Virginia Chanda
Virginia Chanda
Executive Editor, Current Protocols
Source: pilipphoto / Thinkstock
Source: pilipphoto / Thinkstock

A major concern of researchers is the reproducibility of experimental results. Earlier this year, Francis Collins and Lawrence Tabak discussed the steps the NIH was considering to address consistency and reproducibility in biomedical research.  They noted that many factors have contributed to this problem, including poor training of researchers in experimental design and limitations in published materials and methods sections, such that basic (and important) elements of the protocol and materials used are often left out of papers (Nature 27 Jan 2014).

One of the main goals of the Current Protocols program is to bring users reliable, efficient methods that will ensure dependable results. The success of the program is due to the editing process and strict adherence to format and style that ensures consistency in experimental approaches.

What are Current Protocols?

Current Protocols articles are step-by-step instructions for doing experiments. Each protocol features materials lists, which often list manufacturers and item numbers for key materials in an experiment. Instructions with helpful hints, and figures and tables (and videos where possible) help the user plan and perform the experiments. Each article also has an extensive discussion section with Critical Parameters (what is important for the experiment), Troubleshooting (how to fix the experiment if it doesn’t work), Anticipated Results (what results you will get if the experiment worked well) and Time Considerations (how long it will take to do each experiment).

Our Editing Process

There are three levels of editing for Current Protocols content. First, each title has an editorial board of respected scientists who are experts in their area. They meet regularly to discuss the scope of their title. They plan the content and decide who to invite to write the protocol. The boards are careful to highlight techniques that they know will work. They will often discuss cutting-edge research, but before a method is published in Current Protocols, they make sure several labs have used the method successfully. They want users to have the best experience possible.

The editorial boards also review the published content to see if anything needs to be updated. The updating is an important part of Current Protocols to make sure the methods are current. Finally, they perform peer review of the articles that are submitted.

Next, Current Protocols Ph.D. developmental editors interact with the authors and editorial boards to oversee the content. They perform peer review, provide feedback and ask for revisions (if necessary), and then prepare the manuscripts for the copyeditors.

Finally, Current Protocols copyeditors, who are also scientists, ask for details about an experiment to make sure the user will have no questions. The protocols are edited with care and detail for anyone to be successful. Materials lists and buffer recipes are checked. The copyeditors also make sure the format and style are consistent with Current Protocols requirements. This ensures the same kind of information and level of detail is in each article, and across titles, for consistency and quality.

The careful choice of content, the three-step editing process, and a meticulous attention to detail make Current Protocols a key publication to ensure reproducibility in research.

How to write a grant application

Posted Aug 28, 2014
    Allan Hackshaw 
Allan Hackshaw
Professor, University College London 

Most researchers in health and science come across grant applications at some point in their careers. In fact, many positions depend on them, whether they are doctoral students who require fellowships, postgraduates setting up relatively simple projects as they start employment, ormore senior staff who need to have a steady stream of research projects. Although a significant amount of money is available from governmental bodies, charities and commercial organizations, there is a large pool of researchers, so competition can be very competitive. Developing a grant application can feel daunting at first, but with practice and good support, becomes easier with experience.

1. People, people, people

It’s essential to work with colleagues who are genuinely interested in the proposal, and can see its value. There are people who really get involved or those who have little input (‘passengers’). The latter might be acceptable if the person is well-known (their implicit support can help the review) and they can give a brief overall impression of the project. But colleagues who actively develop the proposal with you are ultimately required. Make sure that each facet of the project is represented by someone experienced in that field. For PhD fellowships or small scale studies, only one or perhaps two other people might be enough to give constructive comments, so choose these people well. Colleagues who spend much time on it will make you feel more supported and more confident.

No matter how good you think you are at writing, getting a fresh pair of eyes to look at the content almost always raises things you have not spotted before. This can only improve the application. It is much better to iron out major problems before submission, rather than having the funding body reviewers identify them. The more revisions made, the better the application will read, increasing the likelihood of success.

2. What is special about my project?

Many researchers often do not spend enough time describing the background to their project in a relevant way. The following key questions are useful to address:


    • What has been done before on the topic (use evidence that directly relates to the project)?


    • Why is my project different to others? Is it the first of its type, the largest, uses a new technique, or repeats a previous study but is better designed?


    • What is the potential impact on knowledge or health practice? Not all studies change practice, and this is perfectly acceptable. So, be realistic about what can be done with your results and conclusions; though being a little optimistic is much better than exaggeration.

3. Methods

This is perhaps the most important part of the application. It is better to say too much than too little, depending on space restrictions. The design needs careful explanation. Remember, you may know what the planned project involves in detail, so you are writing the application for someone who has no idea. Be clear about how you will get the participants or biological specimens for the study; what will be done to them and how often; and what will be measured on them. Writing the study objectives or hypotheses in simple language will always help reviewers.

4. How much will the project cost?

Some researchers think that funding organizations have a bottomless pit of money. This is never the case. Of course, you need to specify all the items (such as staff, laboratory consumables and equipment, travel, etc.), but avoid over-estimating the costs. Small, low impact, but expensive studies rarely represent good value for money. It is always best to minimize costs, while ensuring there is enough money to do the study. If appropriate, get two or more quotes for expensive items. And, ask for help from the finance officer at your institution who has experience with applications; it is in his or her interest too to maximize your chance of getting funding.

5. Are the reviewers and funding committee ‘out to get me’?

The answer is absolutely not! The reviewers and committee have a duty to make sure the limited money available is well spent. It is in the interest of the funder to support good research, and they will look at innovation, potential impact, financial costs, feasibility, and expertise of you and your co-investigators (but you do not necessarily need to score highly on all of these to get funded).

When you first receive comments it is common to feel hurt and defensive if they appear negative. So the first thing to do is to step back and try to read it from their point of view. Many researchers find comments less negative after they have carefully gone through each comment in turn. There are occasions when some comments are unfounded and may seem malicious, but most of the time they represent genuine misunderstandings or a lack of clarity in the application. Remember also, that your proposal might be perfectly acceptable and scientifically sound, but there may just happen to be more submitted projects considered to be better, often in terms of potential impact or value for money.

6. Don’t be put off by rejection

Almost every researcher, no matter how well-established and experienced, has had applications rejected. And there is no such thing as the perfect study or application. As long as you and your colleagues believe there is sufficient merit in the project, it is worth submitting to several funding organizations, one after the other. But, make sure that you address the comments and criticisms raised before applying for the next one.

For more information, read Allan Hackshaw's book How to Write a Grant Application: For Health Professionals and Life Sciences Researchers.

    Sue Joshua
Sue Joshua
Legal Director, Wiley

Authors wishing to publish their articles on an open access basis in Wiley journals can choose from a range of Creative Commons licenses, whether they publish in our fully open access journals or select Online Open for our subscription journals. Unless a specific CC license is required under a funder mandate, authors are able to select from the CC BY, the CC BY-NC or the CC BY-NC-ND.  (See infographic below.)  Authors using our Wiley Author Licensing Service (WALS) can complete online licenses in an average of three minutes.

CC licenses

We are now making the transition to the Creative Commons 4.0 license versions introduced in November 2013 after a two year consultation by CC with legal and licensing experts and the open access community. Differences between 3.0 and 4.0 are summarized here (The CC BY 4.0, in particular, includes some useful additions and clarifications, including that database rights are included in the license where applicable and that patent and trademark rights are not.  Attribution requirements are clearly specified and can be implemented in a practical manner.  In addition, those  wishing to modify content under a CC BY license should indicate the modifications made and this change will be welcomed by many authors concerned about retaining demarcation of authorship in the original work.  In general, we consider the licenses to be better organized and easier to use than previous versions.

Creative Commons licenses provide a standard and well understood set of terms and conditions for sharing and developing original work without forgoing the benefits of copyright. Wiley welcomes the evolution of the CC licenses and will continue to offer them to authors as part of its open access program.

    Anne-Marie Green
Anne-Marie Green
Communication Manager, Wiley
Liz Lorbeer
Source: Liz Lorbeer

Q. Can you tell us about your background and your current role?

A. I have been a practicing biomedical sciences librarian for 19 years, and my expertise is in building library collections.   I am the founding library director of the newest digital medical library in North America at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in Kalamazoo.   I am also proud to write that my undergraduate degree is in British history. On the job training at the medical school has taught me how to insert a central line catheter, intubate a critical care patient, and apply a ligature to a blood vessel.  See what you can do with a history degree!

Q. You built a digital library from the ground up in under eight months!  What was the most challenging part of that experience?

A. My biggest challenge was to prove to the administration, faculty and staff that I could build a completely functional digital library in less than a year. Before I begin at the Stryker School of Medicine, I had to draft a startup plan of how I would accomplish this task. There was a contingency plan just in case I failed.  However, the secret ingredient to the new library’s success is the unwavering support from my colleagues, peers and publisher friends. I hired my friend and former colleague to design the library’s services and instruction. She has an amazing ability to teach and reach library users. Our skills and talents complement each other nicely.

Q. How has your job changed over the past five-10 years?

A. The rise of demand-driven systems offers more possibilities for librarians to procure content. For my entire career in librarianship, there has been some crisis imposed on my ability to procure content. I learned the art of cancelling journals during the height of the 1990s serials crisis, completely stopped buying print textbooks in the 2000s, and managed to cancel every Big Deal package during the Great Recession. I became too good at cancelling content and contracts. Distraught with another year of looming cancellations, I decided to focus my attention in negotiating access based on demand. Article demand has been around for a long time. It is not new. Sans the facsimile, the reboot of article demand offers the ability to have larger collections than ever before.

Q. What’s the toughest part of developing a collection to meet the needs of clinicians or clinician trainees?

A. Most clinicians can find what they need by doing a quick search on their smartphone. The digital medical library is what is in your hand. This means making the library's website incredibly attractive and agile for mobile device use. However, not all of the electronic resources the library subscribes to work well in the mobile environment.   This is a missed opportunity for librarians and publishers, as clinicians will instead use the free integrated medical information apps. These apps have branded their content as peer-reviewed and do a good enough job at retrieving answers to clinical questions.

Q. How do you see libraries evolving in the future?

A. Libraries are becoming more fluid. It is all about the connection to created knowledge and scholarship. Digital libraries by nature are organic. Nothing about them is fixed or permanent. I have constructed and deconstructed the library’s online systems and platforms several times until they are just right, for the moment. Digital libraries do not collect. They lease, rent, subscribe and borrow content. It is not possible, nor is it intended to be a fixed repository of knowledge. Rather, digital libraries are a storehouse of information to be consumed, not continuously stocked collections.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to a new librarian?

A. You can never sit back. You cannot expect your library’s collection to do all the work. It does not define who you are, nor should it ever limit you. You have to adapt, reinvent, and evolve. The digital library I built today will be obsolete tomorrow, but tomorrow’s library will be far better than the one I have today.

