Tag Archives: publishing

Wire arc additive manufacturing applied to cosmetic dentistry?

photograph of a flower for decorative purposes onlyLast weekend I sat down at my laptop to write this week’s post with only a vague idea of a topic. When I opened my laptop I was surprised to see two emails from a supposedly reputable commercial publisher inviting me to be a guest editor for two special issues of two different journals.  For two decades, I served as editor-in-chief of two international journals consecutively with only a short overlap so I am well-qualified to act as a guest editor.  However, the invitations related to cosmetic dentistry and wire arc additive manufacturing.  I know almost nothing about these two subjects so why was I receiving invitations from the editors of two journals to be a guest editor.  In collaboration with colleagues, I have published some papers recently on another form of additive manufacturing [see ‘If you don’t succeed try and try again‘ on September 29th 2021].  My Google Scholar profile shows that my two most highly cited papers relate to work performed thirty years ago on osseointegrated dental implants [see ‘Turning the screw in dentistry‘ on September 30th, 2020]; although on closer examination it would also reveal that I have published nothing since then on this subject.  I suspect that a poorly programmed algorithm was fooled by my eclectic and long publication record into issuing poorly targeted invitations rather than the academic editors exercising poor judgment.  At least, I hope that is what happened since the alternative is that journal editors are no longer exercising academic judgment (though it is obvious this is also happening given the incoherent reviews of manuscripts that editors too frequently pass on to authors probably without reading them).  I will treat these invitations as spam; however, others may see them as opportunities to create or expand ‘peer-review’ rings and put more ‘Rotten eggs in the store‘ [see post on November 30th, 2022].  The peer-review and publication system for scientific papers is clearly broken and one part of the solution is to remove commercial interests from the process.

Rotten eggs in the store

Photograph of boiled egg for decorative purposesDo you feel like a battery hen? I ask the question because I know many of the readers of this blog are academics and in her 1995 introduction to the revised edition of her book ‘Beast and Man‘, the philosopher Mary Midgley describes the current approach to the writing and publication of academic papers as a battery-egg system in which the number of publications produced by an academic are simply counted when assessing promotion cases and grant proposals. She suggests that ‘this arrangement encourages industrious mediocrity’ such that even gifted and original researchers are forced to choose small topics for research in order to maintain their publication rate [see ‘Reasons for publishing scientific papers‘ on April 21st, 2021]. Reputable journals are supposed to be the guardians of quality through their peer-review systems; however, it matters little because the volume of papers published is so huge (more than 2 million per year) that most will never be read – no one has the time [see ‘We are drowning information while starving for wisdom‘ on January 20th, 2021]. So, Midgley predicts that journals will become ‘merely reputable cold-stores for eggs that everybody knows will never be eaten’. Unfortunately, many of the eggs are rotten because peer review systems are being undermined by disreputable authors, reviewers and editors operating ‘peer-review rings’ which have led to the retraction of hundreds of paper by publishers, including 511 papers by Hindawi & Wiley in August 2022 and 463 papers by IOP publishing in September 2022. So, if you do find time to read some journal papers, be careful what you believe because the work might be fraudulent.

Mary Midgley, Beast and Man – the roots of human nature. Abingdon, Oxon. Routledge Classics, 2002.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soft-boiled-egg.jpg

Reasons for publishing scientific papers

A few months ago I wrote about how we are drowning in information as a result of the two million papers published in journals every year [see ‘We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom‘ on January 20th, 2021]. As someone who has published about 10 papers each year for the last couple of decades, including three this year already, I feel I should provide some explanation for continuing to contribute to the deluge of papers. I think there are four main reasons for publishing scientific papers. First, to report a discovery – a new contribution to knowledge or understanding.  This is the primary requirement for publication in a scientific journal but the significance of the contribution is frequently diminished both by the publisher’s and author’s need to publish which leads to many papers in which it is hard to identify the original contribution. The second reason is to fulfil the expectations or requirements of a funding agency (including your employer); I think this was probably the prime driver for my first paper which reported the results of a survey of muskoxen in Greenland conducted during an expedition in 1982. The third reason is to support a promotion case, either your own or one of your co-authors; of course, this is not incompatible with the reporting original contributions to knowledge but it can be a driver towards small contributions, especially when promotion committees consider only the quantity and not the quality of published papers. The fourth reason is to support the careers of members of the research team; in some universities it is impossible to graduate with a PhD degree in science and engineering without publishing a couple of papers, although most supervisors encourage PhD students to publish their work in at least one paper before submitting their PhD thesis, even when it is not compulsory. Post-doctoral researchers have a less urgent need to publish unless they are planning an academic career in which case they will need a more impressive publication record than their competitors. Profit is the prime reason for most publishers to publish papers.  Publishers make more money when they sell more journals with more papers in them which drives the launch of new journals and the filling of journals with more papers; this process is poorly moderated by the need to ensure the papers are worth reading.  It might be an urban myth, but some studies have suggested that half of published papers are read only by their editor and authors.  Thirty years ago, my PhD supervisor, who was also my mentor during my early career as an academic, already suspected this lack of readers and used to greet the news of the publication of each of my papers as ‘more stuffing for your chair’.


