“Face it: you’re not really going to publish your article. A publisher is going to do that – but only if he thinks it’s suitable. So what does it take?”

That question was enough to fill every seat in the brand new Stone Hall on February 5. Some 130 eager researchers had assembled for the ‘Are you ready to publish?’, hosted by TU Delft Library. To represent the publishers’ point of view, the organizers brought out precisely the person to tell: Andrea Hoogenkamp-O’Brien is executive publisher at Elsevier in the area of biomedicine. Here’s a (very) partial abstract of the many tips and advice she shared with the audience.

By Aad van de Wijngaart

You won’t be the first person at TU Delft to publish: between 2010 and 2014 the university produced no less than 20,336 publications, by 8,204 authors. But behind those figures hides another, that of disappointments, since at Elsevier 40 to 90% of article submissions are rejected right away by the editors. Yes, that’s before they even get to peer review.

Andrea Hoogenkamp – O’Brien

So what gets you published? Well, your personal ambitions don’t matter to editors and peer reviewers. What they’ll look for is manuscripts that are novel, clear, useful and exiting! You must have something new to add to what’s out there.

Not necessarily a great discovery: you can also spend six months further developing an existing method. If the result is useful to other people, then there’s a journal out there that will publish your article about it.

So choosing the right journal is vital. Where do you find the readership that knows and cares about your field of study? A tip: look at the articles in your reference list: that will usually lead you directly to the right journals.

Just as important is that your findings are presented and constructed in a logical manner. Be to the point, so reviewers and editors can grasp the scientific significance easily: they are humans, and very busy too.

Of course, the same goes for fellow researchers. If you want them to find your article, make sure to choose the right keywords, and also use them in the title, abstract and such.

So there’s a lot to consider if you want to succeed. Failing, on the other hand, is very easy: all you have to do is plagiarize or tamper with results. TU Delft, Elsevier and other publishers use very powerful tools to check for suspicious content. Add to that the scrutiny of peer reviewers, editors and colleagues, and you’ll realize that the odds are much worse than Russian roulette.

Articles that have been found, are left online for everybody around the world to see, with a red stamp plus the reason why they’ve been retracted. So it’s publish AND perish, if you break ethical rules!

Remember: your paper is a passport to your scientific community. That’s how you gain recognition and respect. Or the opposite…