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Quality counts – for something

Posted 27/09/2011 by KatieJ

Quality is a hard concept to quantify, but it is all too readily apparent when it is missed. While speed of delivery is critical in scientific publishing, one wonders for example whether too much haste may sometimes be at the expense of quality, particularly the readability and accessibility of the final paper for its intended readership.

With so many stories appearing so quickly on the internet these days and researchers vying to be first to publish their research papers – not to mention the continued inexorable rise of the so-called open access journals – it set me wondering whether all of our efforts as editors are actually making any difference – indeed, whether anyone out there really notices our efforts at all?

What initially set me mulling over this personally rather depressing topic was a blog on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC’s) publishing website entitled: ‘Accepted manuscript service extended’. To date, the blog reports that ‘more than 650 authors in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry have chosen to publish the unedited and unformatted version of their article as an accepted manuscript – meaning their research was made available, in citable form, to the community even more rapidly’. Indeed, so well liked is this new service option that it is being extended to other journals in the RSC Publishing portfolio, the blog reports.

The RSC, of course, is not alone and certainly not the first in its attempts to speed up the publishing process, and other publishers are already jumping on the bandwagon. Given that it generally takes months rather than weeks to publish a typical journal paper, then maybe this is not too surprising. After all, the credibility of most scientific papers, one might argue, should rest on their results alone – not on some spin or polish attributed to their presentation.

As an editor, I’d like to think that it was more than that though: that our efforts did more than merely tart up a poorly worded piece of copy. And certainly it is true that I have had to deal with my fair share of impenetrable prose over the years – and attempted at least to make it more readable.

Cath O’Driscoll, Deputy editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    21/06/2013 11:52

    hi mermaid. i sure apcaepirte your honesty and openness. shame (not feeling good enuf) is such a big part of this crap, and i've come SO far in accepting that it's just a brain disease. i have written myself a letter of suggestions of things to do (paint my toenails, play a certain album, call a safe friend, pet my dog, take a tub bath, light a candle, say, this too shall pass' (but never as soon as i want it too).NO one likes meds. they cost money, have side effects, are a pain to remember, and i've stopped them before. BUT not for the past 10 yrs, and things are much better. i've needed to chnage types and doses at different times, use a dawn simulator lamp, meditate, read comics and rent fun videos from the library. if I felt like you, what would you suggest? listen to your heart, my dear. my friend becky used to say, if you tough it out, you did it wrong!'. it's hard to ask for help, but we're pretty generic. i've been sober 23 yrs, and sponsor 8 women in AA/Alanon who are also bipolar and know tons more with bipolar kids/parents/friends. There IS hope, there IS help, and we take turns holding each other's hands. isolation is the killer, and i'm so grateful for your letter.we moved four months ago, and i'm missing my support system and counselor. see a new shrink soon. i'm more depressed than i've been in three years, and i've been hiding out' SO: i'd love it if you'd email me . we're in this together, my new friend.besides, if you have your shit together, all you have is a pile of shit!give yourself a hug. i'm sending you one. please, everyone who wants to, i could use one. got some scary stuff to go thru tomorrow, and i feel about 5, not 53. stay tuned!

  • Anonymous said:
    16/03/2012 07:09

    The latest toffres by the EPA is to enforce the 316B Sec. 316. Thermal Discharges.(b) Any standard established pursuant to section 301 or section 306 of this Act and applicable to a point source shall require that the location, design, construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact. There have been estimates of $95 Billion needed for required upgrades. The goal is to protect the fish and waterlife. Indian Point Nuclear Plant is an example who has provided a more than adequate solution to dealing with this. They have screens that prevent the intake of small creatures and redirect them back to their natural habitat and they also replenish the fish population through hatcheries.Any other examples would be welcome.

