Scientific publication

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A scientific publication or professional publication (in the jargon often simply paper called, if it is not a monograph is) is a written scientific work of one or more authors, the publication ( publication ) at a scientific publisher is provided or under way.

The most common is the publication of individual articles in specialist journals , followed by contributions to conference and collective works . Today, the publication process usually includes a prior assessment by (mostly anonymous) specialist colleagues (referees) in a review process. On the other hand, for textbooks and handbooks, scientifically identified scientists are generally used as authors “by order”, and a possible “refereeing” procedure before the final printing depends on the specific case.

In the run-up to conferences and meetings, a call for papers is often asked to submit scientific contributions.

Reasons for publication activity

Scientists publish to

  • to present their research results to the scientific community (their subject); only then do they “exist” and can be quoted;
  • encourage other researchers to engage in technical discussions and further research;
  • to show that at some point they already had the results; this proof function is reminiscent of patenting an invention;
  • to make a name for oneself in their subject, which is important, among other things, for employment or for the award of research funds (“ publish or perish ”);
  • Receive money for this publication ( royalties, etc.);
  • present yourself to the general public and promote yourself and your ideas; this option depends on the subject.

In some subjects, a preliminary pressure (often done Preprint ) of publishable manuscripts on Internet servers like .

The background to this is that in almost all areas of science, the number and quality of publications serve as evidence of successful scientific research. External interventions and restrictions are generally not provided for for technical reasons and as a matter of principle (“freedom of research”). In some subjects - above all in medicine , pharmacology , engineering and in the case of military relevance or patent issues - the publication of facts discovered through research is excluded or restricted by external parties.

Apart from the interests of the public, the publication of new findings is essential, especially for science itself, so that other scientists can gain access to this knowledge and develop new research ideas.

Forms of publication

The term “scientific publication” includes all articles in published scientific book trade media (such as “Zeitschrift für ...”). Also recognized publications are patents and utility models . So-called “ gray literature ” is also used. U. consulted; this means, for example, university publications (e.g. doctoral theses, diploma theses), "internal reports" from research institutes and corporate publications. Internet documents that belong analogously to the areas mentioned above are also common types of scientific publication.

Depositing a work in archives or libraries is not a sufficient form of publication. Expert opinions, artefacts, designs, trademarks or internal reports are usually not taken into account as publication carriers. The same applies to Internet documents that do not need a publisher, such as a private homepage.

The publication of scientific results or doctrinal opinions can be done in several ways. A distinction is made between independent publications ( monograph ) and dependent publications (essay, article , report, etc.)

  • Monograph : a mostly extensive publication in which a problem area is dealt with systematically and completely (see also textbook , manual ).
  • Articles in specialist journals ( specialist articles ): These articles are usually less extensive (unless the journal specializes in reviews) and usually present new results for a specialist audience. The manuscripts must meet formal and content criteria in order to be accepted for publication in the peer review process. Specialist experts check the work for its scientific quality. The peer review process can take several months for publications in journals (sometimes longer, for example in economics or astronomy , where it can even take several years), but it usually ensures high quality. Furthermore, specialist articles in such journals are analyzed by the readership in the form of reviews, which represents a further control body.
  • Articles in conference proceedings : Such publications are similar in scope to articles in journals, but the quality control is often less comprehensive because the volume has to be ready by a certain date. Often, deficiencies in accepted articles are only corrected by the authors, without the revision going through the review process again. On the other hand, articles in conference proceedings are still very topical when they appear.
  • Article in compilations : In terms of scope, they are comparable to articles in specialist journals. However, they usually have a close thematic relation to the other articles in the respective collective work.
  • Contributions to commemorative publications that are dedicated to well-known scientists or institutes for an anniversary: ​​The criteria are similar to those of a conference proceedings, but the subjects of the authors (who often come from the group of honored students) usually have a greater professional diversity and are i. d. Usually not presented before going to press.

Monographs and compilations can appear in book series , which means that they are usually assigned to a clearly defined subject area.

The various subject areas place different emphasis on the individual types of publication: In physics , biology and economics , for example , publications in specialist journals are mainly perceived, but articles in conference proceedings less; in computer science, on the other hand, more publications are published at conferences; In the humanities, the publication forms of a journal article, a collective article and a monograph appear side by side.

