How to get published in the Journal of Tropical Forest Science (JTFS)
Many of the papers submitted to JTFS previously were not accepted for publication. The papers that we did not publish were found lacking in originality, universality, readability or context.
To be original means having something new to announce. An old method repeated again and again to produce slightly different results each time, has low originality. For example, in wood anatomy, the description of a species of wood follows a standard pattern. If these descriptions are submitted one paper at a time, the journal would be flooded with look-alike papers, and their impact would be very low. Wood anatomy is perhaps an obvious example, but almost all areas of forest science, including description of wood fibres, species composition of forests, algorithms for obtaining timber volumes or biomass, formulae for tissue culture, and studies of leaf litter all risk becoming repetitive. The proper place for such data is in manuals—manuals of timbers, fibers, forest types and so on. Repetitious work should be done by trained technicians while the scientists should always be looking for innovative things to do. Every paper published has to be, in some way, at the cutting edge of science, announcing something new and interesting.
Another reason for rejection would be that a paper contains almost nothing of universal interest. For example, let us say that a fertilizer trial is carried out in a particular locality on a particular species. The experiment is a classic textbook factorial experiment, carried out with full scientific rigour and analyzed statistically. Such a trial would take a long time to carry out, and require much organization. Nevertheless, it would be in the nature of a diagnostic service, like testing a door for fire resistance, determining the nutrient content of a leaf sample, or identifying a piece of wood. The findings are effectively a prescription for the particular locality but cannot be extended to other localities and certainly not to the rest of the world. Such a paper should be published locally if at all.
Every journal has a particular audience, and a range of technical terms and concepts that its audience would be used to. If a paper is written in such a way that only a chemist, physiologist, molecular biologist or economist can understand it, it should be sent to an appropriate journal of chemistry, physiology, molecular biology, etc. However, there are cases where authors want to make their work known to a forestry audience, through publication in a forestry journal. To do this, they must ‘walk’ the readers through unfamiliar terms and concepts. Authors who understand their topic well are are usually skilled in presenting their special topic to non specialist audiences. It is a joy to read such papers.
The context of a paper may make it suitable for publication even if another, very similar-looking paper, may be rejected. For example, we would not welcome papers on the ecology of beetles, one beetle at a time, but if a particular beetle happens to be the most destructive beetle of wood products in the world, an exception would be made. A paper on wood anatomy would be welcome if the wood is very special, e.g. representing a previously unknown family.
The role of reviewers
Scientific research is a unique discipline in which all the performers perform on a world stage. It is not like business or sports where one can start at village level, and move up to higher levels before going international. Any paper published in a reputable journal immediately goes before a world audience. The profession is unique also because it is a professional etiquette for scientists to review papers when invited to do so by editors. Review is the chief mechanism by which new scientists are brought up to international levels of performance. Editors always try to select reviewers who have a reputation in the topic to be reviewed. The reviewers will check that the paper is of an acceptable technical standard for that particular topic. They may merely say yes or no. However, reviewers and editors will often go to the trouble of making detailed comments.
When the paper is returned to the author…
If a paper has been accepted for publication, the author will usually be asked to make certain changes or to approve changes made by the editors. At this stage, the author may negotiate with the editor over the changes, or withdraw the paper. If a paper is firmly rejected by the journal, the author still has the option to submit it to other journals. Responding with angry letters to the editors and reviewers is a serious breach of professional etiquette.
Our goal for JTFS is to promote innovation and excellence in forest science. Please help us to achieve this goal.
Dr F. S. P. Ng