Scientific Discovery

Top 10 stories of 2015

With tips for PhD students, tools for data sharing — and a patient's inspiring view on Parkinson's

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Alison Bert, DMATips for excelling in your PhD program. How to create meaningful charts for your data. An investigation into the fairness of peer review.

These were among the 260 stories we published on Elsevier Connect in 2015. For our Top 10, we selected those with the most unique views. Overall, Elsevier Connect received more than 2.3 million views in the past year.

Our contributors are members of the global science and health communities — researchers, professors, graduate students, medical practitioners, librarians, authors, science writers, and the publishing colleagues at Elsevier who work closely with them, often after working as researchers and clinicians themselves.

A big thank you to all of our contributors, and congratulations to those who made this list.


1. Clinical trials for Parkinson’s are saving my life

By Bret Parker | 22 April 2015

Bret Parker finishes a triathlon in 2014 to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.Spoiler alert: There's no miracle cure for Parkinson's disease.

But that doesn't make Bret Parker's story any less compelling. He writes about what he gains from participating in clinical trials. For example:

Getting the news that I had a disease that still lacked a cure meant that my health was largely out of my hands. It was completely frustrating. I quickly realized that there was one thing I could do to make a difference potentially for myself but certainly for the millions of other patients with Parkinson’s – participate in clinical trials to try to find better treatments and a cure.

In fact, there are even simple ways that healthy people can help find a cure by being a control group. "It can be as easy as answering some questions and taking a memory/cognition test for a half hour," he points out.

Bret, who is a member of the Patient Council of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Executive Director of the New York City Bar Association, also shares the reality of dealing with Parkinson's. Perhaps it is his candor that has drawn so many people to read and share this story and his follow-up: "Talking to me about Parkinson’s Disease." (Hint: If you've ever wondered how how to talk to a person with a chronic condition — like what's OK to ask and what's not — this will give you an idea of what it's like to be that person.)


2. How to use AudioSlides to boost your paper’s readership

By Hylke Koers, PhD, Pilar Cos Alvarez and Kitty van Hensbergen | 27 October 2015

There is a correlation between AudioSlides and article usage, with articles that have accompanying AudioSlides presentations being read more.Many of our most popular stories reveal new ways to make your research papers more compelling and widely read.

This one is about AudioSlides, which let Elsevier's authors publish a short webcast-style presentation with their article to tell readers about their research in their own words.

You can find this and similar stories in our Early Career Researchers and Career Development categories. They are usually written by people  who have done research and know the challenges first-hand. Some of them work at Elsevier. That's the case with two of the authors of this story:


3. Infographic: How to write better scientific papers

By Natalia Rodriguez | 15 May 2015

Natalia RodriguezScience communication is an emerging field and a very important one; everything from getting published to getting grants and job offers depends on the ability to convey your research clearly for an audience broader than the specialists in your field.

Infographic: How to write better scientific papersThe creator of this infographic, Natalia Rodriguez, has an MSc in science communication from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and she is the Communications Coordinator for Research4Life. As she explains:

Many scientific papers fail to communicate research work effectively. Pitfalls include using complicated jargon, including unnecessary details, and writing for your highly specialized colleagues instead of a wider audience.

Natalia reveals some of her own design "secrets" in her infographic "Tips for designing better research posters."

You can find her infographics and others in our category Infographics & Cartoons, and you can learn more about communicating science in our Science Communication category.


4. Prostate cancer screening: What physicians and patients need to know

By Chris Capot | 8 November 2015

Prostate cancer screening videosNearly 30,000 men died from prostate cancer in 2014 in the US, making it the second most deadly after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But while prostate cancer diagnoses are rising, so are the treatment options.

In recognition of “Movember” – a men’s health awareness movement in November – the Evidence-Based Medicine Center at Elsevier Clinical Solutions created a video series to shed light on common questions and situations faced by both physicians and patients. Dr. Peter Edelstein, Chief Medical Officer of Elsevier Clinical Solutions, interviews Dr. Alan J. Wein, Chief of the Division of Urology at the Perelman School of Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Senior Editor of Campbell-Walsh Urology.

The three videos cover various aspects of prostate cancer screening.


5. Ten ways to make your PhD experience easier and more enjoyable

By Andy Greenspon | 4 March 2015

Andy Greenspon Andy Greenspon, a PhD student in Applied Physics at Harvard, aligns a green laser for characterizing optical properties of diamond. (Photo by David Bracher)You might remember Andy Greenspon from his 2013 article "9 things you should consider before embarking on a PhD." It continues to get more than 600 views a week, and Andy has responded to many of the 100+ comments from people seeking his advice.

