The mystery of the vanished citations

James McConnell’s forgotten 1960s quest for planarian learning, a biochemical engram, and celebrity

icon: Annotation Mark Rilling

picture: James McConnell

        During the 1960s, at a time of skepticism about the possibility of invertebrate learning, James McConnell and other researchers attracted to the glamour created by McConnell for planarian learning established invertebrate learning with a Pavlovian conditioning paradigm and a wide variety of control groups and procedures that are still used today in work on the biochemistry of learning and memory. McConnell abandoned his dream of a Nobel prize and turned to popularizing psychology after a failed attempt to transfer memory from one organism to another through RNA as a memory molecule. As a science writer and poppsychologist, McConnell was a public relations genius who oversold planarian learning and, later, behavior modification. This article solves the mystery of why the Unabomber tried unsuccessfully to kill McConnell with a letter bomb.
James Vernon McConnell was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in 1925 and died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1990. He received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Texas in 1956 and joined the faculty of the University of Michigan the same year. He received a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health in 1963 and became affiliated with Michigan’s Mental Health Research Institute. In 1976, he was awarded the American Psychological Foundation’s Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was recognized by APA as A distinguished scientist who loves to teach, and outstanding teacher who loves science, a scholar who learns with his students. He served as president of Teaching of Psychology in 1979. He wrote an introductory psychology textbook, Understanding Human Behavior, that was very well received because it was comprehensive and appealed to students. McConnell always endeavored to bring psychology’s contributions to the attention of the general public and not only used his own journal, The Worm Runner’s Digest, to this end but also appeared on television shows and cooperated with the popular media to show how psychology could be applied to real-world problems. This may have been why he was a target of the person known as the Unabomber.
American Psychological Foundation American Psychological Foundation Award for 1976: Gold Medal, Distinguished Contributions to Education in Psychology, and the National Media. American Psychologist, 32, 99 — 100.
Criminals can be brainwashed — Now. Psychology Today, 3, pp. 14, 16, 18, 74.
Sommer, R.. James V. McConnell. American Psychologist, 46, 650.


        Author’s note. I thank Charles Abramson, Bernard Agranoff, Jeff Bitterman, Jay Best, Francis Crinella, Arnie Golub, Donald Dewshury, Thomas Nelson, William McKeachie, Robert Sommer, and especially Marlys Schutjer for interviews, correspondence, reprints, and suggestions. I thank John Popplestone and Marion White McPherson for access to the McConnell letters and articles at the Archives for the History of American Psychology, University of Akron, OH. The letters cited in the text are located in the McConnell file at the archives. An earlier version of this article was presented at the International Conference on Comparative Cognition, Melbourne, Florida, March 1995.
        Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Rilling, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet.


        A piece of scientific research, like a work of fiction or a set of laws is never the result of a single individual’s efforts. It is rather the end product of myr iad thoughts and actions and discoveries that have gone before. What debts a researcher does not owe to his contemporar ies and his immediate mentors, he owes to his predecessors. In truth as Newton observed we all stand on the shoulders of giants of the past and present.
James McConnell, 1956, preface to dissertation

        McConnell and other researchers who worked during the 1960s on the biochemistry of memory deserve a place in the pantheon for the founders of the modern search for the engram because their work was a bridge that connected the older nonphysiological tradition of the comparative psychology of invertebrate animal learning with modern developments in biochemistry and molecular biology. The legacy of McConnell and the other planarian researchers is the establishment, with very well-controlled experiments, of classical conditioning in invertebrates.

The search for the engram before McConnell and the 1960s

     To appreciate McConnell’s successful struggle to establish learning in invertebrates and his contribution to neuroscience in the area of the biochemistry of memory, it is necessary to consider the state of knowledge about invertebrate learning and the physiological basis of memory around 1950. Lashley is cited frequently by contemporary researchers in neuroscience who work on the cellular basis of learning and memory, but McConnell is largely forgotten. Lashley’s failure by 1950 to localize the engram or memory trace at a place in the nervous system led to speculation that the engram was biochemical.

     Urged on by a suggestion in Hilgard‘s classic text on learning theory, researchers in animal learning and comparative psychology were searching for an invertebrate preparation as a launchpad for the physiological study of learning because invertebrate nervous systems have fewer neurons than vertebrate systems. Unfortunately, there was a major conceptual stumbling block. The conventional wisdom, especially among zoologists and others who were not experts in animal behavior, was that invertebrates were little robots without an internal state for memory, in which behavior was guided by instincts. Even Maier and Schneirla, in the leading textbook of comparative psychology, described invertebrate learning as ephemeral when they wrote,

        Experience may temporarily alter the form of behavior by inducing local tissue change.., but such changes are wiped out by subsequent events, and have no permanent altering effect.
p. 84

     However, by citing a study on planarian learning from the 1920s, Maier and Schneirla left open the possibility that their generalization about invertebrate learning might not apply to planaria.

Richard Thompson, the senior author with James McConnell on a nowclassic study on learning in planaria, studied with Lashley. Thorne designated the little-known and publicityshy Thompson as Lashley’s heir. Because Lashley failed to find the engram with rats, Thompson and McConnell were motivated to investigate learning and memory with an invertebrate preparation, so as to succeed where Lashley had failed.

The missing 1960s decade

     During the 1960s, James McConnell was one of psychology’s most visible and colorful public personalities, a celebrity-scientist who made entertaining appearances on television. As the head of the Planarian Research Group at the University of Michigan, McConnell’s research program was a precursor of the kind of interdisciplinary approach to brain and behavior that is now called neuroscience. He wrote,

        This prospect of working with a covey of bright scientists in disciplines other than Psychology pleases us immensely
McConnell, 1967a, p. 2

     His approach encompassed measurement at multiple levels of investigation. As he put it:

        ✓ If learning is a matter of some kind of structural or functional change at the synapse, shouldn’t we also wonder what chemical change takes place at the synapse when ‘learning’ occurs?.. antireductionism is misplaced;
        ✓ Each scientific discipline surely has something unique and important to contribute to the solution of the problem of memory formation;
        ✓ all the disciplines are equally important.
McConnell, 1967a, p. 2

    Usually a field honors its pioneers. Yet McConnell and many of the other scientists who pioneered the biochemistry of learning and memory during its modern, formative period in the 1960s have become nonpersons — eclipsed, put down, or written out of the contemporary story of the search for the engram. Allport, a science writer, called this omission citation amnesia. Although McConnell wrote an annual review of invertebrate learning in 1966, the most recent annual review of invertebrate learning by Krasne and Glanzman, which included references to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, contained no primary citations of McConnell and the work from the 1960s on planarian learning. McConnell‘s article contained 109 references, none of which survived for citation by Krasne and Glanz. Why has this work virtually disappeared from contemporary citation?

Memory transfer: McConnell’s Blind Alley

    One reason for the missing citations to McConnell is that his memory transfer paradigm was a failure. In these cannibalism studies, which McConnell saw as a technique for transferring a memory molecule of RNA from trained to untrained organisms, a naive planarian showed savings in the acquisition of a conditioned response when fed the body parts of a planarian that had learned a classical conditioning task. McConnell’s research program with planaria collapsed when other scientists failed to replicate the phenomenon of memory transfer. The failure of memory transfer has probably overshadowed McConnell’s success with invertebrate learning. Because others have told the colorful story of the failure of the memory transfer research, this article concentrates on McConnell’s successful struggle to establish the study of invertebrate learning as a respectable endeavor.

McConnell’s Struggle With Critics Over Invertebrate Learning

Today invertebrate learning is well established as a robust, long-lasting, ecologically valid phenomenon, presupposed by the scientists who work on the molecular dissection of memory. In McConnell’s day, the critics simply did not believe that invertebrates could learn.

The original Thompson and McConnell study, a demonstration of Pavlovian conditioning in planaria, is a classic article on invertebrate learning. It launched McConnell’s career. Planaria live in water and normally glide along the bottom of pools on slime trails they lay down. The classical conditioning trials were administered while the planarian was gliding in water from one end of a foot-long trough to the other. Rather than recording the CR automatically, Thompson and McConnell followed a more ecological tradition of comparative psychology and used naturalistic observation to score contraction. For the experimental group, which consisted of the pairing of a light from above with shock through the water, the percentage of trials with a contraction CR increased modestly from about 2% during the first 50 trials to 10% during the last 50 trials. Another response, turns which were more common, increased from a high baseline of about 25% to a conditioned rate of 35%. For the three control groups, the rate of contractions did not change.

Thompson and McConnell were graduate students of M. E. Bitterman at the University of Texas. Bitterman, a distinguished comparative psychologist, had studied with Schneirla, so these students inherited a great tradition of comparative psychology. McConnell’s first struggle over planarian learning was with his mentor, Bitterman, and it occurred before the article was even submitted for publication. Bitterman, who wanted a control group with unpaired presentations of light and shock, left us with a very critical commentary on the scientific skills of his neophytes. Here is Bitterman’s retrospection:

        Is it really so difficult to understand that CS-alone and US-alone groups do not, even together, control for the effects of stimulation per se on an experimental group exposed to both stimuli?.. Not only are the controls employed in the search for invertebrate learning generally inadequate, but the techniques are crude and subjective.
Bitterman, 1975 p. 140.

Bitterman’s critique raises an important question about the conflict between novice innovators and established scientists. Creative — especially young — scientists may want to publish innovative findings as rapidly as possible to establish their reputations, sometimes even before the technique is perfected and all of the relevant variables are understood. More established scientists, whose reputations are secure, want to protect the literature from unreplicable phenomena and poorly controlled experiments. Here, the conflict was resolved in favor of publication by Harry Harlow, editor of the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology. History shows that Harlow made the right decision.

In 1955, Harlow wanted to publish articles using nontraditional species because of a famous article by Beach called The Snark Was a Boojum. Beach’s point was that the journal was becoming a journal of rat psychology, so he called for a greater variety of species. A game that a sophisticated reviewer for a journal can always play with a novice investigator who is moving a line of work in a new direction is to demand additional control groups that are different from those used in the article under review. By relaxing the editorial criterion for originality, some flaky articles will be published, but then other scientists can sort out the issues by running replications that include the inevitably necessary controls.

The controversy about planarian learning highlights the constructive role of the scientific critic. McConnell, an innovator, raced from one exciting phenomenon to the next without comprehensive experimental analysis or adequate controls. McConnell’s controls were often developed as a response to his critics. McConnell’s students and other scientists were left the task of cleaning up after McConnell by adding the control groups that he omitted. After his arrival at the University of Michigan, Donald Jensen became McConnell’s nemesis over invertebrate learning — Jensen’s position was

        that no invertebrate, no matter how complex is capable of showing true learning
McConnell & Shelby, 1970, p. 75.

Jensen attributed the results ofplanarian learning to sensitization and called for better control groups. McConnell met Jensen’s objections by upgrading the quality of the control groups. As he put it,

        There isprobably no other group of scientists as enamored of the use of ‘control groups’ as are psychologists; indeed the entire history of scientific psychology may be viewed as a continuing search for better controls
McConnell, 1967a, pp. 25 — 26.

The planarian learning controversy brought passion to the discussion of control groups for classical conditioning because a Nobel prize was thought to await the discovery of a biochemical engram.

Controlling for experimenter bias

Experimenter bias was one of the simplest criticisms. Cordaro and Ison manipulated the expectancy of students in a course in introductory psychology who were running an experiment in classical conditioning on planaria. Sure enough, the students who were led to expect contractions reported more responses than students who were led to believe that conditioning would not occur. McConnell quickly instituted a blind control procedure in which the experimenter did not know the group to which the planarian was assigned, so experimenter bias failed to explain the data.

Controlling for pseudoconditioning and sensitization

Baxter and Kimmel repeated the original Thompson and McConnell study with the addition of an unpaired control group. The unpaired group equated experimental and control groups for the amount of exposure to the CS and US. For the classical-paired group, the number of trials with a CR increased to 50%, whereas the unpaired group showed a steady decrease in responding during conditioning. To distinguish between pseudoconditioning — the enhanced responding to a CS that is not dependent on a forward, temporal CS-US relationship — Jacobson, Horowitz, and Fried added a backward conditioning control group. There was no learning with the backward conditioning group. Ultimately, by giving the animals only a few trials per day, lengthening the intertrial interval, and not running the animals each day, McConnell was able to obtain a CR on 90% of the trials. Thus, the controversy about planarian learning produced a steady improvement in the quality of the data as the researchers identified optimal parameters.

