Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Demon at a Time

The crap ass journal that rejected my brilliant treatise shall remain nameless, but this is what the cover looks like. And just let me say, I'm getting my subscription to the OTHER ecological restoration journal TODAY!

With the end of the summer field season, the passing of the yearly government budget cycle, and the departure of all my summer seasonals, I find myself at work with sufficient time to confront one of my personal demons. I can't say that digging into this dark drawer of my subconscious, and literally the dark drawer of my desk, has been pleasant. In fact, I would say that it is down right unpleasant.

Here's the deal. One of the many, many factors that drove me out of academia and into the arms of public service (although I will always claim that academia was clamoring for me and I turned my lonely eyes to the government...) is a dread of the journal article writing process. I love designing experiments, testing hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, even writing the broad outline of the paper. I loathe all the incredible work that it takes to get a manuscript from 90% done to ready for submission. And beyond that, I also fear, loathe, and despise, REJECTION!!

Two years ago, yes, two full years ago, my Christmas present to myself was to finally complete a manuscript on a field experiment I did testing the effects of small scale species richness on restoration success. It was a pain in the ass to make sure all the stats were right, to generate all the figures, to get the bibliography in order, and to format the thing to the journal standards. But I did it all and even had my friends Tiffany, Erin and Kelly provide editorial comments. Finally, three days before Christmas, I loaded it into the journal's web browser and sent it off into the ether.

Four months later, I got the rejection e-mail. Despite the fact that two out of the three reviewers loved the paper (one recommended accept with minor revisions, the second accept with major revisions), the managing editor decided to reject the paper. I wrote a rebuttal (their problems with the study were CRAP!) but still they rejected the paper, and me, and my scientific credibility, and my scientific soul, and completely undermined my sense of self-worth. So I put the manuscript, and the rejection letter, in a very dark hole in my filing cabinet, and left it there.

But now, I have gotten it back out. I am determined to work through this manuscript in short order and submit it to the other, kinder, gentler, BETTER ecological restoration journal. And then I have a whole plan for making short work of the not one, not two, but three other datasets that I have that are ready to become journal articles to be welcomed into the world of scientific legitimacy.

I have no confidence that it will go any better this time around. But I do feel better about taking back my scientific self and trying to get my little piece of knowledge back out into the world. If the poor baby gets rejected this time then what the hell, I'll write it up as a government technical report. One way or another, it will get out there.

I would like to say that I am not a complete failure as a scientist. While this particular paper got rejected (despite its obvious brilliance....), I have published two other papers and two notes in academic journals on my work in the NPS. I also have another paper with a student in review right now. So while I am clearly not at the level of many of my scientific kung-fu master friends, I am trying to at least stay in the game.

One demon at a time, one demon at a time.

1 comment:

Uncle Jas said...

OK--following up on my Facebook comments, as promised here are some quotes from my latest batch of nasty reviews:
"For entertainment purposes, here are some quotes from my most recent batch of reviews, on an invited review paper that I submitted:
"First, reading it is just a slog. At a certain point I stopped reading carefully; the manuscript is long and repetitive and parts of it are so basic they read as a textbook."

"The manuscript is also unorganized."

"The terminology in the ms is incorrect. Mycorrhizal is not a noun, so “plant-mycorrhizal
interactions” is grammatically nonsense."

Ha! Reviewers. You just have to laugh.