Being timely or the need to "convert" editors and reviewers

Steve Wiley discusses in “The Scientist” (Timing is Everything) the importance of timeliness in one’s research. One does not want to be behind the curve, but neither does one want to be too ahead of the curve. This raises the question of what to do if you are too ahead of the curve? Do you conform and do “timely” research too or do you work to convince others that the opportunity is there for significant developments in the near future?

As someone who was part of a couple of “beginnings” (econophysics, complex networks) I have very strong ideas about what needs to be done. If one really wants our ahead of its time research to be picked up by others, one really needs to work hard at convincing our colleagues of the importance of the questions being studied or the tools being developed.

However, even more important is to convince journal editors of the potential of the topic. Some of my collaborators and I had to work very hard at convincing the editors of Physical Review Letters (PRL) and Physical Review E (PRE) that physicists could contribute to the understanding of social and economic questions. The reason is simple, in a field as competitive as physics, lack of publications in PRL means the end of one’s scientific career. If one cannot publish research in a given topic in PRL, than most physicists will not bother working on that field.

Of course, after you convert the editors, you still have to convert your colleagues who will review the paper…

Luis Amaral