In general, the weighting and recognition of electronic Internet publications, especially those that z. B. in Open Access are only published on the Internet, are still in flux (as of 2006 ). Here, too, the scientific disciplines differ. In Selbstverlag published scientific works, whether on the Internet or, for example, as a book-on-demand , generally enjoy little to no recognition, at least if no peer review took place at the work or the author is little known. In many cases, only those works are rated as published that can be assigned to a so-called ISBN .

Structure of a publication

Natural and social sciences

Articles in the natural and social sciences often have the following structure:

  • title
  • Authors : including all co-authors , with the contact address of a corresponding author . In the case of published theses, the head of the working group is usually listed last and the main author first. However, there are different views, which can lead to misunderstandings about the respective contribution of the individual co-authors. A team often works on a scientific (research) project, and of course everyone has an interest in having their name published accordingly; this in particular for the reason to also develop a reputation scientifically, which in turn is important for future project financing and the researcher's career. As a rule, as mentioned, the authors are named in descending order of importance. Alternatively, however, an alphabetical order is also possible, within which the main authors can be identified separately.
  • Abstract : a short presentation of the content that reproduces the main theses or results in a very short, concise form. The abstract is very often publicly available in catalogs.
  • Introduction ( Introduction ): A summary report of the research object: the introduction, so to speak includes a small review article with pertinent literature. The motivation for the present work is presented: What gaps in knowledge exist? Why is it important to fill this out? Similarly hypothesis (s) formulated.
  • Materials and Methods / Experimental Section ( Materials and Methods / Experimental Section ): which information sources, tools and methods were used to deal with the question? How is the choice of methods justified?
  • Auctions ( Results ): what is the result of efforts? Presentation of the data obtained, if necessary with statistical evaluations.
  • Discussion ( Discussion ): Interpretation of the results. What other questions arise from this? What do the results mean for the research area? Do the results contradict or agree with other, earlier publications? Since problems often arise during the research work (for example bad weather, which makes a research expedition difficult and shortened), the discussion part describes in a self-critical manner whether and with what restrictions the results are valid.
  • Summary ( Summary ): similar to the abstract , but rather forward-looking in terms of further questions. Where and how can the knowledge now gained be used further?
  • Acknowledgments ( Acknowledgments ), have given although individual research grants or aid Thanks words to donors, supporters and critics and contemporaries and Zuarbeiter, but have not co-authored the article itself. Often also as a footnote to the title.
  • Conflicts of interest ( Conflicts of interest ): Here enter the scientists involved in, by whom they were financed, and conflicts of interest that could play a role in this work.
  • Bibliography ( References ): wherein the cited publications are listed.

However, this structure is not rigid. Often the section Materials and Methods is inserted at the end (before the “Thanks”), as it is only relevant to a few readers - for example for those who criticize or want to improve the methodology. The list of authors is often a “ranking list”; the person who has contributed most to the work is named first (otherwise alphabetical order is preferred). The leader of the working group is often last; mostly he also fulfills the function of the correspondence author, who keeps working journals and raw data ready for possible inquiries.

Publishers or editors most often reject scientific publications because of deficiencies in the methodological part. However, the reader is mainly interested in the abstract - to decide whether the rest of the text is worth reading - and the discussion , as this section describes and classifies the results. The structure is also an important support for the author; the order of introduction → methods → results → discussion → summary reflects the time periods of each research activity. The respective phase serves as the basis for the next.


The structure of works in the humanities is far less fixed than that of works in the natural sciences. The structure of the text itself mostly only follows pragmatic considerations; after all, there are no standardized research methods. As a rule, the work follows the principle of discussing issues or problems; a historical work often follows chronology. Instead of “References” at the end, footnotes are often used, which are appended to the end of the respective page (“footnote apparatus”, which contains both reference information and comments). A generally applicable structure beyond the boundaries of the individual disciplines - in contrast to natural science - has not been able to establish itself, but a development can be observed that - based on the model from the natural sciences - here too a kind of "abstract" as well a "summary" of the main text come.


There are ethical discussions about the authorship of scientific publications , and incorrect naming of the authors is considered misconduct (see Fraud and Falsification in Science ).

