With this past week came a milestone in my career: my first peer-reviewed paper was accepted for publication. If you're not familiar with the scientific process, here's a brief description: when you have written up your research as a paper describing your study, results, conclusions and implications, you submit it to a scientific journal. The editor of the journal sends it to specialist reviewers who pull it to bits and make sure it is good science and up to the journal's standards. You get your comments back, do your corrections and re-submit it, and then the editor might contemplate sending it out for further review or they might just accept it as it is.
At least, that's pretty much what happened to me. The editor might in other cases reject the paper without review, or accept it without corrections if it's already flawless (which doesn't happen very often - scientists are very critical thinkers). The whole process takes a long time (months to, in my case, years) and is pretty tedious. But it makes sure that science is honest and true - we scrutinise each other's work and it only gets published if it's good science. At least, that is the idea, but the odd bad paper or fabricated dataset does occasionally get through, particularly if the authors are friends with the editors or reviewers, in which case there might be a bit of leniency. We are still human, after all. Knowing scientists, I think more good papers get rejected than bad papers get accepted (by good journals anyway) - science is, like many other disciplines, full of politics and personal vendettas. Some of the relationships between scientists are unbelievably complicated. Luckily I am not capable of generating such complex social systems.
Anyway, I was pretty chuffed about that, even if it was a very minor accomplishment for some work I did a long time ago. Overall this has been an exceptionally good couple of weeks, with really cool dissections (see my last post) and also a bit more funding granted to my project. I am quite scared that I am not working towards my proposal, but I'm doing other things for my project such as applying for permits, sorting out transport, and reading papers. Next week my supervisor is back, and hopefully will have some comments for me soon.