From 4-5 November 2019 six selected early career scientists from the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) participated in the Nature Masterclasses Workshop on Scientific Writing and Publishing in Berlin to improve their writing skills and to gain insight into the successful publication process.
The workshop was organized by the German Centers for Health Research (DZG) and was the third of its kind. It was open to applications from young scientists of all six DZG. Thus, 36 successful candidates got the opportunity to meet the Chief Editors of “Nature Medicine” and “Nature Metabolism” face-to-face and learn first-hand how to write high-quality publications and how to publish them successfully in top-journals.
The group of DZL early career scientists together with the DZL Academy representative, Prof. Silke Meiners (second from the left) and trainers Dr. Joao Monteiro (right) and Christoph Schmitt (fifth from the left) at the Nature Masterclasses Workshop in Berlin. (Picture: Natalia El-Merhie)
During an interactive exchange with the trainers, participants learned what editors of top-journals look for in papers, found out how to improve their writing style and gained insights into the publication and review processes. During the practical part of the workshop, all participants got the chance to discuss their own abstracts with the editors.
All six DZL participants were enthusiastic about the workshop and would highly recommend it to their colleagues. Dr. Natalia El-Merhie, postdoc at the Research Center Borstel, member of the Airway Research Center North, ARCN, summarised: “The workshop was very well structured and the content was excellent – with short lectures, practical sessions, group discussions and the possibility of one-to-one interaction with the trainers.”
Dr. Christina Eichstaedt, scientist at the Thoraxklinik Heidelberg, member of the Center for Translational Lung Research (TLRC), is already very experienced in writing scientific publications. From participating, she hoped to become more efficient in writing and more successful with submissions to high ranking journals. She especially appreciated the advice that “by using simple modifications an abstract and the entire manuscript can turn into a much more interesting read and coherent engaging story.”
Agilo Kern, PhD student at the Hannover Medical School, member of the Biomedical Research in End-stage and Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover (BREATH) is the first-author of four publications. Scientific writing skills are nowadays a central aspect of a successful scientific career. This applies to him as well as to all other young scientists – and the pressure to publish is huge. During the workshop he learned what counts when you want your paper to be published in high-ranking journals: “Editors look for papers with findings of broad interest. They should provide novel insights; change the understanding in a field or open doors to further research.”
Dr. Anna Brichkina, scientist at the Institute of Molecular Oncology, Philipps-University of Marburg, member of the Universities of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center (UGMLC), was already able to apply her knowledge from the workshop: “Now I know how to write a good abstract and I already managed to improve three of my conference abstracts. I shortened and re-phrased them to become more appealing to the reader”.
On the second day of the workshop, the focus was on the editorial and review processes. Practical exercises allowed the participants to put themselves into the position of an editor or reviewer. Dr. Anne-Sophie Lamort, postdoc at the Comprehensive Pneumology Center-Munich (CPC-M), found it useful to learn what defines a good reviewer: “It was interesting to see the revision of a manuscript from the point of view of a reviewer. It helped us to have a better understanding of their comments and how to anticipate some questions by small modifications of our manuscript.”
Magdalena Szczygieł, PhD student at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), member of the TLRC Heidelberg, much appreciated the session on the editorial process and peer-review and was surprised to learn “that in about 30% of cases when a paper is rejected after revision, it is successful on appeal”
Also the very experienced group leader Prof. Dr. Silke Meiners from CPC-M appreciated the insiders’ view of the publication process in renowned Nature journals. “I realized how highly a coherent narrative and compelling reasoning ranks in the decision process for recommending a particular paper for publication. Also a well composed cover letter is a chance not to be missed to pitch your story to the editors.”
The next DZG workshop will take place in spring 2020 at the National Institute for Science Communication (NaWik) in Karlsruhe. Over two and a half days it will cover the basics of science communication and outreach.
Further information about the Nature Masterclasses Workshop on Scientific Writing and Publishing can be found under the following link: https://masterclasses.nature.com/ .