The Society receives about 223 manuscripts a year for In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology-Plant.  Approximately 80% of those are rejected.  The reasons for rejection are mostly a lack of novelty (14%), plagiarism (36%), and technical errors (39%).

A lack of novelty might seem to be a judgmental concern that hinges on the whims of a reviewer.  However, in Vitro Biology is not a new field, so manuscripts that just present data using well established techniques are difficult to justify publishing.  For instance, the application of cytokinins and auxins to induce shoot and root regeneration has been very well established for several decades and repeating experiments in this area adds little to the understanding of the subject matter.  Consequently, when thinking about submitting a manuscript, consider how novel the work really is in the context of the field of In Vitro Biology.  If you have questions about the novelty of your work email your questions to the Editor in Chief.

As for plagiarism, do not do it!  Plagiarism is the copying of sentences, paragraphs or ideas from another published text, even texts that you have written (self-plagiarism).  Besides being unethical, most published texts have a copyright, making plagiarism illegal; essentially stealing.  Each manuscript received is examined against a large database for text similarity that makes catching plagiarism much easier today than a few years ago, so it does not make sense to plagiarize other works; it will be detected and the manuscript will be rejected.

Technical errors such as not replicating experiments, not statistically analyzing data, or using inappropriate experimental design or assays are indicative of a work not ready for publication.  Authors should not submit manuscripts deficient in these areas.  In addition, there are technical writing errors that if corrected can make many manuscripts publishable.  The most problematic of these is an unreadable manuscript, one that does not meet the language standards expected in an international journal.  The experimental work and resulting data may be brilliant but if the reviewer cannot understand what the authors wrote the reviewer will reject the manuscript.

There are other technical writing errors, such as:

  • not citing all listed references or citing references that are not in the reference list
  • using non-standard units of measure, such as lux, lumens, ppm, lb, oz, in, ft, psi, acres, “drops,” and “room temperature”
  • not using the accepted name of a plant species (always check The Plant List http://www.theplantlist.org/1.1/browse/ )
  • Using acronyms common only to the lab submitting the manuscript
  • Using multiple terms for the same thing throughout the manuscript
  • Using personal abbreviations for materials with established abbreviations, such as amino acids
  • Not italicizing the name and abbreviation of genes
  • Italicizing the name or abbreviation of a protein

Errors such as these, particularly many in one manuscript, can cause reviewers to question the veracity of the scientific work, often resulting in a rejected manuscript.

Avoiding technical writing errors is easy.  First, make sure the manuscript is readable. For colleagues from non-English speaking countries we encourage you to have your manuscript edited by a native English speaker.  If such a person is not available consider an English editing service to bring the English usage up to the Journal’s standards. There are many to choose from, for example, two such service providers are Oakside Editorial Service (http://www.oakside-edit.com/default.html) and Bioscience Writers (http://www.biosciencewriters.com/ScientificEditing.aspx). Second, avoid simple errors by mimicking the editing style of the most recent issue of the journal.  Third, read and follow precisely the Instructions for Authors found in the back of each journal issue.  Fourth, verify that all citations have an associated reference and all references are cited. Fifth, read the manuscript out loud to make sure what was intended to be written was actually written.  Sixth, have someone not associated with the work read the manuscript carefully to correct obvious errors.

Authors should not submit a manuscript with the technical writing errors described above.  With meticulous care during the writing process, there are few reasons for novel data from well-designed and replicated experimental studies not to be published.

Submitted by David Duncan
Editor-In-Chief, In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant