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Can a layman publish a scientific paper?

  1. Oct 17, 2011 #1
    Does anyone know the best place if any for a layman to publish a scientific paper or article?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2011 #2

    Pythagorean

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    I wonder if you even need to hold a degree since peer-review is a blind process? You have to pay to publish an article in a journal, which is usually covered by a grant and always has to pass peer review.

    If a laymen can afford the costs (time, energy, and money) of publishing an article himself (because you won't likely make a convincing PI for a grant) and also has a scientific story with the intellectual merit to pass peer reviews then I don't sees what's stopping them.
     
  4. Oct 17, 2011 #3

    Pengwuino

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    No you don't need to hold a degree. You also don't have to typically pay up to a certain number of pages I believe, especially the electronic guys. You just need to pass the peer review process. I know there are endorses that you must post under to post onto the arxiv, but I'm not sure how much that process is used when actually publishing to real journals.
     
  5. Oct 18, 2011 #4

    Chalnoth

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    The page costs for publishing vary significantly from journal to journal. Some have no charges. Some will charge you a few hundred dollars per page. It depends. However, the fact of the matter is that unless you really are an expert in the field you're trying to publish in, chances are the journal editors will take one look at your paper and trash it. This is simply due to the fact that it is very, very hard to obtain enough knowledge to add something intelligent to the scientific discussion on your own, without taking a degree in physics.

    And I say this after obtaining a Ph.D. in physics. I had lots of high-minded ideas about possible advances in physics and whatnot as I was progressing in my degree. It turned out that they were all either complete nonsense, or had been thought of already, but thought through so very much more thoroughly. After getting to the point of actually contributing, I can tell you that far and away the easiest way to get to that point is to apprentice under somebody that is already there. And the only real way to do that is to complete a graduate degree in physics. The amount of knowledge you would have to obtain to get there on your own is such so huge that it is almost insurmountable.
     
  6. Oct 18, 2011 #5

    russ_watters

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    Welcome to PF!

    While there are typically no restrictions on who can publish, one functional definition of "layman" might be "a person incapable of writing a scientific paper worthy of publishing". I don't mean this to sound harsh, but rather to be helpful - a person without scientific training has little hope of being able to produce technical content worthy of publication. You may receive no responses at all to your submission attempts. You may find it more productive to test the waters with your ideas in places like PF, where you might get real feedback.
     
  7. Oct 18, 2011 #6

    turbo

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    Though if your ideas are new enough and have not been previously supported in peer-reviewed publications, you may receive infractions for presenting them here. Read the rules on "speculative posts" and tread lightly.

    As for people outside of academia/professional fields, yes. Such "laymen" publish. They are not supported by grants, and they are not under pressure to publish by their employers/sponsors, but they do publish for the sake of sharing what they have discovered.
     
  8. Oct 18, 2011 #7
    I would like to present new or unpublished ideas but I realize the rules of the forum do not allow it. Does anyone have any suggestions as to the original question?
    "Does anyone know the best place if any for a layman to publish a scientific paper or article?"
    Thanks
     
  9. Oct 18, 2011 #8

    Chalnoth

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    Let me just put it this way: if it isn't good enough for this forum, it is nowhere near good enough to publish in a scientific article.

    The first point I would make here is that if you were to publish a scientific article at all, one of the main things you have to do is write down where this new paper fits into the current scientific conversation. That is to say, you have to talk about and reference other, related work.

    So what you can do here is ask if people know of references for stuff on the topic you're thinking of.
     
  10. Oct 18, 2011 #9

    turbo

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    You have it a bit backward. If the concepts have not already been published in peer-reviewed journals, they will not be allowed to be expressed here on PF. That is a problem for a person who wants to bounce some ideas off others. One has to get outside of PF to make that work.
     
  11. Oct 18, 2011 #10
    I thought I had read the rules correctly. The similar threads that you sent look like they may be helpful.
    Thank You
     
  12. Oct 18, 2011 #11

    Chalnoth

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    No, what I said as accurate. One of the fundamental requirements of a scientific paper is that it must fit into the current scientific discussion. That is to say, it has to be positioned in relation to other ideas that have already been published. And that requirement alone is good enough to pass the bar in this forum for just about every idea. This isn't the best place to do that sort of thing, but it is at least good enough.
     
