‘To Be Submitted’, A Good Scientific Idea

By Neuroskeptic | July 25, 2013 3:20 pm

I’ve just encountered the practice of scientific ‘To Be Submitted’ circulars.

This is a system whereby before submitting a new paper to a journal, the author sends the abstract and the author list to everyone else in the lab.

This gives anyone who feels that they ought to be credited as an author a chance to say so before it’s too late.

People get left off author lists for many reasons. Often it’s an innocent case of forgetting or a misunderstanding – but these can so easily create tensions.

Sometimes there are deeper disputes over who did the work, but if one of those debates is going to happen, it’s better to have it early, rather than once the paper’s published. A fait accompli solves nothing.

To Be Submitted emails also keep everyone up to date with what everyone else is doing, and it fosters a sense of collective endeavor. All from one email once every few weeks.

Like I said, I’ve only just encountered To Be Submitted, despite working in science for years – which is sad. The system deserves to be used more widely. I’m going to try to introduce it into my current workplace.

Modern academia is so fragmented, with labs barely communicating even with others in the same building, that ideas like this tend not to be shared.

Do you know of an underappreciated arrangement that helps make science run smoothly? If so, let us know in the comments.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: science, select, Top Posts, Uncategorized, you
  • Cheers

    Logic, facts, and reasoning. Super important stuff for science to run smoothly !

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Important but not sufficient. A lab full of logical reasoning people can be a disaster if they don’t find a way of getting along together.

      • Cheers

        Maybe a lab full of logical reasoning people would be a prerequisite for getting along :)

        (e.g. 1. because they would know when to step back because clearly someone else knows better and then know that they have to try and listen to those people, or 2. they would realise that science is not about the person, but about the findings, facts, and cooperation (they would be smart enough to know this, because they would realise this everytime they write up a fancy article citing other people’s work), or 3. they would be able to rise above any possible “difficulties” working together with colleagues because they would realise that they are part of something bigger then themselves and perhaps even have some sort of responsibility to realise this and act accordingly)

      • Guest

        Unfortunately, some/many people/researchers have a strong logical reasonoing that is based on the rule “cat buries her poop because she thinks it is medicine”

  • Jacob G Greenburg

    This can extend further into a software suite called Mendeley. Using this it is possible for groups of researchers to collaborate on the same paper with a literature review and shared sources.

    This allows for a quick search on what has already been published as well as what can still be researched into further.

    Furthermore, cloud services like Dropbox allow groups to collaborate on data sets through shared folders.


  • Pingback: Circulating your “To be submitted” manuscript | ramen and pickles()

  • http://neuroautomaton.com/ Zachary Stansfield

    I think you miss an alternate potential use for this system, such as “padding” the author list:

    “To be submitted: who wants your name on my cool paper? Just say yes, and you’re in! Just… don’t read the paper first… it’s total rubbish.”

    But this never happens in academia, right?



No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


See More

@Neuro_Skeptic on Twitter


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar