Writing manuscripts is an integral part of research. And being listed as an author on a published article is the most cherished dream of a research scholar/ graduate student. However, what about the corresponding author role?
During your Ph.D tenure, you will be encouraged to compile your data and write manuscripts based on your results. However, you will generally only create the first draft. You will then hand over the manuscript draft to your supervisor, being assured that the rest will be taken care of. The manuscripts are further refined and polished by your Principle Investigator (PI) who is not only more experienced and knowledgeable but who has also supervised you during the course of the study and has played a key role in designing the study. The PI here acts as a corresponding author for the manuscript.
Role of a Corresponding Author
A corresponding author is the one to whom all the correspondence regarding the manuscript is sent, the one who is responsible for answering all the queries pertaining to the manuscript and, therefore, serves as the point of contact.
By acting as a corresponding, the PI takes the entire responsibility of the manuscript. From data analysis to proofreading, revisions and answering the queries of reviewers, he does it all until the manuscript gets accepted.
Even after acceptance, the corresponding author is held accountable for all queries related to the manuscript. From authenticity of data to reproducibility of the results to significance of the study; the corresponding author is the responsible party.
Your First Manuscript as a Corresponding Author
There will come a time in your research career when you will pen your very first manuscript as a corresponding author. Being a corresponding author of a manuscript for the first time brings both immense happiness and responsibility. This is the time of a major transformation from a carefree student to a responsible professional. You can no longer get away with putting the onus on your supervisor. You must take full responsibility of the job in hand.
There will be various questions and concerns in your mind when preparing and uploading that very first manuscript as a corresponding author. Here is a list of questions and answers to help you out:
What Factors Should You Focus on While Drafting the Manuscript?
You are responsible for making sure that the manuscript is in its best form. Keep the following in mind:
- Develop a clear, concise, and attractive title.
- Do not make the paper too lengthy. Keep it crisp and to the point, emphasizing important aspects.
- Represent ideas with clarity, precision, and efficiency. Have a logical sequence of experiments with each study connecting to the next. The paper should tell a story and a compelling one. Your results must validate your hypothesis and provide convincing evidence.
- Avoid any ambiguity or confusion.
- Include references to support each of your statements. Cite all the work quoted in the manuscript.
- Include all important experimental details.
- Do not fabricate or copy data. Authenticity is a must.
- Establish statistical significance of your data.
- Last but not the least, adhere to the format of the chosen journal while writing your manuscript. Read the journal’s instructions carefully. View the sample papers, too, if they’re available.
Note: Some journals prefer that the templates be used for preparing the manuscript. In that case, follow the instructions of the template while drafting your paper.
What are your Other Important Duties and Responsibilities While Preparing the Manuscript?
The corresponding author is not only responsible for the written word. As a corresponding author, you are responsible for all ethical matters pertaining to the manuscript.
- Make sure that the authorship of each individual is well justified. Also, the names of all the deserving authors must be there in the manuscript.
- Ensure the accuracy of data presented in the manuscript.
- There must not be any plagiarism issues.
- You must take care of the fact that the work is not published elsewhere in any form or is not being simultaneously submitted to another journal.
What Should you do Before Finalizing the Manuscript?
Once the draft of your manuscript is complete and ready for uploading, you need to do a final check to make sure that the manuscript can be uploaded.
- Cross check all the references for their accuracy and way of citation.
- Refer to all figures correctly in the text.
- The resolution of images must be high enough to clearly see in print and on screen. Use legible fonts.
- Avoid any typo errors or grammatical and/or spelling mistakes.
How do you Upload the Manuscript?
Uploading the manuscript is yet another very important part of the whole process. A lot of information is needed before you actually send the manuscript. So let’s see what all is needed…
What to Have Ready?
- A final draft of the manuscript in MS Word (or other acceptable) format.
- A file containing all the figures and tables with legends.
- The corresponding address, telephone number, fax number and email addresses of all the authors. Also, the address should one that is likely to be stable for some time.
- The name of possible reviewers with their details including email IDs and addresses for correspondence.
- A carefully drafted cover letter.
- A signed declaration form, if required by the journal.
Before you Hit that Final Button
- Read the instructions for uploading the manuscript carefully and follow them step-wise.
- Review the final PDF file cautiously before submitting.
What are Your Responsibilities After Submission?
If you think your duties are over once you hit send, think again. You still have more work to do.
- You have to serve as a connecting link between co-authors and editors. Communicate the reviews or comments received from the journal’s office to each author seeking their advice and suggestions.
- Respond to queries by reviewers within the stipulated time or else the manuscript may be treated as a new submission.
- Check the proof thoroughly for any inadvertent errors.
The duty of a corresponding author doesn’t end with publication of the manuscript. Even after the paper is published, you will be accountable for the study carried out. Be prepared to correspond with researchers who read your paper. They may ask questions or even request a reagent.
Remember: once a corresponding author, always a corresponding author!