This is a guest blog from Andrea Aguilar, Publishing Manager in the Nature Masterclasses team at Nature Research. Andrea spoke to delegates in November at SpotOn, an annual conference about science policy, outreach and tools online organised by BMC, Nature Research and Digital Science.
Every year, researchers, science communicators and people interested in science outreach and policies gather to discuss a timely topic in research during the annual SpotOn conference. This year, we convened in the brand-new Crick Institute in London to discuss the tools and skills that make a great researcher.
As part of Springer Nature Researcher Services we were invited to give a lightening talk: five minutes on the different tools that we have developed to help researchers improve crucial skills such as scientific writing and understanding and navigating the publishing system.
The modern researcher needs to be able to absorb the scientific literature and digest it to ask pertinent and relevant scientific questions. The researcher then needs to develop skilful and elegant experimental designs to answer such questions and master scientific writing to produce a good manuscript.
On top of all those core skills, a great researcher also needs to be a good collaborator, peer reviewer, science communicator, mentor and grant-writer. Scientists acquire some of those skills in the lab or their university but such teachings are of variable and inconsistent quality. As a publisher, we can lend our expertise on three specific topics to help train researchers: scientific writing, science communication and, in particular, scientific publishing.
The publishing system is often viewed as a black box that stands between your manuscript and a published article on the linear path to publication.
How many times after writing the first draft of your manuscript or your figures have you realised that you actually need an additional experiment or that your scientific question needs to be reframed or refined? Often, writing and building your figures informs your experimental design. In a similar way, the publishing process informs your writing and your bench work through peer-review and editorial feedback.
Understanding the ins and outs of the publishing process can truly empower you to better navigate the system and achieve high levels of publication. Knowing what steps are involved in the publishing process, what the editor expects from you and how to communicate with them through rebuttal and cover letters, and great scientific writing can considerably smooth the process and save you time. Knowing how to be a great peer reviewer and how to communicate efficiently on your research can noticeably lighten your workload and increase your efficiency.
The Nature Masterclasses team was created 5 years ago to help train researchers in all things high level scientific writing and publishing. Over the years, we have developed two types of training: online courses and face-to-face training.
Our online courses on scientific writing and publishing and on the peer review process will teach you through blog posts, videos from Nature Research editors and recognised scientists, and exercises from the comfort of your computer, when you want, where you want.
You can dip in and out between experiments or complete it in one sitting. You can work in order or make your own order and go back to the course when necessary. No need to wait for your supervisor to get back from a week-long meeting abroad to ask a pressing question about writing a rebuttal letter! A few months ago, we launched a free course on the peer-review process. You just need to sign-up to access it. Do check it out and let us know what you think in the comments.
We also send out editors to deliver face-to-face training to your institution. During these interactive workshops, two editors from our prestigious journals walk you through how to write, submit and publish a research paper and how to work with them through discussions and exercises. The workshops are a great opportunity to chat with our Editors and get one-on-one feedback on a recent unpublished abstract of yours. You can find more information about these face-to-face masterclasses here.
We had a lot of fun at the SpotOn event talking about our trainings. You can find the video here, as well as hear about how researchers are akin to super heroes, what it takes to make a good speech and a lot more in the conference recap.
And finally, a big thank you to the SpotOn team for inviting us to participate this year.