Posted by: Kash Farooq | September 20, 2013

Scientists: how long does it typically take between data collection and paper acceptance?

This is a quick blog post as a follow up to my previous blog post: “Has alien life been found in a meteorite? Or the sky? Or [Insert Location Here]?

The recent “Alien Life Detected In The Atmosphere” headlines all arise from this paper: “Isolation of a diatom frustule fragment from the lower stratosphere (22-27km) – evidence for a cosmic origin” (PDF). It was published in the Journal of Cosmology.

In summary: a team of scientists sent a balloon to an altitude of 22-27 km. When they retrieved it, they claimed to have found a diatom (a microscopic plant). They state that the only way that this diatom could have been found at an altitude of 22-27 km was if it had come from space. Hence, they have discovered that panspermia is indeed real and, in fact, is still going on.

If you open the PDF paper you’ll see that it was accepted for publication on August 9th 2013.

And if you read the abstract you’ll see:

Sampling of the stratosphere at heights between 22 and 27 km was carried out in the UK on 31st July 2013…

The “scientists” sent the balloon up on 31st July 2013, “the sampling drawer was opened for 17 minutes as the balloon rose from 22026m to 27008m”, and then the “sampling apparatus was returned to Earth (by parachute) undamaged and completely intact”.

Then, within 10 days, the “scientists”:

  • Inspected the sampling apparatus.
  • Searched for biological matter.
  • Found and imaged the diatom.
  • Concluded that it was alien.
  • Wrote a paper.
  • Submitted the paper to a “scientific” journal.
  • Had this paper, which detailed the most remarkable discovery in the history of science, …ahem…peer reviewed.
  • Had the paper accepted into the “scientific” journal.

Impressive turnaround, don’t you think? *.

Now excuse me while I mock all my scientist friends that take months (or even years) getting their papers published, what with all the revisions that the peer review process forces them do. Perhaps if they wrote better papers in the first place, there would not be so many to-ings and fro-ings. ;)

* I’m not a scientist. I’m assuming that this sort of incredible news would take longer to get accepted into a journal.

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Responses

  1. Generally measured in years in life sciences. My record is 9 years for this:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51569001_Structure_of_the_food-poisoning_Clostridium_perfringens_enterotoxin_reveals_similarity_to_the_aerolysin-like_pore-forming_toxins?ev=prf_pub

    Data collected in 2002 during my PhD, but software of the time wasn’t able to process the data – software developments and what-have-you meant the data was processable in 2010… good job we kept good backups eh?

  2. Well, AFAIK remarkable discoveries can sometimes be rushed into publication more quickly than an average bog-standard research paper. And there are legit online-only journals out there that may have a time of only three weeks from submission to acceptance if your paper is simple (e.g. description of one new biological species) and you are exceptionally lucky with the reviewers and editors.

    But ten days from sampling to acceptance? He. No. Not really.

  3. Here’s a typical article timeline. This is a study conducted last year. There were only a couple of months from our final data collection until the paper was written, since much of it had been assembled before we had the final data.

    Received at Editorial Office: 21 Jan 2013
    Article Revised: 23 Aug 2013 (actually this was response to the second round of review comments)
    Accepted for publication: 18 Sep 2013

    Important note 1 – This is a quick turnaround for a decent journal. In this case they asked for text changes and extra references, but no actual new data collection or analysis. Experimental scientists (which I’m not really) are often asked for extra analysis or even extra work to rule out alternate explanations.

    Important note 2 – “accepted for publication” doesn’t mean published. Some journals now put articles online as soon as they are accepted for publication, but this is not standard.

    Important note 3 – This was a damn good paper to start with, so none of your mocking please. Peer review was a trade off between improving clarity on key points, and destroying our carefully crafted clear-english explanations.

  4. 10 days might be the turnaround time for a communication intended for rapid dissemination, or perhaps a “letters to the editor” type thing. Those are important findings that should be announced quickly, and then followed up a certain amount of time later with a full paper. But even then, that’s the admin time for the journal (not an experiment-to-publication time), and a more realistic time would be like 30 days. And the majority of work submitted for that type of communication gets rejected.

    So yeah, total bullshit is this anywhere near realistic for serious work.


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