Fisheries scientist Sasha Clark Danlychuk has teamed up with the Keepemwet Campaign to launch a new blog feature called Finsights, in which Sascha “translates” some of the most important scientific studies on recreational angling so that they can be understood by more people. Here’s a brief excerpt from her first post:
Let’s begin with the scientific publications process and why scientists write in such a complex, dense, and let’s face it, dull style. Scientific publications were developed as a means for scientists to make their work known and judged objectively. The process of publication requires a scientist (or, more often than not, the group of scientists) involved in a study to write a manuscript, which follows a very specific format, and to submit the manuscript to a journal of their choosing. There are hundreds of journals, and they vary in subject matter as well as quality.
Once a manuscript is submitted it is read by an editor or associate editor who then must find 2-3 anonymous peers to also review the manuscript and decide if it is worthy of publication. Publications are reviewed based on the quality and merit of the study as well as quality of writing. If the manuscript is accepted (usually after some revisions are made) it is published. If it is rejected, the authors can submit it to another journal and try again. Throughout this entire writing process the goal is precision; the writing has to be absolutely accurate and the wording extremely precise, making the journal articles both dense and generally dull (no flowery adjectives or subjectivity allowed!). There is also a limit to how much the authors can extrapolate their results.
The advantages of this process is that there is an ongoing body of literature which has been judged as sound and provides the basis of further study for any given scientific subject. The number and quality of peer-reviewed publications has also become the standard by which scientists are evaluated. The disadvantages are that the whole process (from submission to publication) can take months to years, meaning that by the time one study is published the scientist is often working on the next study.