Author workshops provide an important platform for journal editors to communicate directly with authors. They not only help authors to get hot tips on how to prepare their papers to give them the best chance of getting published, but also offer valuable insights for editors into what authors find challenging when writing papers, and common misconceptions and attitudes they may have. This in turn allows journals to adapt processes and communications, to better serve authors’ needs and expectations.
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology regularly hold author workshops, usually as part of the scientific program of international conferences. Here are 10 top things the team considers when planning a workshop.
1) Who is your audience?
This may not always be known but if your workshop is part of a conference, it works nicely to adapt your examples (see below) and slides to the specialty/theme of the conference so that your material is as relevant and interesting to your authors as possible.
It is also useful to know the experience of your authors; are they new to writing papers? Have they published before? Are they struggling to get published? Again, this is not always known before the workshop but you can find out as part of your introduction, and this is a nice way to engage the audience right from the start. This will also give you an idea of which slides you can skip through, or if there are particular points you need to make throughout the presentations.
If you have a registration form for your workshop, you could ask the above questions as part of this to give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
2) How much time do you have?
In the past, we have held author workshops ranging from just 40 minutes to a full day. Clearly, the same content cannot be delivered in such varying timeframes so it is important to prioritize your messages according to the time you have. The longer you have, the more opportunity you have to hold breakout sessions (depending on the number attending). These sessions allow authors to discuss common problems and misconceptions with each other and report back to the group at the end. For shorter workshops, this is not possible but other options, such as holding ‘ask the editor’ sessions at another time provide the same opportunity for authors to ask questions specific to their work.
3) What is the key message you want your authors to remember?
We tend to have a few editors presenting at each workshop. To ensure consistency, it’s best to send slides to a central coordinator so they are branded consistently and there is not too much duplication throughout the workshop. That said, you may wish to repeat some key messages (e.g. read the instructions to authors!) and repeating the same slide at various points during the workshop can help ensure your messages are remembered.
4) Promote your Journal
Why should authors submit to your journal?
Much of the information you deliver will be generic to more than just your Journal. Make sure you use the opportunity to encourage (now) good authors to submit to yours. What do you do differently? What makes your publishing process better?
Promote other ways for authors to get involved in your Journal
We regularly try and coordinate other journal initiatives, such as the online Blue Journal Club (#BlueJC), which are relevant and helpful to authors. Journal Clubs help authors to develop skills in critically appraising papers, which in turn helps them to learn what to do and not to do when planning and writing their own research.
5) How many speakers do you need? Who will be available and relevant to your audience?
If your workshop has too many speakers, it runs the risk of appearing disjointed. A panel session at the end is a good way to involve everyone and share experiences, but to keep the main messages clear and focussed from your chosen speakers.
We tend to ask editors whose specialties match the specialty of the conference (if applicable). Chances are, these editors will already be attending the conference as speakers or delegates. Moreover, their names will be known to the community attending and will therefore draw the crowds. If possible, invite your Editor-in-Chief/senior editors to attend too.
6) Promoting your workshop
There is no point investing time in preparing and holding a workshop if no one knows about it! If your workshop is part of a conference, make sure you promote your workshop well in time (and in line) with other deadlines such as the early bird rate or abstract submissions. If you are affiliated with an organization which has an events calendar, contact your meetings/events team and see if your author workshop can be listed here too.
7) Engage with your audience
Workshops are not lectures. Authors attend to receive practical advice on getting published. Make sure your workshop is as interactive as time allows.
Talk to your authors
If you are short of time, you may only be able to do this as part of your introduction. If you have longer, breakout and panel sessions allow delegates to talk directly to editors, and each other.
Try to provide real examples of your key points, e.g. how plagiarism checking works and what editors can see on the reports, or steps journals take to investigate suspected research misconduct.
Again, for longer sessions, you could invite authors to submit papers they are working on ahead of your workshop so you can include ‘real life’ do’s and don’ts.
If you are holding a smaller workshop, you may have time to allow authors to critique papers as a group. These papers could be their own which they have sent in advance. This may mean a more challenging workshop, but it’s arguably more valuable.
8) Are there any potential collaborators?
We have previously held workshops in partnership with other journals. Although this requires a little more coordination, it provides authors a good idea of the similarity and differences in publishing in different journals, and with different publishers. We find we learn something too!
9) Workshop materials
Do you have any resources for authors? Slide handouts are good, but if you have an author brochure, or even the latest version of your instructions to authors it is a nice way to present the information (and there is a lot!) in a concise and different format to the workshop. Memory sticks are also a tangible, portable take-away for multiple documents. Even a list of resources, such as Wiley Author Services, with links could prove valuable to both new and established authors.
Can you offer further support to delegates after the workshop? This is worthwhile as it will encourage authors to submit to your journal, as well as giving an additional reason for authors to attend the workshop. If you don’t have the resources, a list of useful websites and external services where authors can find further support is a valuable alternative.