2. The editor

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Good morning Mathis Plapp, and thank you for allowing us to ask you few questions. Now reviewers are scientists just like me, and I will ask them to read the paper and to give an assessment about its quality. Now there's also other projects that are sort of I would say more marginal in original, in some sense because there is of course the journals that try more to work like forums, so you can put your article online yourself and then others will comment in it.

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Good morning Mathis Plapp, and thank you for allowing us to ask you few questions. You’re currently senior scientist at CNRS in France, but you are also an editor to the Journal of Crystal Growth. And the aim of this interview is to understand what happens when a scientist sends a paper to a journal. So, what is the mission of your journal?

Yeah. So, the Journal of Crystal Growth is an old journal, already 50 years old. It’s the historic journal of the community that works on crystal growth. Now, why is crystal growth important? There’s many materials that we use that are actually crystals. All our computers are based on silicon crystals, the wafers on which the integrated circuits are made. Most metals are crystals, and we use crystals in many optical instruments. So crystals are very, very important. And so it’s very important to understand and to master the processes of their growth. In order to be able to tailor them for specific application and in order to understand the fundamental kinetic processes. So our journal publishes articles that are related to crystal growth. That can be experiments. That can be theory and that can be numerical simulation. Either way, that it has to do with crystal growth.

Then the scientist want to publish his work, submit his research on your journal. What happens to the manuscript?

Okay so the process starts with the principle editor who receives all the papers. And who does a first check whether the paper falls into the scope of the journal. Okay. Then if he decides that if yes, he selects one of the associate editors, such as me, and this editor will normally be selected according to the particular subject area of the paper. I will get papers in an area that I’m familiar with. When I get a paper, what I start doing with is I read the paper in detail because I make a first assessment whether the level of the paper is sufficient for journal. If I think that it’s too low level then I will reject it right away. This is called an editorial rejection. And if I think okay, there’s enough good material in the paper then I will decide to start the review process, that is I will select reviewers. Now reviewers are scientists just like me, and I will ask them to read the paper and to give an assessment about its quality. So then they send me their reports and then I can read the reports. I have read the paper and then I can decide. Either I reject the paper because finally, the content is not good enough. Or, I ask the authors to revise the paper to improve it. This is the most frequent thing that happens. Or, very rarely also the paper gets accepted right away, okay. So if the paper is revised, then the authors send in a second version. Then it goes back to the reviewers until everybody is happy with the content.

Okay, then first is in the three steps. First the chief editors, yourself as a scientific editor, and then the reviewer, and go back to you.

Yes.

Finally to the scientist. Okay then, now what is the criteria for publishing in your journal? And furthermore, what are the major causes of rejection?

So, I already have mentioned the paper has to do with crystal growth. That means it has to be in the right subject area. Now, the main criteria that we have, and that we ask the reviewers to check. First of all the paper has to be correct, and formally satisfying, and second it has to be new. What do we mean by new? There has to be some novel idea in it. It can be a new material, it can be a new method, it can be a new theoretical development. But there must be something in the paper that has never been published before. Because if in a paper, you have only elements that are already contained in other papers, then it’s not a useful contribution to science. So this is the principal criteria. The two things, it has to be formly correct, and it has to be novelty, a new scientific idea. So precisely the role of the reviewers is principally to take the second of those that is the scientific novelty. So when I choose reviewers, I really try to choose scientists that have worked on very similar subjects because they will know the area. They will know what has already been done and what has not been done. They are specifically asked to comment on whether there is some new ideas in their favor.

Okay. Yeah. The idea that we are [INAUDIBLE] it is to expand the zen of knowledge of the science. [INAUDIBLE]

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.

Okay. Then, apart from that, from your point, what are some general studies used to avoid rejection on the journal?

