Displaying data: a picture can be worth a thousand words

Once upon a time, at the beginning of scientific publication the display of data was difficult.  With time and developments in printing technology the ability to display images, graphs and other graphical representations became a little easier.  Indeed the hand drawn microscopic images in old journals are works of art.  Developments in photographic technology and multilayer printing methods paved the way for photomicrographs to be reproduced, albeit at significant cost.  Artwork still needed manual methods and some of us will remember (perhaps not fondly) the skills of using ‘Letraset  and the like!   Digital technologies and powerful software packages have revolutionised the generation of figures in the last decade.  Why then do figures cause Editors so many problems?  So many really nice papers are let down by poor quality figures.  Not just poor technical quality but poor presentation and clumsy or imprecise construction. Read more of this post

Is the Journal of Pathology a peer review journal?

I recently received a letter (by email) from a particularly disgruntled author.  We had decided to not send their manuscript out to review and had returned it to them after consideration by our ‘triage team’.  Not only did they express the view that the manuscript was both important and of high quality, they protested that to not send the manuscript out to review meant that we could not consider ourselves a peer review journal!  This deserves some consideration. Read more of this post

A short break?

It may be that some of you have noticed I have not been contributing my regular blog as I was.  You may have missed me?  Others might not have noticed!

The explanation was a vacation in the Scottish Highlands which for a period had been remarkably transformed into a fair imitation  of Tuscany. Read more of this post

July 4th Celebrations: American pathology journals

Since it is July 4th I thought it appropriate that we think about the good old “US of A”.  Of course (with tongue in cheek), I am putting to one side any last lingering concerns about the War of Independence, the rather ‘robust’ terms of the 1940 lend lease agreement or the singular failings of American cuisine.  Rather I want to ‘tip my hat’ to American pathology, and in particular American pathology journals. Read more of this post

Genetics research: just the yellow pages?

There are some comments in the history of science that look, with the microscope of history, to have been very foolish.  Although there is some dispute Charles Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, is alleged to have said in 1899 that “Everything that can be invented has been invented”.  Similarly Lord Kelvin is alleged to have uttered the statement “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement”. More recently, in 1969, the then Surgeon General of the United States, William H. Stewart said “We can close the books on infectious diseases”.  And even Bill Gates may have been a little off the mark when he posited in 1981 that “No one will need more than 640 kilobytes of memory for a personal computer”.  Given these egregious examples of failed prediction, one perhaps should be very circumspect in making bold predictions.  But actually I think it is worth speculating about the future of genetics research.

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The human genome project, cancer research and Renato Dulbecco

There has been a great deal of hype in relation to affordable genomes and the impact of the $1000 genome.  Recently in The Observer, Carole Cadwalladr outlined her experiences of paying for her own genome to be sequenced.  Interestingly her GP declined to be involved – which perhaps underscores my concern, outlined in an earlier blog, that the medical profession is just not equipped to deal with the tsunami of information.  I will return to that in a future blog, but today I would like to reflect on the history of the genome sequencing projects and in particular highlight a small, but important, step in the story that is not prominent in most histories.

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New impact factors . . . . .

Impact factors are not without their critics!  Not least me!!

But they are the ‘industry standard’, although new metrics such as Eigenfactor score and Article Influence Score have been argued to be better.  Ultimately they are all flawed metrics but they do have some utility as surrogate rankings of quality.  Anyway . . .  the new rankings for 2012 (all is done a year in arrears) have just been released . . . and here is a snap shot . . . Read more of this post

The Editor’s Blog: the first 6 months

I began this blog in December with some trepidation. How would I manage to write a regular blog? Would it be read? The feedback I have had has been gratifyingly positive, but I thought it would be interesting to review what the first 6 months. So after 25 posts, how are we doing and who is reading this blog? What has been viewed? What was popular, and what was not?

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Does the REF have an impact on mental health?

The other week I learnt of the tragic death, by suicide, of a lecturer in a UK University: a talented and able scientist with pedagogical skills as well as research talent, married with a young family. I do not know the full circumstances, and it would be inappropriate to divulge them anyway, but one might wonder if significant factors at work perhaps contributed to this tragedy.  Can it possibly be that the huge pressures of the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (or REF) may have contributed?
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The poverty of prognosis studies

I was at the Spanish Society of Pathology (SEAP) Annual meeting in Cadiz the other week.  And a very fine meeting it was.  One thousand delegates with a buzz and positive atmosphere that was truly excellent.  I had been invited to give some talks including the closing Plenary lecture.  Indeed a singular honour.  I was asked to talk about the role of Molecular Pathology in Predictive Oncology.  In preparing for this I was minded to revisit some old areas.  In 1999 James Going and I wrote about the problem of prognosis studies in the pages of Histopathology, in a review entitled “Predicting the future: a critical appraisal of cancer prognosis studies”. We were then concerned about the many problems in the general area . . .  little has changed!  Much of it is really pretty poor!

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