Today, a common control procedure in invertebrate learning is a discrimination in which a CS+ is paired with the US, and a CS- is presented alone. This procedure controls for sensitization, an increase in responding to a CS that does not depend on the forward pairing of the CS with the US. This control was introduced to invertebrate learning with planaria by Block and McConnell to address concerns raised by Jensen about sensitization as an alternative explanation to associative learning. Block and McConnell established exactly the kind of discrimination called for by Jensen by implementing an elegant A — B — A — B reversal design withinsubjects. One CS was vibration produced by a speaker mounted below the trough, and the other CS was the traditional illumination from lights mounted above the trough. Paired presentations in Phase A increased responding to CS+ but not CS- , whereas extinction in Phase B reduced responding. As Block and McConnell concluded in their study,

Some Animals Can Consume Knowledge Through Cannibalism

        Certain species of flatworm have been gradually taught to run a maze. If you grind them up and feed them to a second batch of flatworms, the second batch can run the maze on the first try.
Peter O’Toole, Phantoms
In a nutshell
        The above statement got everyone looking for proof, because even a rotter of a movie can’t throw around scientific statements without there being some truth to them. It turns out that this fact is a fact, true, and very difficult to believe. Experiments from the 1960s show that it even works in rats and mice.
The whole bushel
        The scientist who came up with this experiment is Dr. James V. McConnell, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan in the 1960s, who had a hunch that planarians could be trained to run mazes. He proceeded to do so. He first trained them to be afraid of the heat of a bright light, which, after many attempts, made them curl up to protect themselves. Soon they were curling up whenever they felt the heat or saw the light.
        Then he chopped them up and fed them to planarians unaccustomed to the bright light and heat. This second group curled up the first time he shone the light on them. McConnell was naturally thrilled and took the experiment to the next level. He taught a group of planarians to run a maze. This took a long time of course, since planarians are very simple animals, and the species in question was microscopic.
        After 150 attempts, the flatworms could find their way correctly every time. McConnell pronounced them knowledgeable of how to run the maze. Then he first tried cutting the head off one worm and grafting it onto another. This didn’t work because the head wouldn’t stay on. Then he ground up this batch of worms and tried injecting them into a second group. This failed because the worms were about the same size as the point of the needle, which crushed them.
        He might have been stumped at ths point, had it not been for a worm enthusiast named Jay Boyd Best, who wrote him a letter suggesting that feed the worms to a particular species of cannibalistic planarian. So McConnell acquired some specimens of this species of flatworm and fed the trained group to this new group. The new group was able to run the maze correctly the first time, but not correctly every time until they practiced 100 times. He trained a separate control group to run the maze, and this group required about 150, just like the group he ground up.
        McConnell became famous for a time, even though the very premise of his research seemed too much like a Frankenstein story to grab the scientific community. He did, however, receive a fast promotion to full professor and made it onto some science shows like Watch Mr. Wizard. Scientists who found his work interesting then took the next step, performing the same experiment with mice and rats, and they found that it still worked.
        Such experiments continue to this day and continue to raise eyebrows.
        Now I don’t know this for sure but I think it might be more than a little time before these smart pills would ever be on the market. I have to admit that there are more than a few folks I think would benefit from something along these lines! Heck, we could start with passing them out in D.C. and go from there, ya know? Couldn’t hurt!
        Coffee out on the patio this morning. I’ll share some sausage gravy and fried taters!
Текст публикуется по KnowledgeNuts

