More Support and Templates in SciFlow

SciFlow is an online editor for academics. They have recently updated and expanded the documentation, so should you ever get stuck, here’s how to. That said, the interface is pretty intuitive, so I’m not sure you’ll ever need to navigate to the support pages for basic editing.

There are some useful hints, though, like using zbib (Zotero) with Sciflow (instructions here). This gets pretty close to Authorea’s citation feature, and is also useful for collaborative texts (and doesn’t suffer from the slowness of direct Zotero/Mendeley connections if you have a large database of references).

The SciFlow team have also recently updated the Templates feature:

There are many journal styles to choose from. It’s not quite (yet) like typeset.io, but the social sciences are not well covered by typeset anyway. SciFlow offers some useful templates, but in most cases, it’s necessary to do some finishing before submitting to a journal. On the other hand, there’s a template for minutes — that’s useful for anyone working in a team, and who isn’t?

In most cases the generic templates will do, including the SciFlow templates which support many common citation styles.

Who is an author?

This comes up in discussions from time to time, but guess what you’re not the first to wonder. Here are the guidelines we used in the SOM project. Our IP policies had the following section:

Who is an Author?
When writing and publishing a piece, every individual mentioned as a co-author is co-responsible: all authors are fully responsible for the contents and stand behind the contents. They should be able to defend the paper as a whole (not necessarily technical details). Only the following can be named authors:

    individuals who have contributed substantially to the specific question and the research plan (conception and design of research)
    individuals who carried out the research (data processing, data analysis)
    individuals who substantially contributed to the interpretation of results
    individuals who drafted the manuscript (including drafting substantial sections, such as a literature review, or a results section)
    individuals who critically reviewed the manuscript, leading to substantive changes

The following are not named as authors:

    individuals who were only involved in data collection
    individuals who provided or secured funding
    individuals who just read the manuscript
    honorary authorship

Multiple Authors
Where there are multiple authors, authors are listed by relative contribution (Lake 2010). In addition, authors are encouraged to include a short statement (e.g. as footnote or at the end of the article) indicating the division of labour between the co-authors. Such a statement should also be included where the contributions are equal. Authorship and other credits are included in early drafts of papers to help resolve any future disputes.

For articles based on the thesis or dissertation of a student, students should normally be the first author.

If no clear differences can be determined, authors are listed in alphabetical order.

We even had the following: “Where authors cannot agree on who made the most significant contribution or other aspects of authorship, disputes are referred to the managing board minus involved parties. The board considers the main contribution of the paper to the literature to determine which contributions are considered more significant. If the dispute cannot be resolved by the managing board, the managing board will appoint a neutral third party.” — but this was never needed.

D. Lake, “Who’s on first? Listing authors by relative contribution trumps the alphabet,” PS: Political Science & Politics 43, no. 1 (2010): 43-47.

The entire section was introduced with the following footnote: “This section is based on J. Reemtsma, “Regeln zur Sicherung guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis am Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung” (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, 2009); and BSA, “Authorship Guidelines,” The British Sociological Association, 2001, http://www.britsoc.co.uk/Library/authorship_01.pdf.”

Most important academic skill? English!

The other day I was reviewing a paper that looked quite interesting, but unfortunately was written in such poor English that I could not really understand what was going on. I felt sorry for the author(s). I then recalled a recent discussion with a colleague of mine about how important so-called transferable skills are for students: We know that most of them won’t end up in academia, so stuff like critical thinking, structuring an argument, or reading a regression table a are pretty important. Among these, coherent and comprehensible English must rank very high. For those who stay in academia, I’d argue that it’s the most important skill, because it’s central to communicating with other researchers and having your work understood. Only this way can others build on what we do. Ironically, however, teaching English is typically not a focus at universities, if it is done at all. Like so many things, we just kind of assume students (have to figure out how to) do it.

Image: CC-by-nc Moiggi Interactive

Anonymizing your manuscript may make it easier to identify who you are

Some academic journals request that all references to publications by the author(s) are anonymized by replacing them with “Author A”, “Author B” etc. At first sight, this seems quite reasonable and in support of double-blind peer review. However, this approach is flawed. Unless we write things like “how I showed previously (Ruedin 2017)”, including a reference to my publications does not actually tell the reviewer whom I am (e.g. “as Ruedin (2017) showed”). If we then use “Author A” etc., we indicate to the reviewer that this really is one of my publications. For anyone familiar with the literature relevant for the paper (as the reviewers probably should be), the effort to hide the identity of the author actually makes it clearer.

Let’s take the perspective of the reviewer. I get a paper, not knowing who wrote it. If it’s a paper from a conference I attended, I probably know it (assuming I attend relevant panels), and any effort to anonymize are in vain anyway. If it is by someone working on similar issues, I might guess — but typically I don’t try, because it should make no difference to my review who wrote the paper. Seeing lots of references to say Smith doesn’t actually mean it’s a paper by Smith. It could also be: (a) a post-doc or PhD student of Smith, (b) someone hoping that Smith would be a reviewer, (c) someone who found the work of Smith quite useful, (d) that Smith reviewed the paper at a previous journal and asked insisted to be cited, etc.

So how to anonymize properly? Avoid (a) references to unpublished output of yourself (“Ruedin, 2017, unpublished manuscript”), (b) constructs like “how I showed previously (Ruedin 2017)”.

Image: CC by-nc-nc by Scott Beale