Rules to be adopted for publishing a scientific paper.

Authors:
Nicola Picardi
Nicola Picardi
Dipartimento di Scienze Chirurgiche Cliniche e Sperimentali

Ann Ital Chir 2016 ;87:1-3

The main question to ask himself when preparing to write an article is "why publish a scientific paper?" First of all to publish an own article qualifies his author - or authors - as "scientist". Because the surgery is a mixture of art and knowledge, which coexist and interreact mutually increasing each other, scientific publications are the world where ideas are shared. Secondly, to an academic career is essential to be Author of scientific publications; but also for those who follow an hospital career or simply exercise the surgical profession in other contexts it represents the opportunity to communicate their experience and give a personal contribution to the knowledge of the art. The commitment of the academic world in particular must also stimulate new generations to pursue not only technical skills but at the same time updating their knowledge, and its members must also take on the role of researchers. The dissemination of ideas in the scientific community is a milestone for progress, because if they are not shared their concrete value is fleeting, and professional surgical activity value is itself transient and ephemeral, while the written documentation very often goes beyond the time, but certainly beyond space, stably transmitting ideas: "scripta manent". To write a "paper" - as a scientific publication is conventionally and internationally named - requires compliance with specific rules, which make it suitable to diffusion and well used by the readers. These appropriate rules are stated in the similar although variable "Guidelines for the Authors" set by the editors of most scientific journals - as also of Annali Italiani di Chirurgia - on the common purpose of making clear, comprehensive and concise the exposure of the study that is the motivation of the publication. The printed papers - as well the more recent on-line publications in digital format - use a very different language from that spoken in conferences and in verbal communications. Exemplary is the form of presentation used in the best "papers" of British tradition, where every effort is aimed at the clarity and brevity, for definite, consequential and well understood conclusions. Beyond any residual national pride, in the scientific world that has been globalized well earlier than other sectors of civil life, it is not a surrendering to a foreign tradition to conform oneself to the British model when writing a paper - and not simply adopting the English language - with the certainty to better achieve the brevity, clarity and concreteness of an exhaustive communication. "Be brief and you'll be good" - this is a suggestion always of great value to overcome the congestion and convulsions of our times. Furthermore in following the rules suggested by the "Guidelines for Authors" in writing a paper gives the Author the adjunctive advantage of a preventive and autonomous checking the validity and interest of the article as for premises, objectivity and reality of conclusions, and therefore vehicle of at least of one clear element of knowledge and progress, although possibly and despite of a "niche" argument. A paper is much more effective as more focused on a well-defined theme and as such more easily understood and its conclusions more easily assimilated. Therefore in the formal preparation of a paper, the critical sense must develop itself and grow, added to the vocation of following and attain the curiosity of knowledge typical of surgery, but following the typical procedure of the medical profession in the approaching march to the diagnosis, and then to the identification of the correct therapeutic indications which must take into account individual patient characteristics. As the very technical skill in performing the therapy chosen and agreed with the patient, completion of the professional duties, must not leave aside a constant exercise of criticism and self-criticism at every stage of the profession, similarly this same critical sense is also necessary in the preparation of a scientific paper to transmit a concrete, valid and original scientific contribution. It is useful to keep in mind that, as any student knows and does perhaps unconsciously, those who read an article do not follow the order in which it is printed, but having considered the catchy title go directly to review the conclusions. If still interested, they go on to the Abstract or to Summary, and only at this point if intrigued they read the Introduction, and then the material and method of study with their results, and finally the discussion, and to the end they read anew the Conclusions. However, in the formal drafting of a paper one has to remember this very likely sequence in reading an article and adapt accordingly: first put into focus the conclusions, which in fact are the reason of the publication. Therefore this must lead us to give up writing an article such as a report or a conference, and to conform attentively to the Anglo-Saxon model of presentation of a paper. A last point concerns the language of the presentation of a paper. Using own native language, in our case Italian, it is easy to the precise in language and is facilitated the communication of concepts, but that restricts the communication to own linguistics environment, whereas all scientific knowledge and the surgical one in particular, in accordance as stated by the motto of the International Society of Surgery "La Science n'a pas de Patrie", needs no linguistic boundaries. We should not feel therefore humiliated and colonized in adopting the English language in publishing our papers, because it has become the language of science globally adopted, indeed we must consider positively this choice for formal and substantial reasons. Formally the use of English forces ourselves to conform to a language traditionally pragmatic, schematic and synthetic typical of the Anglo-Saxon world, so renouncing to the usual subordinate phrases of Italian language, that may result contrary to its ingenuous purpose, making instead less clear and more foggy the concepts. This achieves in the meantime the advantage of a better and more schematic final clarity. We must take in mind from the very beginning the final concept you want to express with every sentence, and take it in the highest account. From a substantial point of view the adoption of English opens at the best the entire scientific world to all cultural contributions, no longer limited to the national linguistic areas, that now, in the globalized world of knowledge remains provincial even though vector of undisputed professional value and experience of Italian surgery. Any possible inadequacies of the used English language - that should be carefully avoided in terms of syntactic and orthographic rules, with the eventual help of a native language fellow - can anyways be accepted within certain limits as the price of a globalization of the diffusing knowledge, become even more evident by the introduction of digital editions. A special case is given by the publication of experiences derived from individual case reports. Clearly it is evident the impulse to disclose one's own individual experience, or because of its rare occurrence, or on the enthusiastic wave of a diagnosis successfully completed or because of the own satisfaction in choosing and performing an effective treatment successfully achieved thank to a surgical technique exceptional or of particularly difficulty. One can, however, make the mistake of aiming to publish "a case report" simply to show off one's skills and personal professional value. It is a short-sighted goal that gives the author an ephemeral satisfaction, but it will almost inevitably penalizated in the judgment of colleagues who read it. For psychological reasons it is difficult for someone to cheer the professional success of a not related fellow, and therefore it is advisable to refrain from this type of publication, which is a waste of time not very profitable, both to the one's reputation and for the likely rejection by the most accredited scientific journals. The publication of a case report must follow the same rules set for a "genuine article", with the difference that in the introduction has to be immediately highlighted the particularity of the experience, possibly framing it in common knowledge. The presentation of the clinical and strategic aspects is the result of a careful reflection on the surgical experience lived, because its exposure has to be very different from an extemporaneous oral presentation, which is by nature open to a free immediate confrontation in oral discussions that follow.

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February 2018
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