I have been working as a postdoc on a theoretical (computational neuroscience) paper as a first author. The funding was over at some point and I have moved to a new position in a different place. By that moment all the (computational) experiments were done and a draft of the draft of the paper was ready.

The PI of my former research group said that he wants to make some edits to the paper. After the scarce comments I got during following 1.5 months it becomes clearer that he tries to rewrite it significantly. Despite the fact the we discussed the structure of the text many times personally and during lab meetings, and I have rewritten it already, following his suggestions, before.

It worries me a bit, since the PI apparently does not have much incentive to work on it (because the funding ended and he told us that he does not plan to apply for a grant in this area soon) and it delays the submission of the article. As I don't have that much first author publications, it is important for me to have one more in nearby future.

I am pretty confident that the text I have written is not bad enough to make its rewriting change the article's value from zero to something large.

Finally, the question: suppose a theoretical paper is shaped according to the target journal standards and has clearly stated results (our model and simulations show that and that). When a rewriting of the text (e.g. changing a point of view or reshuffling the logic) can increase significantly the value/impact of the article?

  • An in all aspects well written paper can definitely increase the value and impact of an article. – Mark Oct 11 '17 at 20:11
  • Unfortunately, there is the type of person in academia who needs to have things their way, regardless of reasons. Did the PI state any reason why he started rewriting it, or express dissatisfaction with the article before? – lighthouse keeper Oct 11 '17 at 20:14
  • @lighthousekeeper he told repeatedly that he wants it to be "understandable by non-experts" but I was never able to get from him, what exactly does he want. We involved a grad student (as a non-expert) in reading it but the student's comments did not change the text enough to PI's mind. I personally think that the main conclusions of the paper are already understandable by non-experts and there is no way non-experts can understand the technicalities, with or without rewriting. – demitau Oct 11 '17 at 20:26
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    Sometimes whether or not a paper is understandable is really about if it is easy to read, which seems to be mostly about sentence structure. Check out George Gopen's publications to learn more about how to make your writing easier to read. The science faculty at my school buy out his workshops every time he presents - they swear it really helps on grant applications etc. You could try to spend a day implementing his techniques and see if your PI likes it more. My advisor was much happier after I revised following the tips. – Dawn Oct 11 '17 at 20:51
  • @demitau Considered for itself, the reason stated by your supervisor is a sound one. There are two further assumptions that, when fulfilled, would justify the rewriting of an article: (i) the journal favors such kind of writing, and (ii) your article does not fit this particular style. Unfortunately, it's impossible for us to assess these assumptions without diving into the specifics of your paper. – lighthouse keeper Oct 11 '17 at 20:51

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