Larry Stern. Psychological hijinks

        Science, we all know, is serious stuff. If it is to retain its cultural and cognitive authority, it must be seen as an objective, dispassionate and value-free enterprise. But science, at its core, is a human enterprise populated by all types of people. And science and scientists can be awfully funny — without jeopardizing the objectivity of what comes to count as certified knowledge.
        Comedians and cartoonists have been poking fun at science — and especially at psychologists — for decades. But one need not look outside the halls of academia to find such humor. Indeed, for my money, nothing beats the humor contained in the Worm Runner’s Digest, published between 1959 and 1979. If your library subscribed, you might find it and its twin, the Journal of Biological Psychology, nestled between the serious Journal of Applied Psychology and Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology.
        The brainchild of James V. McConnell, then an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, the Worm Runner’s Digest burst on the scene as a new 1960s counterculture was beginning to take form. Devoted in part to puncturing the pretentiousness and pomposity of that sacred cow known as science, it was, as McConnell noted, one of the first scientific journals that knowingly published satire.
        What, then, prompted the creation of this peculiar journal?
        It began with a paper McConnell presented on the morning of Sept. 8, 1959, at APA’s 67th Annual Convention. In this paper, Apparent Retention of a Conditioned Response Following Total Regeneration in the Planarian, McConnell reported data collected by one of his honors students, Reeva Jacobson, which indicated that separate pieces of trained worms, after being allowed to regenerate their missing parts, retained the initial training of the original uncut worm. Moreover, after several regenerations, worms that contained none of the structure of the originally trained animal also retained some memory of the initial conditioning.
        On Sept. 21, Newsweek published a summary of this work, triggering a series of events that no one — certainly not McConnell — ever expected.
        Two years earlier, the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik sparked fears that the United States lagged behind the Soviets in science and technology. One result, designed to ignite the youth of America’s interest in science, was a renewed emphasis on local science fairs.
        Shortly after the Newsweek coverage, McConnell was inundated with letters from high school students from around the country asking where they could obtain worms for their projects and how they should go about caring for and training them. Some students, according to McConnell, demanded that he send a few hundred trained worms at once since their projects were due within days.
        After answering the first few letters McConnell realized that something more efficient was needed. So he and his students wrote what amounted to a training manual describing their work and how to repeat their experiments.
        McConnell firmly believed that
        anyone who takes himself, or his work, too seriously is in a perilous state of mental health.
        So as a joke, he affixed the name Worm Runner’s Digest to the top of the manual. Adorning the front page was a crest that one of his students designed, complete with a two-headed worm with pharynx fully exposed, a pair of diagonal stripes in the maize and blue colors of Michigan across the escutcheon of said planarian, a coronet made up of a Hebbian cell assembly, a ¥ for psychology, a homage to the stimulus-response of behaviorism, and a motto, ignotum, ignotius which, loosely translated, means When I get through explaining this to you, you will know even less than before I started. To top things off, McConnell labeled it Volume I, No. 1.
        To McConnell’s astonishment, word of this new journal got out and he started receiving submissions. So he decided to pep things up a bit by scattering poems, jokes, satires, cartoons, spoofs and short stories more or less randomly among the more serious articles.
        McConnell wrote some of these spoofs himself, including one on learning theory that should be mandatory reading. In it, a psychology professor is walking in the woods thinking about how to teach his intro students the finer points of learning theory when he suddenly finds himself in a giant Skinner box on an alien spaceship, complete with a nipple on the wall that delivers a slightly cool and somewhat sweetish flow of liquidand, later, a lever that when pulled delivers protein balls of food. The experiments the subject endures are classic, and if the denouement does not bring a smile, well, perhaps you are in a perilous state of mental health.
        Dozens of reputable psychologists contributed humor to the digest as well. Harry Harlow had two pieces: Fundamental Principles for Preparing Psychology Journal Articles and a poem, Yearning and Learning, a somewhat bawdy look at how monkeys learn to copulate.
        B.F. Skinner contributed two parodies of behaviorism: A Christmas Caramel, or A Plum from the Hasty Pudding, in which he plays the role of Professor Skinnybox, and On the Relation Between Mathematical and Statistical Competence and Significant Scientific Productivity, which he published under the pseudonym of F. Galton Pennywhistle.
        Spoofs of Freudian theory also appeared. Some Comments on an Addition to the Theory of Psychosexual Development by Sigmund Fraud introduced the nasal stage, occurring between the anal and phallic stages, in which the libido is localized primarily in the mucous linings of the nose. Though the consequences of poor nasal training might not be as drastic as those accompanying poor toilet training, two pathologies might ensue: feelings of superiority that lead you to turn your nose up at others, and/or being a busybody and constantly sticking your nose in others’ business.
        Other notable contributions that graced the Digest’s pages include faux reports on The Effects of Physical Torture on the Learning and Retention of Nonsense Syllables, The Gesundheits Test and Operant Conditioning in the Domestic Darning Needle.
        But bona fide experimental reports were included in the Digest as well, and the publication of serious articles side-by-side with spoofs apparently posed a problem for some scientists who complained that they weren’t able to distinguish between the serious reports and the parodies.
        To deal with this problem, McConnell banished all of the so-called funny stuff to the back of the journal, printing it upside down to make sure that no one would confuse it with the serious work. This began in October 1964. Three years later, the split became formal when McConnell renamed the front part of the journal containing the serious scientific work the Journal of Biological Psychology, retaining the name Worm Runner’s Digest for the back half of the journal.
        At its peak, the Digest had roughly 2,500 subscribers scattered throughout the world. Since humorous cartoons appear regularly in best-selling psychology textbooks today, it is easy to forget how extraordinary and subversive the Digest was when it first appeared. Responses to the Digest were mixed, reflecting some of the schisms found in the larger society at the time.
        While admirers hailed the Digest as a scientific Playboy, reveling in its wit, McConnell’s more austere critics referred to it pejoratively as a scientific comic book, arguing that science is not the place for such sophomoric humor. McConnell, in fact, believed that the Digest cost him research grants.
        McConnell’s bottom line — that science could and should be fun — is perhaps as important today as it was when he began to champion the cause in 1959. If your library does not hold copies of the Digest, you can find the «greatest hits» in two anthologies — The Worm Re-turns and Science, Sex, and Sacred Cows — in used bookstores, or online.
Текст публикуется по APA

