Current Edition

Improving Clinical Study Publishing Success

Academic publishing is highly competitive, and this competition is only growing as more and more research papers are being submitted to top journals – submissions to Elsevier alone were up by around 270,000 in 2020.1 To get published in a scientific journal, researchers must not only focus on their research quality but ensure their work is presented effectively, including images, references, and writing style, and is in keeping with journal-specific requirements. To ease some of this pressure on authors, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to enhance academic writing and get manuscripts up to the high standards expected from journal editors and peer reviewers.

Clinical study research is critical for the future of science but it is equally important to publish your work in prestigious journals. This is important to communicate your findings to the academic community and the general public, which in turn helps advance global science. However, scientists don’t generally go into research careers due to a love of manuscript writing. According to Kazuhisa Takahashi in his paper Pleasure of discovery: why we love to research, “It is simply because the process itself is delightful. This is especially true in medicine, as research can lead to the well-being of the people. At the same time, the experience of research also enriches the life of the physician”.2 Scientists are passionate about and are typically enthralled by their research, whether it’s designing experiments, observing results, or testing hypotheses. Collecting data and seeing the results of an experiment right in front of you is arguably one of the most exciting aspects of research. Overall, most people tend to prefer performing the research rather than writing about why and how they did it. Despite the desire to showcase their results, many researchers actually find writing about their research findings a ‘necessary evil’ – a tedious task that often involves trying to avoid the dreaded writer’s block and spending many hours writing multiple drafts.

Barriers to Publishing

It doesn’t help that getting published in an industry-leading publication is no easy feat. In her paper Rejection Blues: Why Do Research Papers Get Rejected?, Suvarna Satish Khadilkar points to how many high-tier academic journals have rejection rates of around 80%.3 The paper also highlights the main reasons for rejection, such as weak research hypothesis, incomplete or inconsistent data, references that don’t match the journal style, and poor language with spelling and grammatical mistakes. This goes to show that being an expert researcher with extensive knowledge in a particular field, does not guarantee your ability to deliver a well-produced manuscript. Technical and academic writing is an art that must be learnt and perfected. The problem is that most academic training does not focus on this critical aspect of being a researcher. Instead, courses often focus on developing specific research practices like quality data collection, methodology, and analysis. While these are valuable skills that address many of the common reasons for rejection listed in Khadilkar’s paper, academics can be left without the necessary writing skills required to produce a compelling manuscript. This means that one of the main barriers to publishing a scientific manuscript for many researchers is the quality of the language in their papers. Developing writing skills and optimising the language before journal submission can reduce the likelihood that a researcher’s paper will be desk rejected by the editorial team, which also increases its likelihood of progressing to peer review and eventual publication. It’s possible that many of the errors resulting in rejection could have been identified in the early stages of writing if researchers had used a sophisticated AI English editing tool.