Why an author workshop changed one editor from skeptic to convert

Professor Raymond Coleman, Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Acta histochemica, believes these events help authors on the path to getting published

Scientists who do not publish the results of their research will not receive any recognition or earn respect as independent researchers. Producing the first manuscript and having it accepted is a major hurdle for junior scientists, who normally follow a stiff learning curve as their first efforts are rejected or criticized. These initial manuscripts are usually products of their PhD thesis. If their native tongue is not English, then the hurdles become even more hazardous. Whereas some students have an innate gift for writing and communication, others lack such a talent. The real question is can we educate young graduate students to improve their chances of being published?

Many of the major scientific publishers, including Elsevier, make enormous efforts to help authors avoid rejection. One such instrument is providing author training workshops where journal Editors-in-Chief, like me, can provide tips and tricks for writing successful papers. I was always somewhat skeptical about the merits of these workshops; after all, as far as I am aware, none have been held in Israel, where I live, yet the success rate of publications by young graduate students is extremely high.

My opinion was recently changed after participating in the first author workshop held at Hacettepe University Congress Center in Ankara, Turkey. It was a two-day meeting in October this year and was organized by Petek Korkusuz of the university's Department of Histology and Embryology together with Elsevier.

Professor Coleman and Petek Korkusuz at the workshop in Turkey.

Within a short time of its announcement, the course attracted 110 graduate students and apparently that number could easily have been doubled if space had not been restricted.

The other main speaker was journal editor Rocky S. Tuan (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine). While the meeting placed emphasis on aspects of histochemistry, cytochemistry, stem cell science and regenerative medicine, what was abundantly clear was that the same rules apply when submitting research papers, regardless of the specific area in biological science. The topics presented included:

  • A review of publishing in the digital age
  • How research has been recorded for more than 300 years and the changes introduced in the last two decades
  • Good science hypothesis, rationale and originality

There was also extensive advice offered on a paper's Title, Abstract and Keywords, followed by what needs to be included in the Introduction, Materials and Methods; presentation of Results; and the role of the Discussion, References, Tables and Figures.

There were also sessions on statistical errors and ethics in publishing. These covered:

  • Institutional ethics committees;
  • COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics);
  • plagiarism and its detection;
  • conflicts of interest;
  • who should be included as an author;
  • "Ghost authors";
  • reasons for retraction; and
  • predatory journals.

During the course of the workshop, drafts of manuscripts by young scientists were subject to constructive criticism with recommendations for improvements. The advice given was much appreciated and students were able to see how the material taught in the author workshop could be applied to improve their manuscripts and increase their chances of acceptance. All the participants had the opportunity to join the debate and a consensus was reached regarding improvements to the papers.

What you need to know about Elsevier's researcher training program

Publishing Connect, Elsevier's ongoing and popular researcher skills training program, comprises three main elements:

  • Author and Reviewer (face-to-face) workshops. Typically these are held at universities and scientific conferences, usually in partnership with one of Elsevier's journal editors
  • Live training webinars for early career researchers interested in improving their knowledge and skills in publishing academic research
  • Online training webcasts – bite-sized videos to support ongoing training

Each year, Elsevier's journal publishers and editors engage with, and train, thousands of early career researchers worldwide.

Find out more about the Publishing Connect program

To keep abreast of our news for early career researchers, including announcements of future Publishing Connect webinars, follow us on Twitter: @ECRPubConnect

If you are looking to organize a similar workshop at your institute, you can contact Hannah Foreman, Head of Researcher Relations at Elsevier.

Each attendee received an Elsevier pack with a notebook, pen, and two DVDs containing the PowerPoint presentations of the lectures and a wide range of useful material. Attendees also received an attractive Certificate of Attendance. The responses we received were extremely positive and constructive – people commented on how useful and relevant the workshop was and highlighted the need to hold similar events in Turkey on an annual basis. I subsequently received several emails from students about how much they valued the opportunity to speak to Editors-in-Chief.

I am now converted and I am convinced that author workshops like Elsevier's Publishing Connect program do have considerable value. The local scientific organizers did a magnificent job but, above all, Acta histochemica received considerable exposure; Gamze Keskin, Elsevier's research solutions representative for this area, also did a fantastic job in highlighting the role Elsevier plays in advancing knowledge.


Author biography

Professor Raymond ColemanProfessor Raymond Coleman is Editor-in-Chief of Acta histochemica (founded in 1954 and still going strong). He was born in Liverpool in 1943 and attended the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys in the same year as Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He received his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1967 with a specialization in electron microscopy and endocrinology. In the same year he was appointed to the Faculty of the University of London to teach Zoology. In 1973, he was awarded a Royal Society-Israel Academy Fellowship at Tel Aviv University and in 1975 he joined the newly founded Faculty of Medicine of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, where he has been in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology ever since. Since his first publication in 1967 (in Histology), Professor Coleman has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers and has special interests in microscopy, atherosclerosis, and aging. His student textbook on Multiple Choice Questions in Histology (1983) is still widely used and his webpages for student histology learning are very popular.

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