Time to Publication

May 1, 2017

One of the truly frustrating aspects of publishing is the high variability in publication times.  Specifically I’m in reference to the time between the paper acceptance and when it shows up in print (and thereby has an official citation).   Pre-publications online have at least made papers accessible far in advance of the official publication, which is good.  But once the official (on paper) versions arrive, one is faced with the problem of updating websites, CVs, and other sources on the paper.

When these lag times are highly variable between journals (and culturally the lag times that are deemed “acceptable” are highly variable between fields), it gives rise to this unfortunately phenomena of papers being published out of sync with the temporal order of the work.  In other words, a paper on earlier work comes out AFTER a paper on more recent work.   This makes it hard to convey to people the progress of a project, to have new students follow the progression of a project, and to explain what the current status of some ongoing project *really* is.

Take for example our work on nascent transcription analysis.    Temporally we published FStitich at the BCB conference in (Sept) 2014 .   As is not uncommon with some bioinformatics conferences, our submission was selected to be included into an accompanying journal article — with the condition that the journal article include 20% more material.  We submitted this extended version in Dec. 2014.   It was a slow review process as despite only minor revision, it wasn’t accepted for publication until Jan 2016.  It has yet to appear in the print version, so will likely have a 2017 (or heaven forbid, 2018) publication date.

Meanwhile we have been working in the background on a separate, more mathematical representation of nascent transcription.  The first paper on this work was drafted in 2014, but took a while to finish (our own fault), spent some time in review (again with comparably few revisions necessary), was accepted for publication in May 2016 (Lladser et. al.) but didn’t appear in print until Jan 2017.  During this process, we developed a separate (but related) model with a number of advantages (particular for human/mouse data) over our J. Math Bio model (which is, however, better for Drosophila data).   We submitted this paper to Bioinformatics in May 2016 — the same month the Lladser paper was accepted.   Bioinformatics is a comparably very fast journal.  The paper was accepted by August and appeared in print in Jan 2017, effectively making the two papers contemporaneous.   Even though the work is very much sequential.

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