the most prolific peer-reviewer in the world shares his advice on how to get published
Jonas Ranstam PhD is a former professor of medical statistics, specialised in randomised clinical trials and chronic disease epidemiology. He is engaged as an editor and statistical reviewer for a large number of international scientific medical journals, and has in Slate, STAT, The Scientist, and Scholastica been described as “the world’s most prolific peer reviewer”.
A prolific author himself, he has contributed to 401 scientific publications published in 116 different international scientific journals during his career. And in addition, he has provided his peer review services for over a 100 different journals.
In 2016, Jonas was awarded the Sentinels of Science Awards by Publons as the top contributing researcher to peer review. And since then he regularly appears in their top reviewer lists
It feels good to be able to contribute to science by helping authors make manuscripts better.Jonas Ranstam, after being awarded the Sentinels of Science Award in 2016.
conpher asked Jonas for his insight and advice to academics struggling with research writing and publishing
conpher: In your early career, did you have a strategy when selecting a journal to publish in?
Jonas: I tried to submit my manuscripts to journals that respond quickly and with constructive suggestions. A rejection with useful review comments is sometimes better than having a premature manuscript accepted.
conpher: What 3 tips would you give a young researcher to increase the chances of their article being accepted?
Jonas: First, select a relevant journal. Don’t send a clinical trial report to a lab journal or a case report to a journal publishing hypotheses. Second, check your terminology, not least the statistical. For example, don’t present 4 quartiles or confuse variables and parameters. Avoid terms that you don’t understand. Third, distinguish clearly between assumptions, opinions, and empirical evidence. If the manuscript is based on a sample of data, the inferential uncertainty should be clarified, and the conclusion should be supported empirically.
conpher: As a journal editor, what do you see as your key responsibilities to contributors?
Jonas: Reasonable handling time, good reviews, and a transparent handling of the manuscripts. If a manuscript is rejected, a motivation should be presented.
conpher: Have you ever published an article you wished you had written?
Jonas: Yes, I have published several articles that I wish I had written myself. What I especially appreciate is empirical research focusing on finding empirical support, downplaying personal opinions, and presented with transparency and consistency. Such papers usually also are linguistically well-written.
conpher: Could the writing skills of a young researcher be improved by becoming a reviewer? And if so – what is the best way to get involved with a good quality journal?
Jonas: Yes, I believe that reviewing is very important for improving ones writing skills. Reviewing widens the reviewer’s knowledge about current research and methodologies. The best way to get involved with a good quality journal is of course to publish papers in that journal, and to show the editors of the journal that you are an expert in a specific area.
conpher: One final tip?
Jonas: I have one further advice. Editors and reviewers spend plenty of time on your behalf, and they usually do their best to provide useful comments. However, you don’t need to agree with their suggestions. As long as you are polite, you can always disagree, explain to the editor why you disagree, and argue for an alternative solution.
Message from the conpher team:
If you are struggling with writing or the process of publishing your research, talk to colleagues and supervisors. You are not alone! Everyone has experienced rejection – read our recent post Abbey Road….if the Beatles had been deterred by rejection
Your research is incredibly valuable and we wish you every success in your future publications – hopefully supported by the advice Jonas has shared with us today!