Annual Meeting Reports

Helping Novice and International Authors to Publish

Many authors of scientific papers are new to scientific publishing, are non-native speakers of English, or both. Speakers at this session discussed initiatives to guide such authors.

Introducing the session, Sue Silver described workshops that she and fellow science editor Philippa Benson have given since 2007 in China, which now is second only to the United States in number of papers published per year. Silver emphasized that the workshops, which last 2 days, address not how to write papers but what happens once a paper is submitted. She and Benson have also written a book titled What Editors Want: An Author’s Guide to Scientific Journal Publishing (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Thomas M Annesley began by saying that even in the United States many researchers are non-native speakers of English. He noted that cultures differ in norms regarding authorship criteria, plagiarism, duplicate publication, and response to editor and reviewer comments. He observed that although formal courses and workshops are the best way to help scientists improve their writing, they are not always available.

“What can journals and editors do?” Annesley asked. His answers: make authors aware of available resources, create and disseminate resource materials, and collaborate to make resources available.

Annesley identified a variety of resources, including materials available online through OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment), HINARI, AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture), ARDI (Access to Research for Development and Innovation), and AuthorAID. With regard to creating and disseminating resource materials, Annesley noted the article series that constitutes the Clinical Chemistry Guide to Scientific Writing and reported that the series had been translated into Chinese and Spanish and that translations into Russian and Arabic were under way.

With regard to collaborating to make resources available, Annesley listed tasks for journals and editors to consider, including assembling and publicizing an agreedon set of online resources, supporting conferences on scientific writing and publication, and developing joint projects to educate authors about publication standards and ethics. He also raised the possibility of constructing standardized sections or wording for instructions for authors, and mentioned possibly developing tools to bridge cultural gaps regarding publication norms and ethics.

Helen B Atkins spoke from the perspective of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which publishes seven peer-reviewed journals. She said that the submitting authors of many of the papers received are outside the United States. She then described measures that AACR has taken to facilitate publication by novice and international authors. For example, Atkins reported that since 2009, AACR has included in its annual meeting a professional-advancement lecture series featuring presentations by journal editors and publication staff. Intended mainly for early-career researchers, the presentations address such topics as journal selection, authorship determination, manuscript organization and writing, the review process, response to reviewer comments, and publication ethics. The presentations sometimes draw 300–400 attendees.

Atkins mentioned that the AACR publication portal includes an author-services center with links to information on such subjects as journal scope, editorial policies, and language-editing services. She also said that the instructions for authors of all AACR journals had been standardized, with consistent core policies and requirements, to facilitate compliance by authors. In closing, she noted three other measures taken that can help novice and international authors: appointing international editors and editorial-board members, distributing information about the journals at international meetings, and having editorial staff provide excellent customer service.