How to get your simulation paper accepted
Looking back at 2016, I just realized that my yearly load of peer reviews has increased to almost 80 journal papers, mainly in the field of optoelectronic device simulation. The rising number of such paper submissions to top journals is certainly good news, but the paper quality is often insufficient. Unfortunately, I have to propose rejection of most papers after a detailed assessment of essential mistakes. A fundamental mistake in my view is the unproven assumption that simulations represent the real world. Authors often don’t seem to understand that computer simulations lead us into a virtual reality in which many unreal effects can happen – depending on their choice of mathematical models and material parameters.
Thus, I would like to list a few general recommendations that would make a simulation paper more acceptable, at least in my view:
- Outline purpose, methodology, and key conclusions of your simulation study in the introduction. Compare your approach to previous publications.
- Identify and discuss essential physical mechanisms and corresponding mathematical models. Modeling should be governed by insight into device physics and not by mathematical convenience. Possible side-effects can only be evaluated if included in the models.
- Find out which material parameters in your models have a significant impact on your results and justify your choice of parameter values. In some cases, a wide range of values can be found in the literature, so that an error analysis may be required to investigate the corresponding uncertainty of your results.
- Reproduce measured characteristics to validate your model, at least for a reference device. You may need to find experimental partners or suitable literature sources that provide a sufficient data set. This is often difficult but it is your job as author to prove to the general audience that your simulation is realistic. If your models or parameters are incorrect, your paper may lead the reader in the wrong direction.
- Separate evidence-based results from speculative interpretations. Conclusions should be derived from demonstrated facts and not from wishful thinking.
However, be aware that some level of uncertainty always remains since simulations always simplify the real world and measured data are always limited. Two recent publications investigate such uncertainties in GaN-LED simulations [1,2]. In fact, the large body of peer-reviewed but often contradicting GaN-LED simulation papers underlines the urgency of establishing quality guidelines in our field. I hope this blog post initiates a broader discussion on how to improve the general reputation and the practical impact of numerical simulations.
UPDATE 2/7/17: An updated list of recommendations is now available here.
 How to decide between competing efficiency droop models for GaN-based light-emitting diodes, Appl. Phys. Lett. 107, 031101 (2015)
 On the uncertainty of the Auger recombination coefficient extracted from InGaN/GaN light-emitting diode efficiency droop measurements, Appl. Phys. Lett. 106, 101101 (2015)