Kenneth D. Mahrer. Why manuscripts fail, according to 12 experts

        Since this column began, only my views, opinions, harangues, and suggestions on technical writing have been emphasized. As wonderful as they are, this month IÕve broadened the scope to include the opinions and harangues of a gaggle of experts. Recently, I emailed two questions to the Associate Editors of GEOPHYSICS:
        (1) What are the most common errors, shortcomings, or pitfalls you find in your reviewing and editing?
        (2) What are the most difficult or most profound errors, shortcomings, or pitfalls you find in your reviewing and editing? I received 12 replies. I think youÕll find the variations in answers very enlightening. I certainly did.
        Expert 1. (1) English. Maybe more papers are being written by non-English speakers than in other fields, but I can barely read more than half of the papers I get to review.
        (2) The most profound shortcomings are lack of enough information to be able to reproduce the results or algorithms. This is often not apparent during the editorial process but only shows up when I try to use what is published. I can list at least four examples in the last two years where I have tried to program an algorithm from a published paper only to find that critical details were missing or contradictory. Somehow, we should have a criteria like could a working algorithm be generated from the information in this paper?
        Expert 2. (1) Incorrect English and incoherent organization are common problems; this is not necessarily limited to those who are not native English speakers. The language and sometimes the style require additional work — in addition to passing on the merits of the science — by editors and referees; if the scientific content deserves it, I consider that a part of the reviewing process. For worthwhile contributions from scientists whose native language is not English, it is not always easy to find somebody with language proficiency who can help polish the manuscript. I believe it … inexcusable when something deficient comes from a native English speaker at a professional level.
        (2) No answer.
        Expert 3. (1) Grammar.
        (2) Grammar.
        Expert 4. (1) The world is mostly too complicated to model directly, so we used simplified models based upon a lot of assumptions. Most authors do not explain the assumptions that they’ve made, justify them, discuss the limitations they impose on the model, or discuss the consequences, if theyÕre violated. The latter is especially needed to warn people about lifting a model from the literature that was developed for a particular purpose, and then using it for another purpose.
        (2) People misusing data and models. The most egregious examples are people who chain together a series of models with different sets of assumptions. They’re usually not consistent in the assumptions between the models and may be contradictory.
        Expert 5. (1) Poor abstracts, introductions and/or summaries.
        (2) Boring presentations … they are technically correct … but their presentation is a real burden to the reader.
        Expert 6. (1) It’s hard to attribute poor writing to any one cause. But I think GEOPHYSICS authors commonly write for themselves and not for the audience. I often find myself urging authors to have an English-fluent nonspecialist read their revisions. Of course, this almost never response to (1).
        Expert 7. (1) Inappropriate abstracts. It took me a long time to understand what an abstract was supposed to be, and even now I donÕt write them as well as I would like. My experience is that most authors are even worse.
        (2) Authors not making clear the principal point(s) — why the reader should care about this paperÑin combination with the inclusion of marginally relevant material. This is particularly important when the paper is very mathematical.
       Expert 8. (1) Too much detailed math or algorithms. I tend to agree with (Frank) LevinÕs commentary. Math is often essential but put only the salient results in the body of the paper and carefully discuss their meaning. How often have you read a long section of technospeak and wondered how it relates to the paper? There is often insufficient bridging and motivating material. I think any subsection of a paper should begin with a short summary of what is to be discussed and why. Another common shortcoming is failure to concisely summarize a paperÕs most important points.
