[By 'you' I mean me, but it's easier to say 'you'] You spend sleepless nights and frustrating days working on a problem, pushing the limits of your data-analysis, algorithmic and analytical know-how, following obscure and not-so-obscure leads through the literature, until, one day, it clicks. Your model actually fits the data. And no one has even seen data like this before. You’ve made a scientific discovery!
A colleague who hears you gushing about the result suggests you submit it to Nature. Although you have only written up bits and pieces during the course of the research, it’s too late now, those bits have become the “Nature” paper.
Even in this incomplete state, the “Nature” paper changes you. It makes you feel important, special. You go to conferences and are surprised to find that a lot of other researchers have “Nature” papers.
As you spend weeks to months doing the last 10% of the work to make the paper 100% ready for submission, you try to handle the anxiety of getting scooped. Mornings are the worst, as you read arxiv or Google News headlines (because of course, any paper that did what your “Nature” paper does would capture the headlines).
Until one day it happens. Your office mate has spotted a Nature (no quotes) paper on X, and your “Nature” paper is on X. Your stomach turns, you quickly skim the paper. Relief: the paper says X, it’s not your X.
After that scare, your work pace gets even crazier. Gotta finish that last 1%, triple-check all results. You send the paper to a few people who regularly publish in Nature. When they say they like it, you’re over the moon. And if they ask where it’s going to, you reluctantly admit your aspirations.
When you’re not working, you daydream. You imagine your PhD advisor, mom, dad, long-ago flame just happening to read your paper, because they all read Nature or at least used to or at least used to say they do.
You’ve delayed as long as possible, but it is time to do the final formatting. You create a new folder, and give it a name e.g. “Nature2012″ which will forever serve as a painful reminder of your unsuccessful attempt if the paper is rejected.
Now you are ready to begin formatting. Inexplicably, you are asked to take your perfectly well-formatted paper, tear out the figures, upload them as separate files (which you will have to rename, resize, and resort), separate out the figure captions (to ensure that the reviewers will have the most difficult time figuring out what you are talking about when referring to a figure), and then wait for the submission system to glue them back together in the most impractical and unreadable form possible. This will take hours to days.
Finally, you submit. It’s a strange feeling. The creation you have labored so hard for is now in someone else’s hands. There is emptiness. You start to think about other things in life besides the “Nature” paper. Life returns to “normal”. Then…