Q. What is your favorite library in the world?

A. My favorite library is the one I built for my two young children. (Yes, I built yet another library!) I wanted to share my love for books and leave something special for them to pass on to their family and friends. The Sarah and Rosie Library of Unlimited Adventures boasts a collection of over 400 children’s and young adult titles. The children’s playroom serves as a reading room and includes a library table, chairs and reading carpet. I recently added an iPad to the collection that now serves as their traveling online library. Most of the print books in the collection are signed by the author with a personal note or illustration for them to enjoy.

    Prosanta Chakrabarty 
Prosanta Chakrabarty
Associate Professor, Louisiana State University 

Well newbie, you’ve found a place to live, and a place to sit. Now what?


The Dos


Source: Ryan McVay / Thinkstock
Source: Ryan McVay / Thinkstock


1.  Meet with your advisor

Go meet the boss - just be prepared that your advisor may be extremely busy with: finishing up summer projects, post-conference politicking, and/or prepping for the course that starts a week earlier than he/she thought. Still, you should drop by and say hello; tell your advisor that you are excited to get started and mention anything you might need (e.g., a computer, a desk). You might be nervous but don’t worry. You are just letting your advisor know you are in town and ready to get started. The next time you can come heavy with questions that need answering (after you’ve found that you couldn’t find answers to those questions elsewhere). Before you leave that first meeting, see if you can set up a regular time to meet for a half hour once a week.  Your major advisor will be signing many papers for you and giving you general advice, but he/she is likely not as useful to you in your first month as your fellow lab members.

2.  Meet with your labmates

Your fellow new grad student(s) will be useful folks to compare notes with (e.g., How’d you get an e-mail account set up? What meetings are we supposed to go to? Which classes did you sign-up for?)  Perhaps more useful are the folks that are a little ahead of you (2nd or 3rd year students); they already have all the answers to those easy questions. They will also be the source of some great advice (e.g., “Don’t take classes with Professor Xavier” or “Most of the credits you need to sign up for can be “Pre-candidate credits” and don’t need to be actual classes”). The most senior grad students will be the vets that have just finally figured everything out and are thinking about finishing up. They are ready to dole out advice with confidence, (you can recognize them because they speak of your major advisor on a first-name basis, which even the 2nd yrs are still afraid to attempt to do – “Jim is great, just don’t ask him how to do anything in the molecular lab,” or “Susan is the best, but she is really focused on teaching this semester.”)

If you happen to be the only grad student in the lab, don’t sweat it, there are other places to get this kind of advice – like...

3.  Meet with the grad students in other labs

Even though you might not understand what these people are actually working on, they are going through the same experiences as you in the parallel universe of someone else’s lab. They will be some of your best friends over the next few years. It is okay to ask them the same questions you asked your labmates as they might have different answers, and maybe even better answers (e.g., “Your advisor is great but I would add Joan to your committee to balance out his overemphasis on transcriptomics.”).

4.  Go to everything

Seminars, parties, faculty meetings, retreats, etc. Go to everything you can this first month. Be a sponge absorbing as much as possible. The people you meet will be the people you will learn from most over the next few years. You might be overwhelmed at times so take a break now and then if you need to, but try to be as much a part of this new culture as possible early on. It will be exciting and scary, but jump in headfirst. You can go back to being a social misfit once you’ve settled in.

5.  Start to tool up

You came to this new lab to answer some complicated questions using cutting-edge technology. That new postdoc just gave a talk about this cool new technique they only do at your new university: you need to learn that. Ask if you can volunteer to help him/her on a project to learn the new technique. He or she will get free labor and you’ll learn a new tool you can use in your own dissertation studies. You might even get a publication out of that early collaboration.

The new assistant professor can also be a great collaborator. He or she may be setting up a lab and could use some help generating data. Picking up a small side project from these new hungry faculty members might put you on the fast track to a publication or two. That new professor might not have a lab set up yet, but maybe you can learn to code (a tool that perhaps is more useful than anything else you can learn these days in science).

You want to learn the techniques and skills you will need to complete your dissertation early on so that you can start gathering data. You might not have an exact research question formulated yet, so work with others who do. By collaborating, you will find out what types of projects interest you and which new techniques will help you answer pressing questions in your field. Learn the methods early, get on some collaborative publications, then use those tools to work on your dissertation projects. The foundations for these early collaborations can happen in your first few weeks in grad school.

The Don’ts

1.  Don’t try to pick a dissertation topic right away

You may be inclined to come in guns blazing and jump into writing the intro and conclusion chapters of your dissertation - but hold off for a sec. Settle down and learn some tools first. You will have time to formulate your specific research questions, don’t worry if this takes a year or more (so long as you are learning techniques and working collaboratively at the same time– see #5 above.) Soon enough you will have qualifying exams (in year two or three) where you discuss the details of your thesis plans with your committee.

You don’t want to commit so early to a project that you are stuck in a dead end that will cost you valuable time. You might ultimately work on that project you talked about in your graduate application package, but these early days of graduate school are a good time to take a step back and look at the big picture.

2. Don’t be cocky/negative/clicky

You might be feeling insecure this first month. You are surrounded by super smart people with more experience than you. Some people portray their insecurities by being cocky. Don’t be that person. Listen, observe, copy – be humble, or you will get humbled. Don’t brag about what you know because someone likely knows more about it than you and will chop you down. Reputations are made in these early days of graduate school, and first impressions matter.

You will end up being better friends with some people rather than others, that’s natural. Help others and they will help you. Did you find out about a new grant available for first-year grad students? Tell others about it. If you keep it to yourself you might face less competition, but you may also be seen as a bad citizen.