The allure? Andy writes about what he knows — the challenges and possibilities of being a PhD student — and he clearly knows a lot. At the same time, he's modest. As he opens "10 ways to make your PhD experience easier and more enjoyable":

After two and a half years at work on my PhD, I’ve had my share of lessons and revelations. Whether you are considering a PhD, or feel like you could get more from your program, here are a few tips. While some of them may seem obvious, it’s easy to overlook them while caught up in the daily grind.


6. Honoring the 2015 Nobel laureates with free access to selections of their research

By Sacha Boucherie | 7 October 2015

® © The Nobel FoundationIn recent years, all the Nobel science laureates have published their work in Elsevier's journals and books, or served as editors, editorial board members or reviewers. To congratulate them and thank them for all they have contributed, and to further illuminate their discoveries, we make a collection of their work published with Elsevier freely available.

You can check out the 2015 collection here.

And here are some other ways Elsevier provides free and low-cost access to scientific research.


7. DataLink tool helps researchers search, cite and write about data

By Paige Shaklee, PhD; Kaia Motter, and Elena Zudilova-Seinstra, PhD | Posted on Posted on 3 March 2015

Data is a hot topic in the world of research, and this story features a tool to help scientists search for data, write about it – and get credit for it.

Paige Shaklee, PhD, Kaia Motter and Elena Zudilova-Seinstra, PhDAs the authors point out:

There is increased pressure on scientists to make their research more transparent and reproducible by sharing their data. ... While researchers do comply with sharing mandates, there is often great reluctance in the genomics community to share data that is not directly associated with a published research article. Their reasons are sound. ...

They go on to explain why, and how this tool addresses the challenges of discovering and promoting data. 

Check out this story and others in our Research Data category.


8. A 5-step guide to data visualization

By Georgin Lau and Lei Pan, PhD | Posted on 28 January 2015

Figure 5 – Spie chart with reference value of relative activity index.Two of Elsevier's data analytics experts reveal the dos and don'ts of displaying data in a meaningful way. They write:

For our projects in Elsevier's Analytical Services, we are constantly looking for ways to advance data analysis and visualization. ... Here, we offer a brief guide consisting of 5 steps for anyone who wants to communicate an observation or explain an analysis clearly with tables, graphs, charts and diagrams, keeping in mind that creating a good visualization is an iterative process.

Each of the steps is illustrated with a chart, like the one here.


9. Five secrets to surviving (and thriving in) a PhD program

By Aijaz A. Shaikh | 25 June 2015

Aijaz A. Shaikh gives a presentation at the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics in Finland.In his guide to making the most of your doctoral studies, the author shares the lessons he has learned in preparing his dissertation and publishing research along the way.

"I have found the path to success is never very simple or straight-forward," writes Aijaz A. Shaikh, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics in Finland. "In fact, pursuing a doctoral qualification requires absolute devotion, consistency, organization and, above all, a systematic approach that advances or contributes to new knowledge."

In this serious tone, he goes on to reveal a strategy designed to produce results:

To put it simply, these practical secrets are aimed at reducing fear and discomfort, helping you complete your course work on time, and guiding you to produce a set of good scientific publications that will secure funding and ensure a productive future career path.

Aijaz gives advice based on his own accomplishments, quoting from Aristotle and contemporary scholars along the way. His no-nonsense approach has resonated with young scholars around the world, who share his ambition to not only survive but succeed in their PhD programs.

Since publishing this article, he has written a related story for Elsevier Connect: "A brief guide to research collaboration for the young scholar."


10. Is peer review just a crapshoot?

By Richard B. Primack, PhD, Ahimsa Campos Arceiz, PhD, and Lian Pin Koh, PhD | 31 March 2015

A confused editor (author Richard B. Primack in a staged photo) contemplates four divergent reviews of the same paper while attempting to make a fair decision on its fate. (Photo by Amanda Gallinat)How do reviewer recommendations influence editor decisions?

Do editors treat authors from China fairly, or are their papers given an especially harsh treatment?

Are there some comprehensible patterns in the review process or is it just a crapshoot — a random process with reviewers and editors making arbitrary decisions?

These were the questions these authors set out to answer in a study published in Elsevier's journal Biological Conservation, They examined 4,575 manuscripts submitted to the journal over the past 7 years, and a subset of 2,093 papers that were sent out for review.

Find out what their research revealed.


Writing for Elsevier Connect

If you are interested in writing for Elsevier Connect or have an idea for a story, email Editor-in-Chief Alison Bert at Elsevier_Connect@elsevier.com.


Elsevier Connect Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Alison Bert (@AlisonBert) joined Elsevier in 2007 from the world of journalism, where she was a business reporter for The Journal News, a Gannett daily newspaper in New York. As Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier Connect, she works with people around the world to publish daily stories for the global science and health communities.

In the previous century, Alison was a classical guitarist on the music faculty of Syracuse University. She received a doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, was Fulbright scholar in Spain, and studied in a master class with Andrés Segovia.

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