  • Anonymous said:
    14/03/2012 02:17

    Yes, yes, YES!I am currently 32 years old, and krowing for a software company near Cincinnati, OH. I am (slightly) older than the poster of this article, but basically of the same generation.I grew up in a time of great fear about nuclear power. Born in 1978, I am a child of the 80 s Chernobyl in 1986 is on of my earliest memories. I'm a little fuzzy on the exact chronology here, but another of my early memories was attending an anti-nuclear demonstration with my parents, to protest the proposed Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, OH.Putting children in picket lines at a protest is a great propaganda tool, but a terrible way to make policy decisions. I was told nuclear was bad, it was a terrible threat to us. I believed what my parents told me. It's not like I had the faintest idea what radiation, fission, or anything else really meant, or what the real risks of a nuclear power plant were/are.A couple years ago, I began to question the common-wisdom' about nuclear power. The first stop I made on this journey was based upon concern about the Nuclear Waste Problem . I had heard, as everybody knows , that nuclear waste is highly toxic for 100,000 years or more. I was kind of aghast that the government, industry, scientists, and engineers of a previous generation would start the clock ticking on such a problem. I mean, obviously we can't guarantee that we can safely contain ANYTHING for 100,000 years. How could anyone possibly live with that on their conscience. And what are we to do about it? Is it truly an unsolvable problem?So, I began reading up about the problem, and quickly learned that through reprocessing and re-using the reprocessed fuel, we could reduce the duration of toxicity from 100,000 years, to 200-300 years. This pretty much blew my mind. I do feel reasonably confident that we could safely contain a material for 200-300 years. That hardly sounds like an unsolvable problem. But it doesn't stop there I also learned that through such reprocessing and re-use of the waste', we would generate about 100 TIMES more power from the same fuel as we already extract today. That without mining another kilogram of fuel, we can power the world for 200-500 years even taking into account population increase and increasing demand for power per-person (if consumption stayed at the level of today, I've read, the fuel would power the world for 1000 years but assuming no growth in demand seems a bit foolish when viewing the arc of human history).But, I was still very concerned about safety. Sure, reprocessing might allow us to solve' the nuclear waste problem, but another Chernobyl, or worse, another Chernobyl *every few decades*, would surely lead to escalating levels of nuclear polution of the environment, making the world a much less hospitable place for human habitation for many thousands of years.Additionally, I've read an objection from many environmentalists that nuclear is just too expensive surely wind and solar would be cheaper; Nuclear plants are costing $10 Billion+ to build, and the costs seem to be eternally escalating out of control!As a child of the 80 s, I have a somewhat unique perspective on the matter. Technology literally grew up with me. I say that it grew up with me, and not the other way around, because to say that I grew up with technology , would merely imply that technology was all around me as I grew up. But what I mean is that in many different areas of human technology, huge advances have been made since I was a child. As I matured, so did many technologies. If you look at any technology from the early 80 s computer hardware, computer software, medical devices, radios, telephones, televisions, automobiles, kitchen and laundry appliances, the engineering improvements since I was a child have been nothing short of breathtaking. I feel very fortunate to have been born at the time in history I was, and to have witnessed (and to continue to witness and even participate in) such radical technological change.Virtually every technology is more capable, cheaper, safer than it was in the 80 s by ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. New technologies exist now which nobody had heard of in the 80 s because they only existed as designs at engineering companies and university research departments.Why should we not believe the same is true for Nuclear Power Technology that is true for EVERY OTHER FIELD OF ENGINEERING? Yes, I think the nuclear designs of the 70 s and 80 s were not optimal in terms of their safety characteristics although designs used by the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the western world have shown that our designs from the 70 s and 80 s were much safer than the chernobyl design. Another of my early memories is the media coverage of the Three Mile Island incident. I have recently been trying to read more about Three Mile Island, to understand what the true significance, the true lessons to be learned from that event are. In any public discussion, someone always brings up Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and assumes that obviously that is the end of the matter.The problem was, I didn't really understand what happened at Three Mile Island. As a child, I remember a lot of speechifying and monolouging by journalists, politicians, and representatives of groups like Greenpeace. But, as far as I could tell, the world didn't end after Three Mile Island. So, I decided recently I absolutely had to learn more about what happened, and what the aftermath of TMI was.What I learned is that, yes, the reactor fuel melted down, yes, plant operators made mistakes that made the whole situation worse than it had to be and resulted in the meltdown. But I also learned that the reactor had a feature designed into it, which did it's job a safety feature of last resort, which was a very heavily built containment building which succeeded and doing the job it was designed to do it contained the reactor fuel during the meltdown event, so that TMI did NOT become Chernobyl. In some ways, I know think that TMI is a great success story for nuclear engineering everything that possibly could go wrong just about did at TMI, and yet there was still almost no release of radioactivity during the event (there was, I've read, a moderate amount of radioactive steam which engineers had to release from the containment building, to prevent the internal steam pressure from building up too high, but that the amount of radioactivity released was nowhere near the amount released in the Chernobyl meltdown and fire, and was too small to present a significant threat to public health). I also believe that nuclear engineers learned from the mistakes of the past, as they do in every other field. I've been reading about new Gen 3+ and Gen 4 reactors that compare in the level of engineering improvement much in the same way as comparing today's cellphones with the brick and bag cellphones of the 1980 s and early 90 s the new designs are simpler, more elegant, and obviously safer (even for someone who is not a nuclear physicist or engineer, it's obvious that reactors running cooler, and depending on simple inherent physics to prevent a catastrophe instead of depending on active systems which have to be properly managed by humans, is obviously going to increase safety to the point where a catastrophic problem essentially *can't* happen). Reactors such as the Integral Fast Reactor/PRISM, or the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, or the various Thorium Reactor designs being discussed.I've tried to do some reading about the Gen 3+ reactors too, and while they don't appear to be quite as advanced in their safety designs as the Generation 4 concepts, they still rely on much more passive safety designs than reactors of yesteryear.I am of generation X, and while I understand the need to cut back nuclear developments during the 80 s and 90 s the reactors, though not disastrously dangerous, really weren't safe enough' for massive build-out of hundreds of reactors. But technology does not stand still. While we have somewhat been idle in this country, the state of the art in nuclear engineering has continued to advance in places like France, India, China, Japan, and S. Korea.I believe the time has come for our nation to once again get back upon the horse of Nuclear Power but cautiously, with our eyes open and our ears listening intently. We shouldn't be reckless about it, but I truly believe that we *can* build Nuclear Power Plants which are safer, better, cheaper. I believe we *must* if we are to gain the energy independence, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which we desperately need.While I am not anti-wind or anti-solar, and think they each have a part to play in our nation's energy future, I believe we simply cannot afford to ignore the need for nuclear power to also be in that mix.