Also just be optimistic newbie: it’s the first month of grad school for Pete’s sake. If you are already a pessimist you might be seen as a hard person to work with. The reputation you actually want is of being the hard worker that completes projects. And let me tell you, the people that succeed in grad school aren’t always the smartest people, but they are almost always the hardest working people. 

3.  Don’t sign up for more service than you can handle

Yes, take that seminar class with that hip new Assistant Professor. But you don’t need to sign up to organize the grad student seminar series before you know where all the bathrooms are on your floor. Yes, offer to buy chips for the retreat – just don’t offer to be the Dean’s Representative on grad student affairs before you know the first names of your labmates. You can do those more challenging service assignments later on, once you’re settled into a routine. Taking these projects on so early in your graduate career can hinder what matters most: your research.

Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty is Associate Professor, Louisiana State University. Follow him on Twitter @LSU_FISH, and read his Wiley book, A Guide to Academia: Getting into and Surviving Grad School, Postdocs and a Research Job.

    Mike Campbell 
Mike Campbell

There is an old joke which asks how many types of statistician are there, and the reply is “Three: those that can count and those that can’t” (this only properly works if the questioner is in fact a statistician). In fact, there are many more types than that and understanding what they do and how they think is crucial to navigating the world of statistics.

In order to maximize the impact of any piece of statistical work, it is important to tailor it to the right group. What kind of audience is your work aimed towards? For example, textbooks that are intended for students benefit from sections with problems and answers. For applied and medical statisticians it is essential to have relevant and modern examples. It is very frustrating for a statistician to find a new method applied to either invented data or very old data. It arouses suspicion in the reader that the method preceded the application, and so either the author has never come across a proper example, or couldn’t be bothered to look. Either way, this suggests that the method the work is describing is somewhat arcane and probably not worth studying in detail.

It is always beneficial to describe the types of software used to analyze the methods described in the text. The software package ‘R’, for example, is advantageous in that it is freely available and readers can therefore replicate exactly what is in the book or paper, without having to buy a particular package. However, ‘R’ is not suitable for the ‘non-statistician’ readers, who want something to which they can point and click. For non-statistical authors, it is always worth getting a statistician to review your work for howlers that may not be obvious (such as the proper definitions and meanings of p-values and confidence intervals).

Statistics plays a vast role in so many fields, but like creatures stranded on islands in the Galapagos, they rarely communicate, and have evolved into such distinct species that interbreeding is now very difficult.

So, who are the statisticians, and how do they vary from each other?

1) The mathematical statistician

Statistics arose from mathematics and can still involve some fiendish mathematics. This type usually occupies a post in a mathematics department, and is looked down upon by the pure mathematicians, and in turn looks down upon the applied mathematicians. They may also think of themselves as probabilists. In UK universities, they are increasingly concentrated in only a few departments.

2) The applied statistician

These statisticians work in a wide variety of areas, from universities, industry and public services. Excluding medicine, which I will discuss next, they can be found in departments of statistics and research groups looking at a whole variety of areas such as agriculture, veterinary medicine, opinion poll companies, and industry. There are a number who work on environmental statistics and areas such as climate change. Some of the best paid are the actuaries.

3) The medical statistician

This is a large genre and can be found in medical schools, drug companies and contact research organizations. It is often the case in UK universities that there are as many applied statisticians in the Medical School as there are in the Mathematics Department. They are in huge demand to service the medical research infrastructure, on review boards, editorial boards, ethics committees and trial monitoring committees. Recently, there has been a huge improvement in the conduct of clinical trials and Clinical Trials Units have been set up, and many employ large numbers of statisticians.

4) The Official Statistician

The word ‘statistics’ and the word ‘state’ derive from the same root. The UK civil service has its own statistician grade, and curates the vast array of government statistics. The Office of National Statistics in the UK also runs the decennial census. These are the people you turn to for the size of the population, the numbers of births and deaths, and migration. They also look at inflation, the retail price index, and even recently the ‘Happiness Index’.  They often provide data for politicians to quote to journalists.

5) The ‘non-statistician statistician’

Statistics must be one of the few disciplines where it may be seen as an advantage not to be a statistician (but be good with numbers). I have seen a book on medical statistics where the blurb actually states that the book is written by non-statisticians and so is easy to understand! (A statistical reviewer of this book said ‘I think I’ll write a book on brain surgery- so much easier to understand than those written by brain surgeons, with all those complicated details’). From a statistical viewpoint they often appear to have a different emphasis, and seem more concerned with models than data.

For an alternative classification of statisticians as various forms of religious sects see Campbell MJ (2008). Dr Fisher: The doctor sees the light. Significance (5:4) 172.

For more on statistics and medical research, read Wiley books written by Mike Campbell.

    Anne-Marie Green 
Anne-Marie Green
Communication Manager, Wiley 

We recently spoke with Adam Etkin,  Founder and Managing Director of PRE, a division of STRIATUS.  Adam is a veteran of the publishing industry and  formed PRE to assist members of the scholarly publishing community who are committed to preserving an ethical, rigorous peer review process.


Adam Etkin photo
Adam Etkin, founder of PRE
Source: Adam Etkin

Q. Can you tell us about your background and your current role?

A. I entered the scholarly journal publishing field in 1998.  I wanted to make a full-time career of web design, which was something I was doing on a part-time basis. I got a job as web master at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., an STM publisher which was located close to my home.  Honestly, I knew absolutely nothing about scholarly publishing at that point, but I quickly fell in love with the industry and the peer review process. Over time, my role expanded and I took on more diverse responsibilities, many of which were related to technology, peer review and metrics.

