[image above] “So you want to get published” workshop for young professionals at PACRIM12. From left, H.T. Lin, Mario Affatigato, and Bill Fahrenholtz. Credit: ACerS
By Christopher Shaver
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Materials Science and Engineering Department, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
Graduate students and young professionals entering fields of science frequently are encouraged to publish their work. For many of us, this task can be quite daunting especially if we are working towards our first publication. Organizing your work from experimental design, data collection, and analysis in a coherent and concise manner can be a challenge. Additionally, selecting the appropriate journal and submitting your work for acceptance can prove to be an equal and, perhaps, more exhausting task. For these reasons, I chose to attend the PacRim12 Publishing Workshop entitled “So you want to get published: A workshop for graduate students and young professionals.”
In my view, the focus of this workshop was to encourage people who are in the very early stages of their career to embrace the quality of their research and not let it fall into obscurity. The purpose of publishing scientific work is to encourage collaboration and ignite new ideas from colleagues worldwide. During this workshop, the three panelists (Bill Farenholtz, Hua-Tay Lin, and Mario Affatigato), each of whom serve as editors of their respective journals, offered tips and guidance.
Of the topics discussed, I found the most instructional to be identifying original ideas and how they can be developed into publishable research. In areas of science and engineering that are considered competitive and rapidly evolving, originality becomes increasingly difficult to attain. Constantly reading new published works relating to your field of research is the best way of devising ideas that may be worthy of research and publication. Being well-read also has the advantage of making the reader be more cognizant of the types of content specific journals publish. Not only does selecting the right journal for submission expedite the publication process, it also ensures your research is presented to the appropriate audience.
A suggested strategy I had not considered for increasing my awareness of journal selection was to volunteer to be a reviewer. Reviewing papers is a great way to learn how to write effective and impactful papers. This also improves your understanding of the review criteria and allows you to evaluate the content for critical ideas. In the review system, some journals give a special designation for volunteer reviewers. These positions can be acquired by expressing interest to journal editors directly to see if positions are available. Reviewing scientific research papers can also be applied to reviewing the work done within your own research group.
The discussion shifted to describing the necessary components that comprise a successful research paper. The author needs to be able to grab the attention of the reader through the title and abstract. The body of the paper should include multiple experiments to tell the story of the work. The work should be presented with clear and easy to understand with simple but effective figures with appropriate captions. The writing style should be such that others, even outside of the field, should be able to understand. If the language is poor, it makes the paper much less desirable for publish.
Overall, the efforts made by the Young Professionals Forum at the 12th Pacific Rim Conference on Ceramic and Glass Technology (PACRIM 12) sponsored by the National Science Foundation has contributed positively my experience.
Credit: C. Shaver
Editor’s note: Christopher is a recipient of an NSF-funded travel grant to attend PacRim12. The award was made to Surojit Gupta of the University of North Dakota.