        (2) Usually, I have the most trouble with disorganized or grammatically confused writing. Such stuff can be so far from acceptable that the best editing seems to be a complete rewrite.
        Expert 9. (1) Papers are sent in too fast after the first draft is written. Authors should learn to avoid the temptation to send it in immediately. They should put the paper away for at least a week, come back to it later, and see if it still seems well written, logical, etc. I recommend giving the paper to a knowledgeable friend to find the obvious problems and fix them before wasting the reviewersÕ time.
        (2) Is there enough good, original material in this paper to occupy a place in GEOPHYSICS; i.e., are other geophysicists going to be glad they read the paper or was the paper written to boost the authorÕs number of publications, selfimage, or boss’s image of the author? Could the material in this paper be included with material from another paper to make a more substantial and worthwhile publication?
        Expert 10. (1) I am most annoyed by authors assuming that everybody is familiar with their earlier work or with the background literature. In my opinion, it can be shown is an inadmissible statement; either show (perhaps in an appendix) or give a reference, page number included (e.g., what good does it do to refer to a tome like Morse and Feshbach, if the poor reader must sift through two thick volumes to find what the author meant to say?)
        (2) Careless derivations, leaving too much to the readers’ imagination. It is completely inadmissible to use lines like this work is proprietary, and thus I cannot disclose the details. Authors who cannot disclose in full detail should not be allowed to publish.
        Expert 11. (1) Bad English; papers that are poorly organized or don’t maintain a coherent thought stream.
        (2) Revised papers that really don’t take into account the reviewer’s comments or state that something is important so they left the paper as is. Also, papers that have a lot to offer but are impossible to read [or edit] because the author is such a poor communicator.
      Expert 12. (1) Vague or broad reference, especially using the word it. For example: Our method uses only the interval velocity, and it doesn’t … Writing like this means you have to get to the end of the sentence (or sometimes a few sentences later) to realize to what it doesn’t refers — the authors’ method or the interval velocity. I get this very frequently and in a variety of forms.
        (2) Authors who don’t know what their papers are about, so they do a memory-dump presenting readers with a grab bag of loosely related material. Such papers could easily be titled ÒA potpourri of … methods’ instead of a more descriptive title. Beyond this, I think the error I encounter most often is lack of clarity from lengthy sentences.
        Adding my experience, Expert 13. (1) Failure to explicitly define the problem to be solved; failure to write with any element of persuasion; failure to understand the needs, interests, and reading expectations of readers; failure to discuss the benefits of the work; assuming a captive audience.
        (2) Lack of understanding or adherence to the principles and guidelines of sound technical writing from micro- through macroscale; irrecoverably incorrect grammar and syntax; disjointed or disconnected structure; camouflaged organization and flow; and self-inflated value. It is very interesting to note that poor English is the most common complaint, but not the only complaint. Many failings can be traced simply to poor writing, which is not a function of the writerÕs native language. This is very important and very significant to prospective authors whose native language is not English. It is very easy for an author who is not a native English speaker to hide behind the excuse of writing in a foreign language. This does, of course, make writing manuscripts doubly difficult. But, as substantiated by the experts, unfamiliarity with English is not the only reason for failed manuscripts. Many manuscripts, from native English speakers and from nonnative English speakers, are simply poorly written.
Текст публикуется по The Leading Edge
        Based on this work, an article was written in Russian.