Over the years it seemed there was growing criticism of the peer review process, and I was constantly thinking about how those concerns might be addressed, which is how I came up with the idea for PRE (Peer Review Evaluation).  Eventually I moved on to become the Director of Publishing for the Academy of Management, and I was very lucky that AOM allowed me to pursue my Masters Degree in publishing and really supported my efforts related to PRE.  I wrote my thesis about peer review and the PRE concept.

As I did this, I was always gathering feedback from people in the industry. This led me to reach out to Kent Anderson, who at that time was the President of SSP and CEO of STRIATUS/JBJS.  STRIATUS/JBJS were so enthusiastic about the idea that they hired me to build the PRE concept as Managing Director.  We now have resources at our disposal that allow us to bring PRE services to the market and sustain and build products such as PRE-val, the current offering.

PREvalQ. What is PRE-val and why did you decide to launch it?

A. We first started out with the concept for a metric called “PRE-score.” What we discovered was that the more pressing need was for researchers to have a way of simply verifying peer review had been conducted.  Most journals claim to conduct peer review, but several high-profile cases of predatory publishing, unethical editorial practices, conflicts of interest, dual publication, and plagiarism have combined to erode trust and make it even harder for researchers to share knowledge and advance scientific inquiry.  This led us to develop PRE-val, which is a service that allows us to work with the journal and publisher to provide independent validation of the review process.

Q. Do you think this has the potential to improve the quality of peer review across the board?

A. Enthusiastically my answer is “Yes!” Whenever we talk with people about peer review, it’s often compared to a “black box.”  There’s this attitude that there is some kind of “illuminati” operating to repress new ideas and control scientific output. This is an exaggeration, but I do think more trust, transparency and openness related to peer review is something everyone agrees would be a good thing.

Having said that, there’s disagreement on exactly what “openness” means.  The desire to remain anonymous does not always, or usually, equate with something nefarious.  In fact, anonymity allows people to speak freely without fear of reprisals or career consequences. This is good for peer review in most disciplines. But in certain cases, more open approaches may make sense.

It’s also important to accept that there isn’t just one “right” way to do peer review. As with degrees of openness, a review system that works for one journal, may not work for another.  Pre-print services, pre-publication review, post-publication review, open review, are all valid approaches as long as best practices and guidelines such as those offered by COPE are adhered to. We shouldn’t and don’t have to pick one method.

The beauty of PRE is that we support all of these approaches.

Our services create incentives for journals to use best practices in peer review and increase the transparency around their process.  At the most basic level, we help to answer the simple question, “Was this peer reviewed?” That alone is very valuable in today’s journal and article environment.

Q. Peer review has come under fire recently.  Do you think that criticism has been fair?

A. Yes and no.  Some of the critics are very vocal and prone to hyperbole, which in my opinion doesn’t help. I’m all for debate and constructive criticism, but let’s be open-minded and keep an eye on the big picture.  No one claims the current system is perfect, but overall I think it works very well when conducted properly.  There are multiple surveys which show that the overwhelming majority of those in the research community value peer review and think it’s a necessity.  That doesn’t mean we can’t build upon the current foundation and work to improve things, which is what we’re doing with PRE.

Q. Do you feel that early career peer reviewers are adequately recognized for their work?  If not, will PRE do anything to remedy that?

A. I don’t think reviewers and editors in general are recognized adequately for their work.  Early career reviewers certainly need more credit for their participation.  PRE wants to be part of efforts to recognize and reward those who contribute to peer review.  But we also want to be able to do that in a way that’s sensitive to the need for confidentiality when desirable.  There are organizations such as ORCID, Sense About Science, and others who we view as living within the same ecosystem as PRE.  I’m not sure any one provider will be able to come up with a single solution.  I think we can join together to address this need, and there are already discussions occurring related to this.

Q. What’s next for PRE and when do you anticipate it will go live?

A. Internal technology development is scheduled to be complete by October 2014.  We continue to talk with third-party providers about how PRE services will be integrated with their existing systems.  The public launch of PRE-val is expected to be in November 2014.  Beyond our core products, we are also planning a series of surveys and webinars intended to support and educate the entire community about peer review.  I think some of the most important work to be done is to create incentives for best practices around the process and to recognize those who work hard at ethical peer review.

17 things we learned at ASAE 2014

Posted Aug 18, 2014
    Lorna Berrett
Lorna Berrett
Director  Society & Association Marketing, Wiley
ASAE sign
Photo credit: Lorna Berrett

In our final report from the ASAE annual meeting, we share some of what we learned during our time in Music City. Several of us were attending the meeting for the first time and we were all struck by the positive energy and buzz throughout the four days. We came away with fresh insights, new contacts, and lots of ideas and inspiration.

In his opening address, ASAE President and CEO John Graham outlined three key themes: changing demographics, communication, and technology. I would add three more that were in evidence throughout the conference: content, community and learning. Here is a selection of our takeaways under these headings:

Changing demographics

1. Recruiting and retaining younger members and engaging with Generation Y and Millennials was a recurring theme. Authenticity is key to reaching these groups with, for example, 85% of Gen Y-ers making a connection between their purchasing decisions and the causes they support. As not-for-profits, associations should be well placed to appeal to this demographic, yet very few have young board members.

2. The ASAE have recently approved a new diversity and inclusion strategic plan that can act as a model for other associations. John Graham also encouraged associations to expand their reach beyond traditional membership to those working in related fields but who may not become members. Career services are one way to provide value beyond the paying membership, with career information being the biggest driver of traffic to the ASAE portal.


