Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fracture in yogurt: publication process and press releases

On the research blog Meta Rabbit, publication process is described as a race when the distance to run is decided randomly partway through the race. Here is a typical example :

January 31st
Concluding more than a year of research, we submitted a paper to Physical Review Letters. Hopefully, the editor finds it interesting enough to send it to 2 referees (other anonymous researchers knowledgeable about our area of research).
April 1st
Answer of the referees. One is positive about our paper but the second one has some doubts and questions. We spend the next 3 weeks doing complementary experiments to answer those concerns.
April 23rd
We send our answer. It is processed by the editor and sent back to the referees
June 2nd
The referees answered again. We satisfied #2, but #1 is no more satisfied. Indeed, we did not answered him properly the first round, we were overconfident because he displayed a positive opinion.
June 7th
We send back a detailed response (11 pages when the paper is 4 pages). We must not overlook any detail now.
June 16th
We receive a mail from the editor: our paper is accepted!

In the next few weeks, the editorial team will format the paper, we will review and correct the proofs and finally the paper is published the 8th of July. But this is not the end: we have to advertise our paper. First, we contact the physics institute in CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research). Will they make a press release? A press release is important for advertising scientific results to the general public. Academic paper writing in the art of making boring rigorous something you are excited about. Press release in the reverse process. We describe our research with the less jargon possible to the scientific journalist in CNRS, he uses his writing skills to make it more appealing, we fix some factual mistakes (sexy does not mean wrong) ... and here we are, we have a press release (in French).

And then, we were lucky. One of us tweets his join to the acceptance, and a Philip Ball, a science journalist columnist at Nature Materials, gets it.

The tweet is a bit irreverent, but well, we are dealing with yoghurt, we have to get over it. And Philip Ball contacts us because he wants to write about our paper! So, again, back and forth for factual corrections and at the end he writes a beautiful column about our paper. Go read it, it's yummy.

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