No matter how big your scientific breakthrough, it won't do your career much good if you don't publish it in a scientific journal, preferably one with a high impact factor. Publication in peer-reviewed journals is how scientists communicate their results to the scientific community; it is also an enduring record of your small--or not-so-small--contribution to the vast pool of human knowledge.
From a career standpoint, however, what's most important about a scientific publication (along with the citations that follow, if the work is important) is its function as a proxy for scientific quality and attainment. Without good publications, you stand little chance of winning the fellowship, research grant, faculty job, or other scientific prize you're competing for.
"Without publishing, [it is as if] you haven't done anything, because scientific articles are the most important measure of scientific achievement," says Ana Marušić, editor-in-chief of the Croatian Medical Journal and president-elect of the Council of Science Editors. "We don't measure ourselves by how efficient and skilled we are in the lab but by the number and quality of articles we publish in scientific journals."
"The essence of a good paper is good science; that is the most important thing," Marušić says. But good science alone doesn't guarantee prompt publication in a good journal. Sometimes "people do great things, but they manage to destroy [them] by very poor presentation," she says. Presenting data in a clear and accurate manner and putting them into context require skills you can only learn from experience--or from people with experience. Scientific writing is "a very important skill ... but very seldom taught," Marušić says. We agree--and that's why we've decided to take on the challenge.
In Tips for Publishing in Scientific Journals , Science Deputy Editor Katrina Kelner takes a peek into the publishing process and offers nuts-and-bolts advice on how to get your research into print.
Roberta Ness, a widely published epidemiologist and a less widely published author of children's books, lets us in on a secret common to both types of writing in Writing Science: The Story's the Thing .
Finally, Elisabeth Pain, our contributing editor for South and Western Europe, writes that the challenges of publishing for non-native English speakers go well beyond struggles with a foreign tongue.