Suppose I did not publish any papers till now in reputed journals and I want to publish a paper with a novel idea. Colleagues are suggesting me to ask any expert to proofread the paper and then to include his name as one of the authors. But I don't want to involve any other person and want to do everything on my own and if any revisions are there, I revise my paper according to the comments by reviewers. In addition to that that are saying that there is a possibility of immediate rejection without seeing the content if authors are new and English is poor.

Some are emphasising that the author names with a good track record can influence the reviewers to fasten the process of reviewing and avoids immediate rejection.

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    Note that mere proofreading is not usually considered enough for authorship (see, e.g., the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, aka the "Vancouver protocol"). – David Richerby Aug 13 at 15:58
  • You did not mention which field you are in. While all fields theoretically focus on quality and importance of the product, that is sometimes hard to fully assess. In some fields it is a fairly open secret that reputation and reputation of who and what you cited can be used as a factor in assessing quality, especially in a first pass. – TimothyAWiseman Aug 13 at 16:00
  • What is the review process for the journal you're submitting to? If it's blind / double-blind then it shouldn't matter, right? Are you only concerned about rejection by the journal, or also about broader acceptance of your work by the research community / getting a higher citation count, etc? – Mike Ounsworth Aug 13 at 22:41
  • For what it's worth, there are academic editing services that specialise in helping get papers up to publication-grade English. It's not a trivial expense, but it is an option if you're concerned about being rejected for poor English. – Geoffrey Brent Aug 14 at 0:34
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    So what's your question, in the end? I guess "how much would it hurt my chances to get published if I decide to go alone rather than involving an academic", but that's not very clear altogether. And it's difficult to answer without having an idea of how much you are familiar with the field. – Federico Poloni Aug 14 at 4:43
up vote 49 down vote accepted

In what you have written, you are confusing together two things:

  1. Is the author known to the reviewers? (e.g., "names with a good track record")
  2. Is the paper well written? (e.g., "English is poor")

While some sub-fields may have "cliques" that exclude people who are not part of them, most reputable scientific publications have a basically honest review process. Reviewers are human, and so even honest reviewers will tend to look more favorably on a person whose work they already respect---and thus many publication venues have double-blind review to try to eliminate this possibility.

If you haven't published in a well-reputed journal before, however, there's a good chance that your paper will not be well-written. Writing scientific papers is a skill, and that skill takes practice. Moreover, writing well is often much harder if you aren't writing in your primary language. And even if you write well in general, writing effectively to a particular scientific community requires being conversant with the current state of that community, in order to understand how readers (and reviewers) are likely to think about what you write.

Thus, I would strongly agree with your colleagues that it is extremely useful to get an expert to look at your paper. I would strongly disagree that means that expert should become an author---merely reading and commenting on a draft is definitely not sufficient for authorship.

If the expert finds problems in what you have written and is interested to become involved, however, it might be very good to begin a collaboration in which they work with you to refine your work and connect it better to the community of interest. In that case, the expert would indeed become a co-author: not because their name is valuable, but because their expertise has helped to improve the paper into something much stronger than it was before.

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    The double blind systems I am aware of are only blind to the reviewers and not the editor, so names with a good track record can still help move the manuscript along (and I am not sure that is a bad thing). – StrongBad Aug 13 at 14:46
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    @StrongBad True---editors almost always see all the names, and it can matter significantly for "glamour" journals with high desk-rejection rates. For many reputable journals, however, desk rejection is rare and so it should matter much less. – jakebeal Aug 13 at 14:52

Colleagues are suggesting me to ask any expert to proofread the paper...

That's a good suggestion, although I would start by asking such experts to listen to an "elevator pitch" of your idea before you ask them for a more serious review. Also, what about your advisor, if you're a graduate student? S/he should help you with that.

...and then to include his name as one of the authors.

This part of the suggestion is inappropriate. Don't add his name unless s/he has made a significant contribution to the paper.

But I don't want to involve any other person and want to do everything on my own

That's the wrong attitude. Part of the experience you're missing is knowing you shouldn't, and should not want to, do "everything on your own".

and if any revisions are there, I revise my paper according to the comments by reviewers.

