Behind the Paper: Random Access in Large-Scale DNA Data Storage

MISL‘s big Nature Biotech paper is now online! And, as always, there’s much more that goes on behind the scenes than a scientific paper can express.

While not a “helpful tip” in the traditional sense, I thought it would be fun to reflect a little on the multi-year long process, and hopefully show people that they’re not alone in the rejection, revision, resubmission, response, rejection, etc. publication struggle!

Here’s a (very) brief timeline of this paper from start to finish.

Actual work

2015 – Preliminary experiments and coding designs are iterated on.

Jan 2016 – The 2015 work pays off, and we now begin our first wet lab experiments with the large pools of DNA presented in this work

June 2016 – Final wet lab experiments are conducted

Drafting and iterating on our paper

Dec 2016 – Drafting of the paper starts in earnest

March 2, 2017 – Draft of paper submitted to Journal A

March 7, 2017 – Draft posted to Biorxiv

March 17, 2017 – Draft submitted to Journal B (presumably we’d been rejected from Journal A somewhere in there, but I couldn’t find the email)

May 12, 2017- Heard back from reviewers, Journal B decides not to pursue publication

May 20, 2017 – Reformatting the paper for Nature Biotech starts in earnest

July 13, 2017 – Submitted reformatted paper addressing some of the prior reviewers’ concerns

The meat of the peer-review process

Aug 15, 2017 – Reviewers respond with lots of suggestions

Oct 18, 2017 – After some more analysis, wet lab experiments, and rewrites, we resubmit to Nature Biotech

Nov 14, 2017 – Reviewers respond and we’re given the chance to comment

Nov 24, 2017 – We’re unofficially accepted to Nature Biotech!

Dec 13, 2017 – We’re given a final list of things the reviewers would like us to address

Jan 6, 2017 – We address concerns and resubmit

Jan 11, 2017 – We are officially accepted for publication at Nature Biotech!

Publication logistics

Jan 11-Feb 12 – We do lots of last minute editing, fixing small changes that Nature Biotech’s editors made.

Feb 19, 2017 – “Random access in large-scale DNA Storage” is finally available online.

Funny enough, many computer scientists see all this and think the process is excruciatingly slow, while life science researchers look at this and think it’s a relatively quick paper. The two fields work at extremely different paces most of the time.