publish it in a journal as their own work. No one wants to be guilty of such a shady practice. For these reasons I believe arXiv is a good way to establish priority for having discovered or developed a new scientific or mathematical result.
Even if others obtain your result independently, they are duty bound to credit your prior publication. Of course, sometimes authors are simply unaware of your stuff. If that happens, it is up to you to write to the journal and inform them of your prior work. Usually, the journal will publish a note recognizing your stuff if it has merit.
Scientific Reports (SR) is an online scientific journal recently introduced by Nature Publishing. Unlike arXiv, Scientific Reports is a peer reviewed publication. SR promises review and publication of scientific papers in the physical and medical sciences on a rapid timescale of 30 days. SR does charge a publication fee per article. SR is meant to be an alternative venue for papers that may not qualify for publication in Nature and its associated printed media journals.
Recommended resources and references
How to Publish Your First Paper on Mathematics by S.G. Kranz
American Mathematical Society
This article provides a short guide to writing and publishing a professional quality paper in an archival mathematical journal. Includes a discussion of publication via arXiv.
Download the pdf at this link:
Wikipedia article about the history of arXiv.
Includes a brief discussion of copyright options available to arXiv authors.
Absolutely you should cite the arXiv paper, some of the most important mathematical papers are now being published via arXiv. But...