Archive for December, 2009

Opinion articles

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

I recently was asked if JAWRA accepts opinion articles. Here’s what I replied:

Opinion articles are welcome in JAWRA provided they are fact-based. That is, “I think A because of B and C.” Naturally, all sources must be properly cited. We are particularly interested in articles which give a unique perspective on a topical issue or which enlighten us on the views of decision makers.

Standard English

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I once sent a paper authored by a Chinese scientist to a highly-qualified English-speaking reviewer in Greece. The English was somewhat problematic, but I thought it might be good enough for review. The reviewer returned it saying he could hardly understand the English at all.

This true story illustrates why we are so insistent upon authors using standard English. The problem, ironically, is that English is a second language for many of our readers and reviewers. I grew up in New York hearing all kinds of accents and syntactical variations of English and became pretty good at parsing non-standard grammar. However, if you’re already struggling to deal with English syntax, text that breaks the rules likely will be very confusing.

It is unfair to ask reviewers to review a paper in a language they cannot fully understand. Therefore, one of my initial screening criteria is language. If your English skills are weak, the best thing you can do to improve your chances of getting your paper into review is to have it reviewed by a good English editor BEFORE submitting it.

Long Abstracts

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Our Wiley-Blackwell production partners have alerted us that overly-long abstracts are causing problems with page layout. Our limit is 200 words, and some have been going 330 and more. This crowds out the footnotes, keywords, and citation information.

Once again, an abstract is NOT the whole paper! It should concisely summarize what you did and what you found.

Like Garrison Keillor’s description of a good sermon, an abstract should have a strong beginning and a strong ending … and the two should not be all that far apart!

Adventures in the Metric System

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

We just came upon a good example of why one should strictly follow the International System of Units (SI), as defined in http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/introduction.html . An author represented a flow rate, cubic meters per second, as “cms” instead of the standard, m³/s. Nobody caught this in review, so the copy editor saw a non-SI unit. Not understanding “cms” was meant to represent a flow, they thought it meant the plural of centimeter and corrected it to the standard “cm”.

Using cms is a throwback to the old cubic feet per second abbreviation, cfs. While not as ambiguous as cms, cfs still requires users to interpret an arcane form. It’s one of the reasons most of the world has left English units behind.

Bottom line: Use SI or risk having to write an erratum.