Patterson, E.A., 1984, ‘Sightings of Muskoxen in Northern Scoresby Land, Greenland’, Arctic, 37(1): 61-63

Rose Eveleth, Academics write papers arguing over how many people read (and cite) their papers, Smithsonian Magazine, March 25th, 2014.

Image: Hannes Grobe, AWI, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons.

Going against the flow

Decorative photograph of a mountain riverLast week I wrote about research we have been carrying out over the last decade that is being applied to large scale structures in the aerospace industry (see ‘Slowly crossing the valley of death‘ on January 27th, 2021). I also work on very much smaller ‘structures’ that are only tens of nanometers in diameter, or about a billion times smaller than the test samples in last week’s post (see ‘Toxic nanoparticles?‘ on November 13th, 2013). The connection is the use of light to measure shape, deformation and motion; and then utilising the measurements to validate predictions from theoretical or computational models. About three years ago, we published research which demonstrated that the motion of very small particles (less than about 300 nanometres) at low concentrations (less than about a billion per millilitre) in a fluid was dominated by the molecules of the fluid rather than interactions between the particles (see Coglitore et al, 2017 and ‘Slow moving nanoparticles‘ on December 13th, 2017). This data confirmed results from earlier molecular dynamic simulations that contradicted predictions using the Stokes-Einstein equation, which was derived by Einstein in his PhD thesis for a ‘Stokes’ particle undergoing Brownian motion. The Stokes-Einstein equation works well for large particles but the physics of motion changes when the particles are very small and far apart so that Van der Waals forces and electrostatic forces play a dominant role, as we have shown in a more recent paper (see Giorgi et al, 2019).  This becomes relevant when evaluating nanoparticles as potential drug delivery systems or assessing the toxicological impact of nanoparticles.  We have shown recently that instruments based on dynamic scattering of light from nanoparticles are likely to be inaccurate because they are based on fitting measurement data to the Stokes-Einstein equation.  In a paper published last month, we found that asymmetric flow field flow fractionation (or AF4)  in combination with dynamic light scattering when used to detect the size of nanoparticles in suspension, tended to over-estimate the diameter of particles smaller than 60 nanometres at low concentrations by upto a factor of two (see Giorgi et al, 2021).  Someone commented recently that our work in this area was not highly cited but perhaps this is unsurprising when it undermines a current paradigm.  We have certainly learnt to handle rejection letters, to redouble our efforts to demonstrate the rigor in our research and to present conclusions in a manner that appears to build on existing knowledge rather than demolishing it.


Coglitore, D., Edwardson, S.P., Macko, P., Patterson, E.A. and Whelan, M., 2017. Transition from fractional to classical Stokes–Einstein behaviour in simple fluids. Royal Society open science, 4(12), p.170507.

Giorgi, F., Coglitore, D., Curran, J.M., Gilliland, D., Macko, P., Whelan, M., Worth, A. and Patterson, E.A., 2019. The influence of inter-particle forces on diffusion at the nanoscale. Scientific reports, 9(1), pp.1-6.

Giorgi, F., Curran, J.M., Gilliland, D., La Spina, R., Whelan, M.P. & Patterson, E.A. 2021, Limitations of nanoparticles size characterization by asymmetric flow field-fractionation coupled with online dynamic light scattering, Chromatographia, doi.org/10/1007/s10337-020-03997-7.

Image is a photograph of a fast flowing mountain river taken in Yellowstone National Park during a roadtrip across the USA in 2006.