The globalization of science has dramatically changed the academic publishing industry over the past 20 years. “Science used to be US and Western Europe dominated," says Mr Chris Pringle, Elsevier's Executive Publisher – Geography and Transport, in an interview with the School's Center for Engineering Education Innovation (E2I). "That's changed most dramatically with the emergence of Chinese research, which in the next year or two is expected to overtake the US in the quantity of published papers."
Mr Pringle cites technological changes such as computing and the Internet as enabling new research possibilities and people to be more productive. "The communication among researchers and between researchers and publishers has become so much quicker and easier," he says. "It's noticeable how many more papers these days are internationally authored."
Junior researchers looking to develop effective research communication skills can now enroll in a new research postgraduate course entitled "Professional Development in Engineering". The School of Engineering launched this course in the 2013-14 Fall Semester. A key focus area is to help students learn to expertly communicate their research to both specialists and non-specialists. The course also helps students with their entrepreneurial skills and research ethical awareness. E2I facilitates the course through different training opportunities such as discussion forums, interactive workshops, competitions and seminars, and also assesses student learning outcomes.
At the end of the Fall Semester, students had an opportunity to hear an insider's perspective on navigating through academic publishing in an invited talk entitled "How to get published in scientific journals", given by Mr Pringle.
He emphasized that a strong manuscript is precise and presented in a logical sequence, so readers can understand the useful message being conveyed. "The transition from print to electronic journals has increased the readership from hundreds in the past to millions now," noted Mr Pringle. The increase in the number and range of readers means that well communicated research can make significant contributions to the field.
Mr Pringle advised junior researchers that choosing a journal in which to publish involves a multi-criteria decision: "You need to understand the criteria that the people you are trying to impress are going to use to judge you, how you want to impress future employers — in journals with higher impact factors, readership, or reaches a particular audience? Also you may want to show you can publish in a range of journals."
Research was traditionally published in subscription-based journals, but now there is more research available in the open-access format. "There's no doubt it [open access] is becoming a significant proportion of published research, and it may become a majority in not too many years," commented Mr Pringle. "That's a huge change that is happening now and will develop over the next few years." But a major challenge with open access is the issue of long-term sustainability. "Anyone can publish a journal in their free time so long as their enthusiasm lasts. But someone who has done it for five years may move on. Then what happens to the work that the authors put in? What about archiving issues?" Mr Pringle asked.
Common concerns expressed by students about the publishing process included determining an appropriate response to reviewers' comments. Mr Pringle pointed out that in any disagreements with reviewers one should remember that this is a scientific discussion — be objective and factual, not emotional. "You should not take criticism personally but learn from it," he said. “Correct the mistake this time and don't make it again."
And that's practical advice — both in research and in life.