10 questions to ask journal editors at conferences

From guest blogger Céline Carret
Senior Editor EMBO Molecular Medicine,
EMBO Press,  
@EMBOMolMed

 

At last! You’ve made it to the conference you’ve been waiting so long to attend. It’s going to be perfect – 4 days of great science, poster presentations, socialising and networking opportunities galore. There’s even a ‘Meet the Editors’ session – surely the editors can give you some tips on how to get that paper published that you’ve been working on?

To make sure you get the most out of the opportunity, here are 10 of the best questions I’ve been asked as an editor over the years:

  1. What do you think of my paper?

It’s true – we want to know what you’re working on! Be prepared to pitch your paper to the editor. Bring print-outs or even show them your paper on your computer. We may not be able to give you the same detailed feedback as in a normal review process, but we can definitely let you know if it’s interesting for the journal or what the missing experiment is that would make your paper stand out.

  1. Does your journal respect the request for specific referee exclusion?

If there is a conflict of interest with another scientist or you would like to exclude someone as a reviewer for personal reasons, you’ll want to make sure that your dream journal will respect your wish. Depending on the policies of the journal the editor can give you advice regarding how best to approach the issue, and what the chances are of your request being taken into account.

  1. What is your acceptance rate? 

Although the acceptance rate of a journal generally varies from month to month, it’s good to get an idea of your chances of being accepted. In general, competition is high, and perhaps you’d prefer to go for a “safer” journal with a lower impact but higher acceptance rate. The final decision, of course, is yours.

  1. Do you offer blind submissions so referees don’t see the author’s names?

The idea behind blind submissions is to reduce any chance of possible bias from a reviewer. The practice is becoming increasingly common, and rightfully so! Some journals offer this practice, and some are still to catch on, so it’s worth asking about the policies of the specific journals you’re interested in publishing in.

  1. What types of studies do you publish?

This question is quite broad, but it gives editors the chance to give you an overview of the various kinds of options you have if you want to submit to their journal, and maybe they’ll give you some new ideas that you hadn’t considered as options previously.

  1. What do you think of pre-prints and open science?

There are varying opinions on pre-prints and open science publishing, and whether these are really beneficial for the field as a whole. It’s definitely worth talking to an experienced editor to find out their views and tips on whether you should rather wait until the review process is complete or submit your article to a pre-print server at the same time.

  1. Is your journal open-access?

Theoretically you should have done your research and should know the answer to this beforehand, but perhaps there are some editors at the conference you weren’t expecting. Remember that there are several ways of getting a paper open access, so feel free to ask this to find out what your submission options are.

  1. How do you handle research integrity issues?

Unfortunately issues relating to research integrity do still exist, and it’s important to find out how the journal deals with these issues should they arise. Editors are generally quite open about this, so don’t be afraid to ask specifics!

  1. What’s the coolest paper you’ve published this year?

Although they perhaps shouldn’t admit it, editors will have a favourite paper that they are generally more than happy to go on…and on…and on about! So if you want to get them talking, this is the question to ask!

  1. How can I become an editor?

This career question is one that we are more than happy to answer! Although many editors may have taken different paths to end up where they are, we are all scientists and can provide insight into what life is really like as an editor, and how you can make your way into the field.

 

So don’t be afraid to approach the editors – we are always happy to give you some tips, and would love to talk to you to find out more!

Meet the editors at EMBL and EMBO upcoming conferences!

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10 ways to get your scientific course application accepted

 

Rejection.

We have all experienced it in one way or another. Scientists perhaps more than others – rejected papers, job applications, fellowships, grants or training applications. But what can we do when it happens again and again and again?

In the EMBL Course and Conference Office we see it all – our scientific courses are way oversubscribed, and competition is tough! We’ve taken a look at the most common mistakes that will lead to your application being rejected. These 10 tips will help you to be among the minority of successful course applicants, and while we can’t promise that every application you submit will be accepted, following these tips will ensure that you stay towards the top of the pile!

  1. Apply on time!

It sounds simple, but we have so many requests from late applicants to submit after the deadline. Newsflash – you won’t be considered! The application deadlines are part of a well-planned process, and we stick to it. So plan in advance and don’t leave things until the last minute!

  1. Complete ALL questions directly and clearly

Again – sounds simple, right? It’s amazing how many applicants think some questions are optional. Organisers have to select participants from a highly qualified pool of applicants, and if they have no comparison, you will be put straight on the “no” pile.

  1. Submit all requested documentation

Take the time to collate all requested documentation before submitting your application. If you make it past the first round, these will be vital in securing your spot in the final selection.

  1. Read the guidelines…and follow them!

Generally course guidelines will be provided. Take the time to read through them and make sure you follow them – they are there for a reason!

  1. Be sure that it is the right course for you

Make sure the course WILL actually be of benefit to you. Check that you have the required pre-requisites, and that the learning outcomes are the same as your learning desires.

  1. The motivation LETTER – not the motivation THESIS

Most likely you will be provided with a word limit. Stick to it. If you don’t have a word limit, don’t take this to mean you can write a thesis. The scientific organisers have a lot of applications to go through and limited time to do it. Yours needs to catch their eye from the onset, so make sure the important stuff stands out! 

  1. The motivation letter – the important stuff!

This is perhaps the most important part of your course application, so take it seriously! There is a lot of competition, so show that you have put some effort into it. Things that you should definitely include:

  • Why would you like to attend?
  • What do you expect to learn?
  • How will you benefit from what you learn?
  • How and when will you use the skills learned on the course?
  • A brief description of your current research and future plans
  • Any relevant skills, experience and qualifications
  • Your scientific career and training
  • Relevance in the lab – is the knowledge lacking and can you pass it on?
  1. Show academic curiosity

Make it clear that you have done your research and are actually interested in the topic. If it is clear that you are only applying for the course because your PI told you to, chances that you’ll be considered are slim.

  1. Make sure you can spare the time and, if necessary, get a visa on time

If you have other commitments or think it won’t be possible to get a visa on time to enter the country where the course is taking place, please reconsider and apply for a course taking place at a later date. Otherwise you will take the spot of someone else who would be able to attend.

  1. Show your application to your supervisor

Ask your supervisor to check over your application before submitting. They will have much more experience in submitting successful applications and can give you advice on what to change and adapt to increase your chances of getting accepted.

 

So it’s over to you now! And if you’re not sure where to start looking for your next scientific training course, take a look at our upcoming events under www.embl.org/events.

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5 tips to drive more traffic to your exhibition booth

 

Sponsoring and exhibiting at events is still one of the major ways for companies to showcase their products and technology to relevant audiences. Companies spend a lot of time choosing the events they go to every year, but once they decide comes the big question – “How do we stand out from the crowd?”

There are various articles and ideas out there on how to effectively drive traffic to your booth, but from what we have seen, the methods you choose largely depend on the size of the audience, the competition onsite and the creativity of your booth personnel.

Here are 5 tips that have proven effective for life science conferences of 100-450 participants.

  1. Forget the flyers!

People have not flown thousands of kilometers to take your flyer back home. Companies love to produce promotional flyers that don’t say much and are destined to land in the bin. Rather, bring free samples and loads of free goodies. If you are marketing an instrument, bring it onsite and offer free demos.

  1. Bring in some colour!

In a previous post, we put together the logos of all of our supporters from last year, and one thing we noticed was that the predominant colour of choice for most of the companies was blue. Although you may not be able to change the corporate colours of your company, you could try to bring some bright colours to your booth – e.g. goodies in rainbow colours. You would be surprised what the effect of such a small thing would be.

  1. Spark joy!

When at a conference, people are usually suffering from jet lag, sleep deprivation and dehydration. And while you cannot make all of this go away, offering a good cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or ice cream can make you the hero of the day.

  1. Unleash your creativity!

When choosing your goodies, try to think outside of the box. People don’t need another pen or notepad. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think what you would like to keep as a giveaway. If you have to go with a standard giveaway, then at least try to integrate more than one function in it, e.g. I still carry around a pen/screwdriver I got at a conference 10 years ago and have since used it on many occasions. You may also want to consider offering some giveaways for children, such as colouring books, stuffed toys (e.g. shaped as bacteria or cells) or games.

Another great way to engage your audience is to offer interactive activities at your booth, such as short fun games, puzzles, quizzes, fun facts about your products, or virtual reality glasses.

  1. Be an active participant!

Try to attend as many lectures as possible during the conference. The scientific lectures will not only bring you up-to-date to the latest research in the field, but will also help you put your company in the context of this research when talking to participants onsite.

Don’t forget the poster sessions. By understanding the research of your potential customers you can more readily identify their needs and bring suitable solutions to their attention.

Last but not least, social events are always a great platform to meet people in a more informal atmosphere and break the ice.

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10 tips to create a scientific poster people want to stop at

Are you attending a conference and presenting a poster, but not sure where to start? Here are 10 tips to help you transform a good poster into a great one!

  1. Make it gripping!
    The scientific poster needs to captivate your audience from the beginning. Make sure you focus on what your key message is and put that clearly in your title.
  1. Keep the title short
    The title is what will make people either read your abstract and visit your poster or not. Keep the title short and snappy to make sure it draws interest.
  1. Leave out unnecessary words
    Make sure you only use words that are really necessary. Try to minimise the text, however make sure you clearly and succinctly describe the main conclusions from your project and the take-home messages.
  1. Make good use of graphics
    Focus on the graphics – these are what will catch the eye and explain the data in a way that’s easy to comprehend. Make sure you use graphics that are easy to understand, and stick to a consistent, clean layout.
  1. Don’t try to cram everything on the poster
    The poster is not the place to publish your entire research results. It serves as a networking tool that should attract attention, and help you start up conversations with other scientists. Include only the important information on the poster – YOU are there to provide any other information!
  1. Outline your methods
    Use one graphic, for example, which outlines the design of the study and the methodology that you’ve utilised. Follow this with graphics that convey the scientific results.
  1. Have clear take-home messages
    The take-home messages need to be clearly visualised and clearly described for them to be understood by your listeners.
  1. Know what’s important
    Work out what is the most important information on your poster, and make sure it is visible / readable from a distance in order to draw people who are walking past.
  1. Tailor your poster presentation to your audience
    When you’re presenting your poster to a listener, make sure that you assess their expertise level so that you can tailor your delivery to the person that’s standing in front of you. You don’t want to give the same level of details to somebody who already knows a bit about the subject as somebody who is completely unaware of the research area you’re in.
  1. Don’t forget credits!
    Be sure to include all acknowledgements and collaborators, as well as your name and affiliation on the poster.

Original video with Prof. Lars Steinmetz, EMBL Senior Scientist and Director of the Life Science Alliance

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15 tips for giving a good scientific talk

Are you giving a presentation at an upcoming conference, but not sure where to begin? Read on to learn our top 15 tips to help get you on your way, and ensure your next scientific talk is smooth, interesting and a huge success!

Preparing your talk

  1. You are the expert

Remember that you know way more about your subject than anyone else. Be confident!

  1. Never assume knowledge of the audience

Always pitch your talk at a level where you are sure that everyone will understand, whether they’re an expert or not.

  1. Practice!

Prepare your talk well in advance, run through it multiple times and if possible present it to people who know nothing at all about what you work on because they’re the audience you’re trying to capture.

  1. Design is everything

Keep your slides as simple and as clean as possible. Only use animations if they are really needed to accentuate the point that you’re making.

  1. Stick to the allotted time

Generally calculate 1 minute per slide. If you’re giving a 10 minute talk, more than 10 slides is almost certainly too long.

  1. Minimise stress before you give your talk

Get your slides to the AV technicians well in advance of your session, make sure that they are projecting.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the equipment beforehand

Take time to go to the podium, check what button you need to press to change the slides, and what you need to do to use the laser pointer.

During your talk

  1. Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact!

No one wants to look at the back of your head or watch you reading the slide.

  1. Use your laser pointer sparingly

Just point out critical pieces of data to illustrate the point that you’re making.

  1. Stay calm

If something’s not working, first just try to calmly do it again and then if you need help, subtly indicate this to the AV technicians.

  1. Be aware of your audience

Look around during your talk, and you’ll be able to tell whether people are with you or not. Don’t be afraid to adapt!

  1. Project excitement!

Don’t be afraid to get wound up in the data. The more passion and the more information that you give, the more likely people are to remember your talk at the end of the day.

  1. Be memorable

Don’t worry if people remember you as the crazy person who waved their arms around! That’s fine as long as you’re communicating your science in a way that everyone can understand put every bit of passion and interest in it that you can.

  1. Take your time to answer questions

When answering questions after your talk, make sure you let the questioner finish their question before you answer. Think about what question they’re actually asking, and answer the question directly.

  1. Be aware of timing

When the sign comes that you need to start wrapping up, don’t go through all of the remaining slides at breakneck speed, but start wrapping up before you’re forced off the stage. Be prepared to skip a few slides to get to the end.

Original video with Julian Rayner from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, in collaboration with EMBL.

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