Barriers to Scientific Contributions: The Author’s Formula


Recently I completed a review of the empirical research on scientific journals (Armstrong 1982). This review provided evidence for an “author’s formula,” a set of rules that authors can use to increase the likelihood and speed of acceptance of their manuscripts. Authors should: (1) not pick an important problem, (2) not challenge existing beliefs, (3) not obtain surprising results, (4) not use simple methods, (5) not provide full disclosure, and (6) not write clearly. Peters & Ceci (P&C) are obviously ignorant of the author’s formula. In their extension of the Kosinski study (Ross 1979; 1980), they broke most of the rules. Why, then, is P&C’s paper being published? In my search for an explanation, I learned the following from Peters: (a) After a long delay, the paper was rejected by Science, with advice that it would be appropriate for the American Psychologist. (b) After a long delay, the paper was rejected by the American Psychologist. This history illustrates the predictive power of the author’s formula. Submission was meanwhile encouraged by the editor of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences – a journal specializing in peer interaction on controversial papers – and, after a final round of major revision, the paper was accepted for publication. In this commentary, I describe how P&C violated many rules in the author’s formula. It may be too late to salvage their careers, but the discussion should be instructive to other authors.barriers, scientific contriution, publication

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