Hats and Boots sign
Photo credit: Lorna Berrett


3. We learned from Melynn Sight of nSight Marketing that associations’ value propositions need to resonate, differentiate, and substantiate in order to be credible to members. That means something you deliver well today that matches your members' most important needs and is something that they cannot get anywhere else.  Does your About Us page lead with a credible value proposition?

4. In the sessions we attended and in our meetings we learned that society executives are hungry for data in order to gain insights and improve performance. But data is often in multiple places and hard to pull together to manage in a single interface.


5. Many associations are struggling with creating a coherent digital strategy that reflects their organization's mission and vision. This was clear from questions in the “Creating Your Digital Strategy” session presented by Wiley's Martin Davies and Davina Quarterman, together with Mike Clarke – consultant and Scholarly Kitchen blogger, and Quoc-Dien Trinh – associate editor of BJU International. The session also received prominent coverage in the Associations Now Daily.

6. In conversations with delegates we heard that “innovation” is often interpreted as "make something new and digital" rather than adding value for the organization and its members. Without the groundwork and validation of member research, this can result in wasting precious resources on underused products and services.

7. We also learned lots of new ideas for how to be more creative on social media in Beth Ziersenis’ (@NerdyBFF) session "29 Tech Tools to Create Cool Content for Social Media" and how to improve our presentations from the “Ignite” session.


8. There was very little focus on publishing in the schedule, with Wiley running the only purely publishing session: “5 Key Trends in Professional Publishing” with Alice Meadows and Roy Opie from Wiley, Frank Krause of the American Geophysical Union, Oona Schmid of American Anthropological Association, and Kristen Overstreet of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors, who covered the move from print to digital, the globalization of publishing, government affairs, peer review, and magazines 2.0.

9. However, there was a big focus on content and the increasingly critical need to find better ways of connecting members with content they need, when they need it, in the format they need it, and easilydiscoverable.  Societies need a content strategy that is seamless and integrated for members, matching content (career advancement, e-learning, research outputs) to member needs at every point in their professional life.

10. It also became clear that there is an urgent need for more education for association executives around Open Access – very few in the publishing session were concerned about the impact of OA on their organizations, and even fewer had an OA option for members.


11. Many associations have multiple social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but very few have a strategic approach or dedicated resources for managing them . In the “Link Up with LinkedIn” session, run by the American Ceramic Society’s Megan Bricker and Andrea Silnes, most of the audience were using LinkedIn company or group pages but only a handful used LinkedIn advertising or tied up their LinkedIn groups with their other social media in a strategic way. Megan and Andrea’s examples showed how you can use LinkedIn groups to reach beyond traditional members and extend reach and engagement.

12. Meanwhile, in “Find your online community sweet spot”, it appeared that creating a standalone online community for members with some free content and registration required for more, is still a well-used model for associations. Examples presented included the Society for Human Resource Management and the Institute of Food Technologists. Many in the audience struggled with resourcing the feeding and nurturing of these sites and, again, didn’t have a joined up strategy with their other communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.


13. Everything from the “Learning Labs” to the expo hall was geared towards solutions, with the emphasis onsharing proactive and practical advice that attendees could take away and use to make changes (small and large) in their organizations.

And finally, we also learned ....

14. ASAE delegates represent a very wide spectrum of associations farbeyond the scientific and scholarly community, but there are many commonalities in association management, their objectives and aspirations for their organizations, and their members

15. Association professionals are passionate about their jobs, serving their members, and continually improving their skills and expertise

16. We learned some useful interview techniques and how to spot a thief! (From Adam Grant's opening keynote: "Ask someone 'What % of people do you think steal $10 a month from their company?" The higher their estimate the more dishonest they may be!'" )

17. And finally … we saw how country music can grow on you after a few days in  Nashville! I overheard a number of conversations that started "I'm not really into country, but actually ..."

We’d love to hear what you learned if you attended.  Comment below or tweet us @WileySocieties.


    Sarah Andrus
Sarah Andrus
Business Development Manager, Wiley

As previously mentioned, we'll be covering the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting here this week, and don't forget to follow @WileySocieties for regular updates from the meeting.


Here in Nashville, the ASAE Annual Meeting is in full swing and buzzing with positive energy. The society and association professionals in attendance have a lot on their minds, but all of the major ideas are centered around the meeting's music-themed tag line: Pause, Play, Forward.


Quarterman on Digital Strategy
Davina Quarterman walks through the blueprint components.
Source: Sarah Andrus

At the heart of this theme of moving forward is a topic everyone can relate to: how to advance or totally reinvent an organization's brand and message through a well-cultivated digital presence. In the Learning Lab session "Create Your Digital Strategy," presented in part by Wiley colleagues Martin Davies (E-Learning Director, Professional Innovations) and Davina Quarterman (Senior Manager, Society Innovations), this potentially daunting subject was broken down in a visually clever and accessible way. Davies started off by inviting the audience to think of digital strategy within the framework of a "blueprint" for a building. While many organizations may still have a disjointed digital presence consisting of multiple components, those who deploy a successful strategy will have realized several truths: it's not all about the technology (even the best online platform can't make up for a poorly executed digital identity); design is important, but it shouldn't be all about branding (users should feel a consistent experience throughout); and the work doesn't end with creating the blueprint (you must have a process for review and revision, and assessing which trends are important and which are mere distractions.)


Quarterman's segment expanded on the blueprint framework with a discussion of its six components: People, Purpose, Big Picture, Plan, Produce, and Perfect. She underscored the importance of starting with a strong foundation consisting of a group of people willing to think critically and champion the approach, advising that as a starting point it helps to rewrite the vision statement with a digital-first mindset. It's also useful to segment the strategic roadmap into manageable milestones and tasks, starting with the big picture and then taking it one step at a time.


Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke demonstrates the "surfacing" approach.
Source: Sarah Andrus

Michael Clarke, President of Clarke & Company, offered an illuminating analogy comparing the digital user experience with an anecdote about attempting to purchase a raincoat in a large Parisian department store. He noted that the standard method of displaying products - arranged by brand rather than type of item - was similar to some web sites' inefficient way of siloing information around content categories rather than subject verticals. Using an example from the medical field, Clarke envisioned a user experience where someone looking for information on hypertension, rather than rummaging through the virtual racks and bins of an association's web site, would be guided to all of the relevant content across all categories - articles, meetings, conference proceedings, videos, etc. This vision is all part of the universal need to go beyond search and instead commit to "surfacing" relevant materials for a more seamless digital experience.


Finally, Quoc-Dien Trinh, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Associate Editor of BJU International, brought it all together with a case study explaining how BJUI deployed a team to revamp the journal's digital strategy with the ambitious goal of making it "the most widely read surgical journal on the web." The core objective was actually quite simple: by taking their poorly maintained and incoherent social media accounts and unifying them to reflect the journal's branding with a cohesive look and feel throughout, they were able to substantially drive usage and brand awareness, completely reinvigorating their digital presence simply by strengthening connections that weren't previously apparent.


This well-attended session was a terrific showcase of how professionals in any type of organization can utilize straightforward strategic frameworks to solve tough problems in the digital space. The solution needn't be complicated nor expensive; in fact, by distilling the problem and your goals into their basic components, any association can achieve a successful digital identity that will hit all the right notes with members and other users.

    Alice Meadows
Alice Meadows
Director of Communications, Wiley
JGraham Headshot
Source: John Graham

Tomorrow marks the first day of the ASAE meeting in Nashville, TN, so what better reason to dig into the archives and take a second look at our interview with ASAE CEO John Graham.  If you’re heading to Nashville, don’t forget to stop by Wiley’s booth (#300) to say hello and be sure to attend the sessions “Create your digital strategy” (Sunday) and “5 Key Trends in Professional Publishing” (Tuesday), featuring Wiley speakers. If you can’t make it in person, we’ll be bringing you highlights next week here on Exchanges and follow us @WileySocieties for the latest.

Q. Thank you for talking to us John. Please can you start by telling us about ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership, and your role there? 

A. I have been President and CEO of ASAE for 10 years, and I am responsible to the Board of Directors for the management and leadership of the organization. ASAE has around 22,000 members, primarily leading trade and professional associations, as well as some of the larger philanthropic organizations. We have four core competencies: 1) creating, curating, and distributing a body of knowledge around association management and leadership; 2) providing learning opportunities, both physical and virtual (online and streamed versions of live meetings), which includes hundreds of programs annually on association management, and about 20% are on personal skills development such as leadership, management, etc; 3) creating a community, physical and virtual, that enables people to come together to learn and share; 4) advocacy – by celebrating the value and contribution of associations to society. Just about everything you do every day – crossing a bridge, driving a car, going to a doctor – relies on a body of knowledge that has been provided by an association, which has set standards, written guidelines, provided training, etc. We also address issues that impact tax exempt organizations including tax policy, tax exemptions, and First Amendment rights.

Q. ASAE is in a unique position as a membership organization whose members are themselves membership organizations – how does that affect what you do?

A. We are the association for associations – for those individuals who are working as staff in these organizations. We are their professional home, and this is what we’ve created our body of knowledge around. Our members expect ASAE to help them do their job better as well as more efficiently in order to become better professionals.

Q. What are the main changes you’ve seen in association management over the past 5-10 years?

A. One change is the continual evolution of association management as a career and profession. Members and boards alike now expect their staff to provide high-level expertise and execution. Technology – including social media, digital, and mobile technology – is a game changer for associations. In the same way personal computing revolutionized the 1980s, mobile is revolutionizing society today. It’s allowing members to customize their relationship with their association rather than the association simply delivering a suite of services to them. The next significant game-changer in the US will be changing demographics, especially the rise in the Hispanic population. It’s set to increase from one in seven to one in three over the next 30-40 years. Associations will be impacted by how this new demographic views membership, volunteering, etc.

Q. What are the biggest challenges that your members and their associations are facing today?

A. The biggest challenge is both caused and solved by technology – the issue of engagement. Most of what associations offer is now available free of charge. So, associations need to create packages that allow people to get that information quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently. This is their value proposition, and it requires membership models to evolve.  Rather than everyone paying roughly the same dues for the same services, we are now moving to more of a cafeteria service that allows people to pick and choose what they want. The organizations that don’t move in this direction will become less relevant to young people.

Q. What do you see as the key opportunities?

A. As noted, technology has created an “everything is free” situation for associations, which no longer control access to information. Now, it’s all about how you package that information to make it more valuable to the individual member – that’s where the opportunities lie.

Q. What are some of the main ways that ASAE supports its members in addressing these challenges and opportunities?

A. We do so through our core competencies. We create a body of knowledge to help them understand the issues and how they can organize themselves to best address them. Our learning programs help ensure that associations don’t have to recreate the wheel, and it provides best practices for them to follow in order to make sure they’re on the cutting edge of what they do. Also, and somewhat uniquely, ASAE is an organization that takes risks – we are trying things first, so our members can learn from us about what works and what doesn’t.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your future plans for ASAE?

