The publishing process may seem unnecessarily complicated and prolonged to those waiting for their manuscript to appear in print. It is good to remember that not only its points of perfection, but its errors, will remain in hard copy forever. The reviewing and editing processes attempt to minimize mistakes.
Each manuscript submitted to JSHAP is first assessed by the Executive Editor, then by at least two reviewers and a lead reviewer who are volunteers leading busy lives. We encourage reviewers to return manuscripts promptly, but we understand that this is not always possible. Reviewers critique the science of the study. The reviewing process is easier (and quicker) when the manuscript is logically constructed, grammatically correct, and formatted according to our journal style (eg, results and discussion are separate).
A manuscript may be rejected on the grounds that nothing new has been revealed by the study. Others are rejected because the science is faulty – the statistical analysis may be missing or flawed, or there may have been no controls or not enough test subjects. Such problems may be difficult or impossible to correct at the writing stage. Have an epidemiologist help you plan your study to avoid this situation.
Some manuscripts are returned for extensive revisions if the reviewers find them too difficult to follow because they are poorly organized or badly written or both. Although faulty language and grammar are understandable when the author’s first language is not English, many English-speaking scientists are not good at expressing themselves in the formal style needed for scientific writing. If writing is a problem, have the manuscript copy edited by a professional scientific writer or editor before submitting to JSHAP. Re-writing a manuscript delays publication by months and requires extra work by both the reviewers and the authors.
The next step in the publishing process is examination of the revised manuscript by the Executive and Associate editors. The Executive Editor assesses the science one last time. The Associate Editor assesses the writing and style. The Associate Editor also checks for common requirements for scientific papers, for example, results presented for all methods described, and methods described for all results; no reiteration of results or new results in the discussion; tables and figures stand alone (ie, are understandable without reference to the text); and reference style correct. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of their references, but we check carefully during editing and proof-reading for obvious errors or inconsistencies, eg, missing page numbers, incorrectly spelled or missing author names (JSHAP lists all author names instead of using “et al”), or abbreviated foreign-journal names (we use written-out names for foreign-language journal titles). Check your references before the manuscript is submitted and look at several JSHAP articles to remind yourself of the style. Small errors in formatting are easily corrected, but locating missing details is time consuming.
Missing information in the text delays publication. Materials and methods should be clear enough that another investigator could repeat your experiment. Where it is important to use the exact drug, vaccine, serological test, chemical, or other specific component to repeat the study, provide first the generic name, then the product name, then the name and city-state address of the manufacturer. Before submitting your manuscript, check entries in tables and figures against references to the numbers in the text to make sure that they match. Use footnotes to note where rounding has made a set of numbers not add up to exactly the expected figure.
Each scientific paper ends with an “Implications” section. Many first-time JSHAP authors confuse implications with conclusions. Implications should not simply re-iterate the results. They are meant to show how the results might apply in the real world. For example, in a study in which a new vaccine prevented disease in nursery pigs, you might conclude that the vaccine is efficacious in nursery pigs under the study conditions – that is a conclusion, not an implication. Implications suggest practical outcomes. In this example, possible implications are that the vaccine is likely to be efficacious in preventing the target disease in commercial nursery pigs, and that further study is necessary to confirm efficacy under field conditions. Many readers tell us that they read the implications before deciding to read the paper – it is worthwhile making this section strong.
Submission of figures in formats that we cannot use delays publication and can be corrected only by the author(s). Figures must be convertible to our publishing program, of sufficient resolution for publication, and editable. Submit figures created in Excel as Excel files. Submit figures in other formats as individual .eps files when possible. Submit photographs as .jpeg or .tif files. Pasting photos or figures into either Word or Excel drastically reduces their resolution, making them unpublishable.
Having a colleague read your manuscript helps to pick up discrepancies: the more eyes that see it, the fewer errors remain for the reviewers and editors to find. Making your manuscript the best it can be in the shortest possible time requires everyone’s best effort.
-- Judi Bell, DVM, MSc, PhD