Inaccurate authors have been named, especially since academic performance is often measured as the number of published articles (“ publish or perish ”). There were and still are institutions in whose publications the director of the institute is automatically named as a co-author regardless of his contribution (“ honorary authorship ”). The same conflicts also arise when naming technical employees or donors. The motivation behind false statements by the author is diverse:

  • Thanks for your support or for contributions to the discussion
  • Increase the number of your own publications, for example to increase the chance of a job with a new employer
  • Greater funding for the institute or working group through an apparently larger number of publications
  • Naming an experienced expert as a co-author so that the publication is given more attention or so that the publisher is more likely to accept the manuscript

According to a study in 1998, 19% of the medical articles contained references to the above-mentioned honorary authorship, 11% references to ghostwriters and 2% references to both. In addition, review articles were plagued by "honorary authors" far more often than research work. In 2002, a similar study of the so-called Cochrane reviews in medicine also found references to "honorary authors" in 39% of all papers. The fact that reviews tend to suffer from “honorary authors” is explained by the fact that they are much more likely to be cited - because it is often easier to refer to a review article than to use an original work for every detail.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE, also known as the " Vancouver group") published guidelines for the authorship of scientific publications, namely:

The naming as an author should be based solely on the following criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception and drafting of the work; or for the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of the data.
  • Draft the publication or revisions to improve important intellectual content.
  • Final approval for publication.

Every author must meet the three conditions. […]
The procurement of funds, the collection of data collection , for example reading measured values ​​and entering them into a database] or the mere supervision or supervision of a research group alone do not justify authorship. […]
Every author should take part in the work to a sufficient extent to be accountable to the public for the relevant parts of the work.

These requirements for the manuscripts are now bindingly stipulated and published by the relevant journals

Scientific publications are subject to a so-called peer review , in which other scientists check the correctness and relevance of the work to be published. The time span between submission and publication of a manuscript can be more than a year.

In order to prevent false or falsified results, researchers are only allowed in specific cases to retrospectively withdraw a publication with a corresponding publication, so that the (negative) "reputation" that is earned with an incorrectly performed work can hardly be erased is.

For several decades now, a trend away from just one author and towards multiple authorship has been observed, particularly in scientific publications. Until the end of the Second World War , it was the rule for a researcher to collect his scientific findings and publish them as the only author. Today this is rarely the case in the natural sciences: only six of the more than seven hundred of the original scientific papers published in 2008 in the journal Nature up to and including September were individual author publications, and the proportion of publications is also included in other renowned scientific journals only insignificant for one author. This development clearly shows that scientific research today is largely carried out through joint efforts and cooperation between teams that are often international. In the humanities and social sciences, however, single-author publications are still common.

The impact factor of a publication

There are special journals in which - sorted by list of authors and title of a publication - it is only stated when, where and by whom this publication is cited within a given period of time , whereby only "refereed" journals are considered as a rule. A note prior to publication in a professional journal - or a detailed preliminary discussion - in a popular non-scientific medium, such as the New York Times , does not count here, although this is sometimes the aim.

By evaluating the "quoted by ..." statistics, one can get quantitative statements about the so-called impact factor of a certain work or a certain scientific publication medium.

A study published in 2019 indicated that publications with complex writing are cited less often (and therefore have less “impact”): An economist checked the publications published between 2000 and 2009 in the American Economic Review using seven parameters, for example the “Linsear Write ”. The characteristic values ​​take into account, for example, the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables per word. The hardest-to-understand 15 percent of publications were cited significantly less often.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Huter: Books are not dead, they just smell funny
  2. National ISSN Center for Germany: Frequently Asked Questions
  3. ^ Alfred Brink: Making scientific work . Munich 2005, p. 195 ff.
  4. ^ A. Boland: Doing a systematic review . Sage Publ., 2014
  5. ^ A. Flanagin, LA Carey, PB Fontanarosa, SG Phillips, BP Pace, GD Lundberg et al .: Prevalence of Articles With Honorary Authors and Ghost Authors in Peer-Reviewed Medical Journals . In: JAMA , 280 (3), 1998, pp. 222-224. doi: 10.1001 / jama.280.3.222 .
  6. G. Mowatt, L. Shirran, JM Grimshaw, D. Rennie, A. Flanagin, V. Yank et al .: Prevalence of Honorary and Ghost Authorship in Cochrane Reviews . In: JAMA , 287 (21), 2002, pp. 2769-2771. doi: 10.1001 / jama.287.21.2769 .
  7. November 28, 2008
  8. z. B. from the journal Nature .
  9. ^ John Whitfield: News Feature. Group theory . In: Nature , 455, October 9, 2008, pp. 720-723
  10. Success in research: style of language and "impact" are related. Retrieved October 28, 2019 .
  11. Bryan C. McCannon: Readability and research impact . In: Economics Letters . tape 180 , 2019, p. 76-79 , doi : 10.1016 / j.econlet.2019.02.017 .