Understanding Scientific Publishing Workshop

See my guest blog post on Biochemical Society Blog Understanding Scientific Publishing Workshop.

Guest post: Laura Mulcahy, PhD Research Student, Oxford Brookes University

On Wednesday 19 March 2014 I attended ‘Understanding Scientific Publishing’ workshop hosted by the Biochemical Society at Charles Darwin House, London. I registered for this event because:

  1. I wanted to learn more about the scientific research publishing process
  2. To help me tailor my research to the publishing requirement
  3. To prepare me for writing grant proposals in journal articles in my future career

It became clear, when speaking to others, that some early career researchers are completely unaware of how the publishing process works because, in many cases, writing papers is the responsibility of the P.I., PhD students and post-doctorates are responsible only for performing research and gathering data.

The workshop was very well organised and ran smoothly. There were six scientific publishing experts: Niamh O’Connor (Portland Press), Robert Kiley (Wellcome Trust), Guy Salvesen (Sanford-Burnham Institute, San Diego), Irene Hames (Committee on Publication Ethics), Peter Shepherd (University of Auckland) and David Tosh (University of Bath & Deputy Chair Biochemical Journal), all of whom are associated with the Biochemical Journal. The major topics discussed included:

  •          The scientific publishing process
  •          The pillars of publishing
  •          Impact factor
  •          The open access debate
  •          The process of peer review
  •          How to structure a paper
  •          Ethics of scientific publishing

Take home points:

  1. I learnt how impact factor is calculated:

Number of citations in the previous year of papers published in the 2 years preceding that year
÷
Number of papers published in the preceding 2 years

For example, the current journal impact factors are calculated:

Number of citations in 2013 of papers published in 2011 and 2012 year
÷
Total number of papers published in 2011 and 2012

I was previously unaware of how the impact factor is calculated. I think it is important for early career researchers to understand how impact factors are calculated – despite not always being the best representation of the quality of a work; the scientific community heavily relies upon impact factors when publishing and reading research.

  1. EMBO press peer review process files are available (providing you have access) for all EMBO press journals under the ‘Transparent Process’ tab on the article webpage. I think these files are a great resource for early career researchers to learn about the peer review process.
  1. Suggested reviewers aren’t always kind! There have been cases where the P.I. has suggested a reviewer for their paper who they think is a friend and that reviewer has given the work harsh criticism.
  1. Be polite to reviewers. Politeness is received well, remember the reviewer is helping you publish your work, they, generally, try to improve the work you have submitted – rather than be a nuisance!
  1. When you start in a new research team ask what their authorship policy is – so you know where you stand from the beginning and to prevent arguments that may arise in the future.

I found this workshop helpful and feel that I gained considerable knowledge of the scientific publishing process. It was particularly interesting to hear the opinions of experts in this sector which also sparked interesting debate. I would definitely recommend this workshop to early career researchers (particularly members of the Biochemical Society for whom admission is free!) and advise the Biochemical Society to run this course annually or on a bi-annual basis so that a maximum number of scientists can benefit.

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