The ASLO-Wiley Strategy Day – an Early Career Researcher (ECR) perspective

As the inaugural Raelyn Cole Editorial Fellow with ASLO I recently had an opportunity to get a glimpse behind the scenes of academic publishing at the ASLO-Wiley Strategy Day. For context, the Strategy Day is an annual meeting of representatives from ASLO and its journals (ASLO President, Executive Director, Communications Director, as well as the Editor/Deputy Editor in Chiefs of many of the Limnology and Oceanography journals), and the publisher Wiley (Senior Editor, Publisher, Executive Editor, Senior Marketing Manager, Vice President of Digital Product Management). The day was full of discussions on a range of topics including trends impacting the future of scientific and scholarly publishing, ASLO member and community engagement, marketing, open access, strategic journal development, and the use of Wiley online library enhancement and technology. Attending the Strategy Day provided insight on a number of issues beyond which I had been exposed to as an ECR. I outline five key aspects here:

  1. Journal editors are willing to help authors, especially ECRs, early in the publishing process. One of the scariest parts of being an ECR is sending your ideas out into the world for others to see. Over the course of the day, Editors of the ASLO journals repeatedly commented that they would be willing to help authors, especially ECR authors, develop their ideas earlier in the manuscript preparation process. Consequently, the next time you’re developing a paper, maybe consider identifying a possible journal to submit to and send the Editor an outline of where you’re at – they may be able to provide suggestions as to how to present your findings so the manuscript will have the greatest chance of success at their journal when you are ready to officially submit. (If you are still wary, you can get an idea of how this would be received by visiting the journal website, for example on the L&O Letters website it is stated “Communication with editors is encouraged… We strongly encourage authors to contact us prior to submission to discuss the suitability of the paper for L&O Letters, and strategies for successfully publishing in this journal”.)
  2. There are a range of resources for ECR authors and reviewers offered by scientific publishers. The websites of publishers can be treasure troves of resources for ECRs, both when authoring and reviewing manuscripts. There are some issues on which publishers may be particularly well positioned to advise. Search Engine Optimization to maximize article discoverability is, for example, a priority for Wiley and there is a section about how to achieve this on their website. Also worth exploring is Wiley Exchanges, an online community designed to offer advice, ideas, and collaboration opportunities for researchers, learners, and professionals in various forms including white papers, infographics, interviews, opinion pieces, industry updates, and videos.
  3. Technological advances will modify the content that authors can, and will be expected to, include in their articles. Online formats allow authors more flexibility in the kind of information which can be included with published manuscripts. Some of this content is related to enhancing the impact and accessibility of the findings such as images and videos. Already, this content can be included in the Supporting Information or Video Abstracts published along with the article. In the future, this content will likely be able to be embedded within the article itself. Consequently, while doing research it is worth looking for opportunities to acquire complimentary content to enhance impact (e.g. compelling photos and videos). In addition, there will also be opportunities (and likely requirements) to publish the data which underlies the manuscript. Therefore, when collecting and working with data it will be advantageous to ensure they are in a format that can be shared publicly – it will save going back and tidying up messy spreadsheets later!
  4. Editors often look for opportunities to invite ECRs to review submitted manuscripts. While many ECRs may feel that they are not being invited to review for journals because they are not experienced enough, the reality is that younger age has been highlighted as a factor associated with being a good reviewer. Rather, a lack of invitations likely reflects that relevant and capable ECRs can be difficult for Editors to identify – a point noted by Editors from a number of the L&O journals. One way to help Editors find you as an ECR is to have an easily accessible online profile (e.g. on Orcid). In addition, ECRs may be able to get articles referred to them by telling advisors/supervisors of their interest in reviewing. Once you start reviewing, these activities can be documented online (e.g. on Publons), which can then help even more Editors find you.
  5. Journals and publishers are comprised of people who are focused on effective science communication. The biggest thing I will take away from my time at the ASLO-Wiley Strategy Day is that the journals and publishers I submit manuscripts to are made up of people. Moreover, while it can be difficult to get a sense of this through the electronic communication surrounding publishing, these are people who want to help communicate science effectively. This enhanced awareness of the personal nature of scientific publishing should, hopefully, allow ECRs (including myself) to be less daunted both when submitting manuscripts and receiving comments, enabling a more confident approach to scientific publishing.
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