Don't rely on journal / conference reviewers to do the work of a colleague examining your paper. The reviewers should only need to make sure you haven't missed anything, and that the work is significant enough.

there is a possibility of immediate rejection without seeing the content if authors are new and English is poor.

You need to make sure and write your paper in proper English. Consider improving your writing using a short book on the matter such as The Elements of Style, or taking a university course in academic writing. If that's not enough - pay or find someone to do literary editing in English for you, to improve your skills and not get auto-rejected.

The review process has multiple stages. The first is an administrative/editorial review making sure the paper meets formatting requirements and is vaguely related to the area of specialty for the journal. At this stage the author's names do not matter since the person looking at the paper generally does not know everyone in the field. Really poor language very well may result in the manuscript being returned to the authors. At the end of this stage the manuscript is typically handed to the Editor in Chief or an associate/handling editor.

The EiC may also halt the process. The decision to precede at this stage might depend on the authors. If the EiC is unsure of the topic area, but recognizes an author that may help them decide on which AE to pass the paper to. A failure to recognize any authors and if the EiC cannot determine which AE to hand the paper to, may result in the manuscript being returned to the author or rejected. At the end of this stage the manuscript typically proceeds to the AE.

The job of the AE, at this stage, is to determine if the manuscript is worth the time of reviewers and find suitable reviewers. If the AE is doubtful about the manuscript, but recognizes the authors, they might send it for review while if they do not recognize the authors (or recognize the authors for causing problems), and the manuscript is bad, they might (and should) desk reject the manuscript. Typically, the manuscript then proceeds to the reviewers.

At this stage, the manuscript is reviewed. Sometimes the review is double-blind which means the authors cannot influence the decision, since the reviewer does not know who the authors are. Even when a single-blind system is used, the hope is that the authors do not influence the decision. That said, there is concern that it does, since double-blind systems are gaining popularity.

At all stages a poorly written manuscript can result in rejection and will likely lessen the quality of the reviews.

  • I don't understand the down vote on this answer. It seems both complete and accurate to me. I encourage down voters to leave a comment for the author so that they can understand any objection. – Buffy Aug 13 at 15:29
  • @Buffy I find I tend to get down votes on answers that point out that reality is not always the ideal that we want it to be. – StrongBad Aug 13 at 15:32
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    @StrongBad Not fair. Your comment points out that reality is not the ideal that we want it to be but it's a comment so I can't downvote it. – David Richerby Aug 13 at 15:59

One hopes that the process is more honest than your colleague fears, but no one can guarantee it. In general, I think it is a poor practice and dishonest to include someone as author if they didn't participate in the creation of the work.

The idea that you could get advice from a respected person is probably good, but not that they become an "author" for making suggestions for improvement. You could, however, in an acknowledgement section, thank other people who made some small contributions.

But your idea of doing it all yourself and relying only on official reviewers is also fine.

If you are submitting to a journal or are in a place where prior reputation is all important then the advice might be different even if not really the best. But in such a case it is very difficult for a newcomer to ever advance.

Short answer: having a big name helps, but in practice the names that are big enough to help are not in business of letting themselves being added to mediocre papers.

I've been in your situation before. English is my 3rd language and at the time it was a bit hard to write a paper up so it would seem on par with other papers in ranked journals. I went the solo route and don't regret it. The bottom line is you need to learn to write well by yourself. Your future career and earnings depend on it. Taking a shortcut now will become a huge technical debt later on in your career. Also, writing is soooo much more than just English grammar and style. You are the creator and the only one in command of the content and the structure of your paper. You need to have that control through all the revisions/resubmissions/rewrites your work will go through.

Practical advise: learn to proofread well and make time (~100 hours to proofread your own first paper is about right).

On proofreading by yourself:

  • read aloud. Your ears will hear what your eyes miss;

  • google search every phrase you are not sure about, in quotation marks, e.g. "till now" 41m results vs "until now" 199m results. Therefore you should write "until now".

  • a paper is finished not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Edit as you proofread. No proofreader can help you with this.

With that being said, its great when you can get someone to proofread your paper, but not at the cost of diluting your ownership.

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