Publishing, power dating and technology

Image sourced from Flickr: 3177710840_c46f33affb_o

Image sourced from Flickr: 3177710840_c46f33affb_o

Every year, a staggering 1.5 million scholarly articles are published in c. 27,000 peer-reviewed journals, and… the number of articles is set to double every 20 or so years (Campbell, 2012)

This was one of many eye-opening facts shared by Joshua Pitt, an agent from major publishing house, Taylor and Francis (Australia). The content of this blog centres is drawn from a presentation delivered to Waikato University students in September 2014.

What are the current trends for scholarly articles that form the basis of many PhD students’ theses? Co-authorship is on the rise with technology paving the way – in New Zealand around half of all scholarly articles published include an international co-author. This sends a strong message particularly to students considering a career in the sciences to dive into serious networking – it really is “power dating”. The results? NZ sits above the global average of citations per article authored at 1.5 (global average =1), – not that far behind the US at 1.7.

So how do scientists wanting to publish negotiate such a vast terrain and have their work recognised? The first recommendation was to write for specific publications – not to pour your energy into crafting something and then try to find a suitable journal. Then get really serious about social media. While not all research has great public appeal (or perceived relevance!), the influence of an article can be hugely advanced by strategic use of diverse media – though luck does play a part too. For the latter, T&F advise liaising in advance with your publisher if you think your article is newsworthy and has tweet-worthy quotes. Sending your publisher a list of your contacts and/or prominent research centres suitable for promotion and developing a joint press-release between the university and publisher are other angles to consider. Making yourself available for an author interview and providing supplementary material (not just datasets, but youtube clips) are further ways to promote your work.

Given the diverse means available for disseminating your hard work and contributions to science (or whichever field you have you feet in), there are moves toward using ‘Altmetrics’ to rate the impact of authors’ outputs. Altmetrics track the attention that a scholarly article has received via a range of social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blogs), news sources (e.g., The Guardian, New Scientist) and online reference managers (e.g., Mendeley and CiteULike).

To some scholars, promoting their work may just seem like extra work with questionable outcomes. After all, shouldn’t the value of the work speak for itself? Yes of course the work might be really valuable, but hey, don’t forget about the other 1,499,999 scholarly articles published this year.

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