28

Say, in a particular field of science, method A or equipment B are the standard. Now I have invented method X or equipment Y which cost much less than A or B.

What are the necessary conditions, if any, that allow X and Y to be published as a journal paper?

(This question of course is loaded with my own assumption that originality in an academic research does not include cheaper price. I have long held this assumption from a simple fact that I have never encountered such thing as being cheaper being described in any background/introduction section in any journal articles I've read.)

  • 19
    If you get the same (or better) quality for smaller costs, then I see no problem with publishing that. The difficulty starts when there is a trade-off between quality and price. I suspect that many reviewers and editors tend to be put higher value on quality than on price. – Maarten Buis Aug 19 '14 at 19:35
  • 5
    @MaartenBuis while I agree for some cases, in other cases merely offering the choice of trading off quality for price can be very useful. – Bitwise Aug 19 '14 at 20:21
  • 2
    @MSalters Not for originality, but for motivating the paper. "I found this novel method A, which has no conceivable advantage over other known methods in the field." is a very tough sell, at least in the more applied research areas. – xLeitix Aug 20 '14 at 6:19
  • 2
    @MSalters At least in Applied Software Engineering, "letting others worry if your method solves their problems" is a recipe for paper rejection. – xLeitix Aug 20 '14 at 6:20
  • 1
    @Bitwise I totally agree that offering a choice can be very useful. My comment was only meant to describe the situation in many parts of academia where quality has higher "status" than money. So if you are in a situation where you have to "sell" your new method, which involves a trade-off, you will need to put extra effort in making clear that this is useful. For example, discuss an example situation where this method could be useful. – Maarten Buis Aug 20 '14 at 7:40
33

What are the necessary conditions, if any, that allow X and Y to be published as a journal paper?

That the method or equipment is new and interesting. It is really as simple as that.

It is completely ok if the improvement or motivation of your technique mostly lies in cost savings - that is common in many research communities. If the way how you achieved these cost savings is by applying simple technical optimisations, you will have problems publishing your results. On the other hand, if you reduced costs by fundamentally changing the way how your technique approaches things, or if you manage to reduce costs by orders of magnitude, journals will presumably be interested in how you achieved these results.

26

I think that you miss a point in the word original: You have to present original research, not necessarily original results. If you found a cheaper method than anyone before, the research is obviously original, even if you didn't find out anything new.

Example from other sciences: In maths, a new proof of an old theorem is original. In CS, a new algorithm which is just 10% faster than an old one is original. In medicine, a new treatment for the same disease is original. And so on and so forth.

As well, even if your result is not better than the previous ones (slower algorithm, more expensive method), it can of course be original. It's just more questionable whether it's useful, sometimes it is, but you have to be quite convincing usually.

  • 6
    I would like to kindly ask the downvoter if he privoded a feedback so that I know what is wrong with the answer. Thanks. – yo' Aug 19 '14 at 20:43
  • 5
    To add some motivation to the last point: One should not forget that even a method that has no advantage over existing methods may still prove ultimately very useful as it might form the basis of a future method that does have advantages. For example, with fusion power research, there is a whole field based on the hope that it might yield a more efficient method one day. – Wrzlprmft Aug 19 '14 at 21:27
  • @Wrzlprmft Yeah, I had that in mind, just wasn't able to put it in words. It exists in math: a new proof, even more complicated one, can turn out useful dozens of years later. I'll try to edit it in. – yo' Aug 19 '14 at 21:44
  • 2
    Did you mix up something in the first paragraph? "You have to present original research, not necessarily original result. If you found a cheaper method than anyone before, the result is obviously original, even if you didn't find out anything new." doesn't make sense to me, shouldn't it be "the research is obviously original" in the second sentence? – O. R. Mapper Aug 20 '14 at 9:02
7

At least in life sciences, this could be publishable, depending on the details. In the end, what matters for publication is whether the paper is of interest to the scientific community.

In some cases, cost can have huge consequences. For example, if you invent a method to easily sequence a human genome for 100 USD, that would greatly advance biomedical research and diagnostics, and you will get a very high-impact publication. You can read more here.

4

Original, in this context, means significantly different. The motivation of your study can be to develop a cheaper method, no problem with that, but the question of originality nothing to do with this.

Original research only means that you do a non-trivial root that hasn't been explored yet. If you manage to be cheaper because you use a different effect or some non-trivial different element, then it is perfect for publication. If you manage to be cheaper, because you ordered your o-rings and screws from a cheaper online shop, then maybe it is not interesting for publication. Anything between I would try to publish: something that seems trivial for you or a gradual improvement, may be surprising or insightful for others.

Two notes:

  • If it is a commercially viable method, you should really think about to patent it first before publication. Even a provisional patent is much better than nothing.
  • At the end of the day, if your method will be widely used (because it is cheaper and practical), this will be a highly cited publication, even if you think your improvement is not significant from scientific point of view. Some of the most cited papers of all times are publications on software used in X-ray crystallography. 99.9% of people do not read those papers, do not understand those papers, and it may be that they just announce the implementation. Yet everyone who used them, cites them and do it rightly. So it is always better to publish, and then worry about if people like it.
1

Aluminum used to be more valuable than gold or platinum - it was used1 to cap the Washington Monument partly because of the rarity and value of aluminum back then (it's worth about $50 today). European monarchs would put out aluminum tableware - silver was for the common rich.

The Hall–Héroult process changed all that and made aluminum one of the cheapest metals on the planet.

Most everyone would agree that Hall and Héroult came up with something original, publishable and patentable.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.