Yesterday, I received word that data from a project I have been working on for over five years may finally be published! I have had little trouble publishing research on birds and arthropods, so I thought a paper on plants would be a breeze, but man, was I wrong.
In 2003 I marked several hundred plants that had sprouted following wildfires in New Mexico.
During the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006, I looked for each stem to see if it had survived the previous year.
My assistants and I literally bled for this data, as the dense and thorny vegetation at the wildfire sites cut at our faces and arms while we slogged through the tangles to find the stems.
I spent much of 2006 processing the data and writing a manuscript that was soundly rejected because it lacked the sample sizes and study design forest biologists favor (my advisor and I designed the study as a bird biologists, and we apparently see the world differently than tree people). I completely re-analyzed the data, re-wrote the manuscript, and submitted the paper to a different journal. I received more harsh reviews, but the editor said that he would consider another revision. By the time I finished the latest version, I was so tired of re-thinking my methods, results, and interpretations that I was questioning my worth as a biologist and considering a career change. Happily, the editor appreciated the changes I made and he will publish the paper if I address a few minor issues.
So take note, aspiring biologists! This is the kind of work you should expect when you go to publish your research.
I am finishing up another paper comparing the nesting biology of birds along two New Mexico Rivers, the Rio Grande and the Gila. I have put a lot of time and creativity into the analysis of this data, so I hope the publication process is easier this time.