  13. Oct 18, 2011 #12

    Ryan_m_b

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    There are generally two types of paper. Review articles and experimental. The former summarises a current field and provides a novel discussion and/or opinion. The latter reports on experimental results.

    Whilst there are no barriers to who can publish a paper it's unlikely a layman will have the resources or expertise to perform experiments and generate enough data to publish. A review article is more likely but I fail to see how someone who by definition is not a professional would be able to research a field well enough to provide a good enough discussion on the topic.

    Lastly, please bare in mind personal theories and/or ideas are not suitable for publishing in a scientific journal without experimental data to back them up.
     
  14. Oct 18, 2011 #13

    Chalnoth

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    I don't think that's an accurate breakdown.

    Review articles are typically solely focused on summarizing the current scientific discussion in a particular field. They act as resources to people who want to get an overall picture of a particular field without having to wade through dozens of individual papers.

    The remaining papers vary significantly depending upon the context. Some are reports of experimental results. Some are new theoretical ideas. Some are new data analysis methods. Some are new analyses of existing data. Basically, your normal scientific paper has two requirements to get published:
    1. It must fit into the existing discussion on a particular topic.
    2. It must say something useful that adds to that discussion.

    There is also a third requirement that it must be written well enough that the reviewer won't reject it out of hand. But that's somewhat separate from the content of the paper.

    This also isn't true. Again, it has to fit within the existing discussion. But there is no limitation that new ideas be founded in experiment. Otherwise, speculative new theories would never be proposed.
     
  15. Oct 18, 2011 #14

    Ryan_m_b

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    I used the word "generally" on purpose, to indicate that I was simplifying matters. Having said that I disagree with how you describe review articles; they are not always just summaries. Often they include novel discussion points or conclusions.
    The individual may not need to do experimentation themselves but they have to have experimental data to back them up from other sources.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2011
  16. Oct 18, 2011 #15

    cristo

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    That's not true. You don't have to back up your speculative ideas with data, though it is normally good to suggest some sort of experiment that may be able to rule out your theory. It's not very likely that this experiment will have been done before proposing the theory, though.
     
  17. Oct 18, 2011 #16

    Ryan_m_b

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    Ok, now I think we're discussing different things. I didn't mean that the explanation proposed needed experimental data to confirm it but that it needed data to support it is a credible theory. I.e. proposing an explanation for phenomenon X is going to have to reference previous study of the phenomenon. This will require an understanding of current published data that will probably be beyond the capability of a layman.

    In retrospect I have not have explained what I was thinking well enough.
     
  18. Oct 18, 2011 #17

    Chalnoth

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    Nope, not even that far. You can, for example, engage in a pure what-if:

    "Previously, theorists have assumed that X is true. But what happens if we relax this assumption?"

    Often these papers are more interesting if they are tied to experiment, but not always. Another way for a new theoretical idea to be interesting is for it to solve a long-standing theoretical problem (that is, a particular aspect of currently-accepted theory which is considered unpalatable). String theory is perhaps the ultimate example of a field which is almost purely disconnected from experiment, but which is large and thriving within the community, and largely considered a useful pursuit.
     
  19. Oct 18, 2011 #18

    Evo

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    There are also different levels of journals. Some journals that say they are peer reviewed will accept anything submitted. We've noticed that Thompson-Reuters has recently included many questionable publications (even online only) and pop-science magazines in their list.
     
  20. Oct 18, 2011 #19

    Astronuc

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    Actually - FQXi welcomes the participation of scientists, laypeople, and philanthropists. Find out more here!

    http://www.fqxi.org/about

    I know a layperson who had a paper published at FXQi. His paper would not be suitable for PF.

    He's also had some interactions with one or two prominent theoretical physicists, one of whom was apparently interested in some of his ideas.
     
  21. Oct 18, 2011 #20
    Thanks everyone, I think I will check on the sources you have suggested. Chalnoth I like what your saying about new theoretical ideas being presented especially if it solves a long-standing theoretical problem. Thats what we need more models to work with. Some of the ones we have are getting stagnet.
     
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