Post #010: The manuscripts in my drawer

London, August 31, 2017

I am a research-focused physician that works on basic neuroscience and that maintains an active interest in pharmaceutical history; a “very rare species” one might say. As a result, I often get the feeling that to my clinician colleagues I am a “failed physician who turned neuroscientist”, to my fellow brain researchers I am a “dangerous, invading species without an appropriate scientific background” [1], and to the historians of science or medicine I am “another young hobbyist of history”; they never, of course, express these thoughts directly, but they are there, lurking behind their words, their questions and their silence. Or at least I often think so.

Criticism on one’s career pathway is meaningless, if it is not reflected upon the “work” he/she delivers. We – myself included – often forget that the output of our scientific efforts is the only heritage that matters. And the reasons we do forget this simple fact are usually practical or psychological: we like to link “success” to numbers [2] and titles, because they are subsequently linked to wealth and power.

In the life of a researcher, the “truth” of his/her research [3] will hopefully survive through his/her published work. Irrespectively of how we currently classify or rate this work, the work will be tested in time by only two criteria: its validity and its contribution to the field. In view of this, the manuscripts people like me keep in the drawer will face three types of referees: (i) the ones to whom the Editors will assign to review them as part of peer-review processes, (ii) the panellists that will review them as part of a career assessment, and (iii) the future researchers that will have to consider them as part of a relevant scientific field review. Of these three types of referees, the third one is definitely the most important, as it is the only case where the referees are identified with the readers; the intended scientific audience of the work. With this in mind, our published work should primarily aim at satisfying the readers of the days to come, as these will have no deadlines and no reasons to misjudge our work, and – most importantly – absolutely no interest in our career pathway.


Notes: [1]: to me, it has been a shock to realise how often physicians are perceived as “unfit” for the undertaking basic scientific research in the UK by non-medically-qualified “scientists”; [2]: I am referring to salaries, journal metrics and the recent trend of REF-able publications; [3]: if there is any, intentionally or unintentionally.

Citation: Zarros A. Post #010: The manuscripts in my drawer. 2017; 31-Aug.