The robot resubmission
Sometimes life comes at you fast, other times you’re writing a paper and four years later you’re still looking to publish it. Publishing can be like that and while I’m not the only one with this type of story, I do believe we’re finally coming to an end of the robot paper saga. I’m really hoping I don’t have a whole ass PhD before this thing gets published, that would just be awkward.
Robot paper. For those new around here and have no idea what I’m talking about let’s give this a quick rundown. Finishing my Masters degree my then PI and I agreed that he would keep me on over the summer if we could write and submit a journal paper together. Sucker, I would’ve done it for free! Or at least that was my thought process at the time. Things were going well for me, I had back to back conferences where I was speaking, built a full-size bipedal robot, and was about to start my PhD. This type of work was becoming routine, maybe that was the problem.
Submission after submission we were met with rejections and questions about the point of the paper. Some didn’t think our paper was a good fit for the journal, some thought we made no scientific advancement, others weren’t even that kind. We always had at least one reviewer who saw the advancements, mostly with the knee design, but it was never enough to get it published. The review process takes forever, upwards of 3 months on average. Tack on the time it took to rewrite robot paper and, well the years added up.
The first rejection hurt, but that’s life. The second, third, fourth… that was when robot paper stopped becoming this fun and amazing thing I did. I questioned my abilities as a scientist, a researcher, an engineer. I am always just a few steps away from killing myself, I say that because it’s true and that’s my reality. I’m fine, I will continue to be fine, but for the past few decades since my military service I’ve always been just a few steps away and on occasion I have tried to kill myself. This paper didn’t drive me quite that far, but it nudged me a few steps in that direction and I did get very low for a very long time.
However, after my two recent (very recent) successes, I feel a bit better about my abilities. Switching fields like that for my PhD… probably wasn’t the best idea with robot paper looming over everything I did, but here we are. So it’s not me, it’s the subject matter. Everyone wanted more, the whole robot design had my overseas collaborator convinced I had just finished my PhD (seriously, he was trying to recruit me for a postdoc when I visited his lab and it was tough to explain I wasn’t a postdoc… yet), but according to reviewers it wasn’t enough.
Finally the second to last submission (submission five or so I think, I’ve honestly lost count at this point) we made some headway. They recommended we submit it to a different subsection of the journal. That was the first bit of good news we got from this paper, so we reworked the paper (yet again) and resubmitted it. Well just recently it came back and they asked for edits and gave us a deadline (which I had extended an extra week).
The deadline is good news, it means they want to publish it and they want us to resubmit it quickly so they can work it into publication. So I feel like we’re close, robot-PI thinks we’re close, we’re close damn it. Last night I got word from robot-PI, he sent me his suggested edits and today I’ve got my work cut out for me. The plan now is to edit and resubmit robot paper… today.
I’m a little anxious and I have no reason to be, even if they do this quickly, it will be at least a week, maybe more, before we hear back one way or the other. Yet, after four years of my life sunk into this paper, I feel nervous. I’m not sure what to expect because this paper has been treated differently than all the other (okay, other two) papers I’ve been through this process with.
Despite the horrors this paper has unleashed on my life, I’m still very proud of the robot. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever built and I did it at lightning speed. Robot-PI is still trying to get others up to speed to modify it as needed, so I won’t lie, I feel good about the robot and the fact that no one else has been able to do better.
This isn’t the final chapter of robot paper. The next time I write about it however, it will be when it is accepted or rejected. I am, of course, hoping for the former. When I was a kid I dreamt of building robots, while I’m not exactly doing that at the moment, I’m glad my robot exists and I look forward to sharing the story of its creation via journal paper soon.
In the meantime, how about some construction photos?