Well, the general strategy in some sense reflects the two points that I have just said. So, first of all, what you should do is, you should put all in your effort to make your paper as good as possible. And that contains, that concerns mainly the formal aspect so the language has to be correct. If you get a paper written in a bad English that’s very tiring for the reviewers and for potential readers. You have to make sure that all your figures are correct. I mean we are a scientific journal so there is mathematical formulas. There is figures, all the access has to be correctly labeled, all the legends have to be visible, so it’s very important to spend a lot of time on figures. So that’s the formal side, that’s the first level, all of this has to be correct. And the second strategy to avoid rejection is precisely what you have already mentioned. You have to know the area to know what are open and interesting questions that you could address. So the most important part of the strategy is to choose a question that is open and interesting, because if you write about a question that is open and interesting, then your paper will be considered. If you write about a subject that the reviewers don’t find interesting then your paper will be rejected.

Then in some level of strategy the format’s style seems very important. Could you add something on this part? And are we blocked out of the state deadlines of the?

Well, as I mentioned, this is a scientific journal. So for example, it contains math, so there is plenty of rules on how to set or display mathematical formulas. There is also some rules about the structure of the paper, about how to write the abstract and all that. This is written in the style guidelines. This is important, but on the other hand it’s more or less the same for all scientific journals, so there will be no big surprises or no big changes from one journal to the other. So if you’re used then you can publish pretty much in any journal and the style guides are not so important. In many journals, I should say there is an important aspect. There are template files, that is that are sort of prewritten articles where you can fill in the various parts. It’s usually a good idea to use those.

That in fact sometimes the journal provides a framework.

Precisely.

To criticize the articles.

That’s precisely what is called a template. It’s a file that you can modify where it’s written the title goes here, and the abstract goes here, now keywords, now the authors. The references have to be in this and that format. So if you start from the template file, you cannot make many mistakes, actually.

Then the importance to go on the website of the genre-

Absolutely.

And go look for those kinds of informations. Then hopefully some researcher accepts it-

Mm-hm.

The paper. Then what happened?

Okay, so when a paper is accepted, it goes into production, nowadays this means first there will be a web portion. So this will be usually ready two weeks after your paper is accepted, something like that, it will be accessible on the web, until it gets printed, that may take two or three months But, quite frankly nowadays the printed version is not really important. What is important is the version that is published on the web.

So, it is quite quickly and the article will be online?

Absolutely. From acceptation to being online is usually very quick. The longest part of the process is the reviewing. This can take quite some time.

Then I guess we quite well understand the process for paper, but there is another part I would like to talk to you on the publication process. And it’s open wall let’s say, open science. From your part, could you sketch the open computation wall, and what else the may interference if any, with let’s say the more traditional way of publishing?

So there is a growing number of journals that are so called open access journals

So the difference with the traditional journals is mainly the business model so to speak. Because a traditional journal is financed by the subscriptions of libraries and institutions. So you subscribe to the journal, and when you are subscribed you have the access to the articles. Both, you get the printed volumes. To have access on the web, you have to pay. Okay, open access is different. In open access journals, the authors pay at the moment of publication. And, for this the paper is put online and it’s freely available for everybody in the world. Okay, so this appeared maybe about ten years ago when the Web was robust enough to allow this. And it’s gaining ground. So I think we’re seeing a shift in the global publication structure. So as I said the difference is mainly the business model. As far as the editorial process is concerned, there is not much difference between traditional journals, and these journals. Now there’s also other projects that are sort of I would say more marginal in original, in some sense because there is of course the journals that try more to work like forums, so you can put your article online yourself and then others will comment in it. And so the traditional radio process is replaced by something that is more like, I mean more complicated, but still similar to I like or I don’t like in Facebook. There is very interesting developments and I think the web can give rise to very interesting new possibilities. But if you’re talking about the academic world, this is for the moment at the state of experimentation so the standard way of publication is not going there right now.

Okay, thank you. I guess we are over with all of our questions. We well understand the process for publishing. Thanks a lot for that, and this new welcoming with open publication. It’s a new track maybe to follow, with the other interview from a younger publish in science you have two point of view from a researcher who want to publish and from your perspective as an editor. So thank you for that and see you in the next video. Bye.

Bye bye.

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