Modern science is not all about doing experiments. A key feature of being a scientist today is making sure that everything you discover is properly shared with the world. This can be done by publishing papers in scientific journals. In this article we will have a look at what these are and why they are important.
WHAT IS A PAPER?
Papers are like articles in a newspaper. A scientist will write one to explain something they have discovered as well as how they did so.
WHAT IS A JOURNAL?
Once a scientist has written a paper they will ask a journal to publish it. Scientific journals are similar to newspapers. They tell scientists about recent scientific discoveries in the same way newspapers tell us about recent events.
Scientists spend a lot of time writing papers. Journals will only publish accurate papers, so a scientist has to make sure that they are not wrong.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A JOURNAL AND A NEWSPAPER?
If you read a newspaper you may read about a number of different things that have happened recently, from local events to sporting achievements. Journals only ever write about science.
Some journals will charge you if you want to read them, just like a newspaper will. However, many journals are “open-access”, which means there isn’t a cost to reading one of their papers. This can be very helpful for people who want to stay informed without spending a lot of money.
Papers in journals are very technical. The people who read journals usually already know a lot about what a paper might be talking about. This means papers can save time by not explaining everything. However this can sometimes make papers difficult to understand, even to other scientists!
WHY ARE PAPERS AND JOURNALS IMPORTANT?
The ability to publish papers in journals is incredibly important for scientists:
1) By publishing papers scientists ensure that their work is recognised. It is not uncommon for scientists to argue over who made a discovery first. Publishing a paper can prevent others from claiming the discovery belongs to them.
2) A lot of modern science relies on scientists working together. It is much harder to make a discovery if you are on your own. If you have published lots of papers, other scientists will want to work with you.
3) Being able to publish a paper gives scientists a chance to prove they are good at what they do and build a reputation.
4) Journals usually publish papers globally. This means a paper written by a scientist in Africa will be read by scientists all over the world! This international communication is very valuable to scientists. It helps to remove geographical bias, meaning that a discovery is considered important no matter where it comes from.