Yesterday I was informed that my first paper from my first grant was accepted. The paper was first submitted last June or July. At one point, it was rejected because the associate editor couldn’t find reviewers. Which frustrated me a great deal at the time. The paper is a methodological piece about using agent-based modeling (ABM) to create a simulated cohort of patients for in silico randomized trials.
Now, obviously, the state of the art in ABM is such that we can’t model drug effects or new interventions like surgeries and expect to trust the outcome. But what we can do is use simulated cohorts to test the effects of changes to policy, or flow, or capacity, in the health care system. And these types of trials are not possible to perform in vivo. To do so, we’d have to, say, build two identical hospitals and have one adopt one policy and the other another. We can also test policy changes which might, if they don’t work, result in dangerous or unethical conditions for our cohort.
Because this work was interdisciplinary and unconventional, it was hard to find a good place to publish it. Medical journals saw it as computer work, or as too naive with regard to the epidemiology. I submitted to a computer simulation journal, who said that it wasn’t novel as a simulation piece, but was “just” a medical paper. Eventually, I settled on submitting it to a well-known open access journal, which takes as its mission the review and publication of all quality science it receives. There are arguments – which I’ve discussed here – about how valuable, or prestigious, this kind of publication is. But it is excellent peer review, has a good impact factor, and is indexed by the major science search-engines. It puts good science in the public record, which is what matters.
So I’m very happy to have it published. I have a second paper which I need to respond to review. Then, that will close the door on my first grant. I did real science, the way it is done in America today. I wrote a grant, was funded, did some work, wrote a manuscript, and published it. That feels pretty good.