A. We are developing a global strategy that embraces digital technology, which can be incorporated into the face-to-face experience. I firmly believe that face-to-face meetings will continue to be vibrant and attractive to members because humans want that personal connection. Digital technology, social networks, and mobile are additive to the face-to-face experience, but we are still learning what that future landscape will look like. We are also interested in how associations manage their content and knowledge. For example, through taxonomies, associations are looking at new ways of slicing and dicing their body of knowledge, so they can make it intuitive for members. These knowledge ecosystems are critical, especially for scientific and professional societies.

Q. Although many of your members are trade and professional associations, you also work with some that are more scholarly and scientific, which are more representative of our readership. Do you see any differences between these two broad types of organizations or do you think the same principles apply to all membership organizations?

A. I don’t think there is a big difference between professional and scientific associations, but there is a difference between professional societies and associations and trade associations. Trade associations are primarily advocacy organizations, even if they also provide some training and content. On the other hand, Professional and scientific associations are nearly identical. Their members are either those who engage in creating science or in establishing what it means to be a professional in the field. Philanthropic societies are different again because they are cause-related organizations not always affiliated with a particular discipline.

Q. Attracting new members is a challenge for most societies – any words of advice on this?

A. The membership model is evolving, so ASAE has created packages where people get a certain number of products and services for a membership at a price point. The value proposition for all associations is around how they package their content. If you do this well, then they’ll engage with you and join (or, if not, they will buy your products anyway). For example, Starbucks customers are willing to pay a higher price for coffee because they perceive it to be of value. Associations have the exact same opportunity.

Q. How optimistic (or not!) are you about the future of societies and other membership organizations and why?

A. I’m very optimistic because people still want to come together for a common purpose – whether that is to solve problems, to learn, or to engage with each other. But, associations will only thrive if they have a good value proposition. If not, they will disappear and be replaced by another (existing or new). You could say that I’m very bullish on associations going forward.

    Helen Eassom
Helen Eassom
Author Marketing, Wiley

With around 42.6 million new posts each month on WordPress alone, blogging has become a serious marketing and business tool. But why should you, as a researcher and author, spend time creating and writing a blog?

After all, your time is precious, and setting up a blog, writing regular posts and gaining followers isn’t necessarily at the top of your radar. However, with more and more journals incorporating blogs as part of their online presence, and an increasing number of academics blogging regularly, here’s why you should too- and how to get the most from your efforts.

Why blog?

First of all, it will help you refine your writing skills. Blogs are more widely read than academic journals and textbooks, so while you could be writing for a broad audience, your posts will still need to hold up to academic scrutiny while being accessible.

Blogging is also a great aid to discoverability. Every time you write a blog post, you are creating content that can be shared via social media, as well as providing a cue to search engines that your website is active. Additionally, non-academics find it a lot easier to access a blog than to find their way around journals and paywalls, so your work has the potential to reach and influence a much wider audience. Not convinced? Over 409 million people view more than 14.4 billion WordPress pages every month- that’s a lot of potential readers!

With a blog, you immediately become part of a large network of bloggers with whom you can share thoughts and ideas, and engage in some of the cutting edge debates in your area of interest. Not only can this further enhance your reputation as an expert in your field, it’s a great opportunity to hone your communication skills as well as gain valuable feedback on ideas and broaden your professional network. For early career researchers, starting a blog can be beneficial as you network with more experienced academics and pick up tips on how to publish, or refine your CV for example.

With many institutions and research funders placing a growing emphasis on open access and community outreach, a blog can be a great way to reach out to the public and engage in meaningful conversation around your area of expertise. Blogging enables you to share your enthusiasm for your subject with those outside of the narrow world of academia, maybe even inspiring the next generation of researchers along the way.

How to write your blog and promote your work

Setting up a blog is incredibly easy with services such as WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. Once you’ve chosen your domain name and a theme, you are pretty much ready to start posting. But what makes a good blog, and how do you go about promoting your work?

1. Find your voice

As you start to blog, you will end up finding your own voice and style of writing. Look at other academic blogs to see the range of styles used, and find what suits you best, whether that is shorter posts or longer, more reflective posts. Make it clear whether or not you are writing on behalf of an institution and, importantly, be yourself! Successful blogs tend to use a conversational tone and speak directly to the reader.

2. Define your audience

Make sure that you know who you are aiming your blog at- whether it be fellow academics and researchers, policy decision makers or even schoolchildren. When you write, you should always have this audience in mind. This will help develop your tone and style and your readers will end up feeling more ‘connected’ to your writing. Just remember to make your writing accessible to all- overly scientific and technical jargon will alienate some readers, as will posts that constantly stray off topic.

3. Use social media

Make use of your social media accounts to promote your latest blog post. A Facebook post or a Tweet will broaden the scope of your blog’s reach and let people know as soon as you’ve posted something new. And best of all, if you have your social media accounts linked, this will take minimal time and effort.

4. Read other blogs

But don’t just read them. Get involved by entering into conversations, posting comments and linking to posts that interest you on your own blog. This will encourage others to link to you and increase your online discoverability. When you comment on other blogs, try to add value by offering useful information and advice. This can be an excellent way of networking with fellow bloggers in your field of expertise.

5. Include keywords

You want your blog to be as visible as possible on search engines, especially Google, as this will generate a lot of the traffic to your site. Think of keywords that best sum up your post and repeat them throughout your text (just don’t overdo it!) and in the post title. The trick is to use words that you think people will search for when looking for the type of content you are posting.

6. Guest blog

Writing posts for other, more well-known blogs can be a good way to get your own blog going to begin with. Not only are you networking with other bloggers, you are creating a name for yourself, and your posts will include a link to your own blog. Having your blog linked to a more well-established blog is also great for search engine optimization.

Good luck on your blogging journey!

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