Fourth Galaxy Zoo paper accepted
The wheels of science sometimes seem to turn very slowly. It was back in May when, after several months of work, we submitted a paper which investigates how the morphology and colour of galaxies varies depending on where in the universe they live. Earlier this week, exactly six months later, the paper was finally accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).Along the way we have added a number of improvements requested during peer review, and others which were suggested to us by colleagues or we thought of after submission. The paper will now be sent to the publisher for typesetting, and should appear online before the end of the year (after we’ve given it a final proof read), and in print shortly after that.We wanted people to know about our work as soon as possible, both the Galaxy Zoo users and fellow astronomers, so we put the paper on a public scientific archive at the same time as submitting to the journal. We have updated that version to match the one which will appear in MNRAS. If you are feeling adventurous, you can get it here. A more approachable summary of the results can be found on this poster.
So why has it taken so long? Well, it hasn’t really. It usually takes at least a couple of months for a paper to go through the peer review process, and often longer for a lengthy paper like this one. This process involves the selection of an independent reviewer by the journal, who usually remains anonymous. They carefully read the paper and provide suggestions for changes to be made before publication. As the reviewer is usually very busy doing their own science, it generally takes a month before the reviewer sends their report. The authors then usually revise their paper based on the reviewer’s comments, and reply to the referee giving additional explanation and justification for any suggestions which were not acted upon. This exchange sometimes repeats a few times. If the reviewer recommends many changes, which take the authors a long time to get around to doing, a paper may spend over a year in review!
One unfortunate delay for our paper was that the first reviewer was rather more rigourously technical than most astronomers, and took a dislike to our slightly casual use of terms such as ‘independent’ in our title and abstract (the brief summary of the paper). This reviewer wanted us, unreasonably we believe, to rewrite our paper before they were willing to actually read it. Sometimes it happens that there is a mismatch between the paper’s intended readership and the chosen reviewer. We therefore asked the journal for a second opinion, to which they kindly agreed. The second reviewer was much more positive, and gave very useful suggestions for minor changes that have helped to improve the paper. We also made quite a few small changes that we had thought of while the paper was in review, and even tried to make the first referee happy by changing the title slightly. We are really happy with the resulting paper, but glad to have it finished with, so we can now concentrate on all the other exciting work we are doing. Stay posted!