Getting Published

This week I became a published researcher. I was listed as one of the authors on my first journal article. The paper can be found here (pdf).

Publications are very important for the early career researcher and for academia in general. It’s a way of judging your research success, proving you have the skills required to further your career and to put your research out into the world.

There are whole books dedicated to “Getting Published in Academic Journals” and often intensive courses on the process of publishing available from your university. The need to publish during you PhD cannot be understated but how much you publish is debatable.

Things to consider…

1. Impact factor –

Each journal has an impact factor score (you can find out which journals have the highest scores in your discipline at the website above). This is based on the number of citations received by a journal, in a given year, divided by the amount of articles published. A high impact factor means more people are likely to see your research.

2. Style

Journals have different styles. You should try and get a feel for the journal you want to publish in by reading their articles. For example, publishing in Nature or Science your research would have to feature a “big” discovery or something particularly controversial. Journals articles vary in length, reading age, focus, format etc.

3. Rejection

Rejection is inevitable. Try not to take it to heart; though it can be quite annoying. You should set your sights for high impact journals but know your limitations. It becomes a question of time management. If you send it to Nature and get rejected then have to spend a lot of time reformatting to make it acceptable for a new journal. Ask someone in your field to give you advice on what journal is most appropriate for your paper.

4. The Story

The paper’s story is something I didn’t understand at first. I considered stories to have plots, unexpected twists and lie within the realms of the humanities. But it actually makes a lot of sense to think of the paper as a story. You start of introducing the big picture, a hook to show the story is novel, talk through the results in an understandable order, each leading on from the previous, then you conclude. An incomplete story makes for a confusing read.

5. Novelty

To get accepted you will have to improve on what is already known. This is not a problem when it comes to thinking about my experimental results but I do wonder how I can contribute when it comes to adding another literature review to the mix.

6. Author contribution

Like I said above, publications are important. Some journals have restrictions on the number of authors that can be included but you should consider including as many well-known names, collaborators and fellow PhD students as possible. This will increase the audience of the paper and give other PhD students a career boost. However, for review articles it is common to have only a few authors to reflect the literature search and writing only.

7. Cost

Publishing costs a lot. Though I am not sure how much as I have not gone through the process myself. You will need to make sure their are funds available to publish to the journal you want. More information is in the article below.

  • Noorden, R. V., 2013. Open Access: the true cost of science publishing. Nature. LINK

8. Open Access

Open access is a way of making your research available to all. Communicating to more than just institutes with journal subscriptions, to business, charities and the wider public. There are two ways to go about making your article open access:

  1. Publish in an open access journal
  2. Publish in an open electronic archive (more information here)




Climate Change Conference / COP23

This year the UN climate change conference was in Bonn, Germany (6 – 17 November), presided over by Fiji. COP23 is the informal name for the 23rd “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

A little history…

  • The UNFCCC was founded at the Rio Earth Summat, 1992, and now has nearly all of the world’s nations signed on.
  • In 1997, the participants established the Kyoto Protocol, which included legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5% (compared with 1992).
  • At COP21, the parties negotiated the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is especially significant as it is a legally binding agreement. As you may already know, Donald Trump announced his intention to take America out of this agreement. Meaning, America will no longer be obliged to meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and finance the mitigation efforts in developing countries.



1. The focus of the US talks was switched from clean energy to fossil fuels (with some resistance – the counter Trump movement). Donald Trump’s “vision” for environmental action included clean coal.

  • My first reaction was to laugh but then I did some googling and apparently billions of dollars has already gone into research to make coal clean with little to no success (Clean Coal – Fact or Fiction?). So actually, it’s kind of sad.

     2. Christiana Figueres, UN’s chief climate negotiator, thanked Trump. As his announcement to remove America from the Paris agreement “provoked an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty”.

“He shored up the world’s resolve on climate action, and for that we can all be grateful.”

3. Fossil fuel burning set to hit record high in 2017 – signifying a “huge leap backwards” say some scientists

4. The lack of the public’s interest in COP23 could be a “failure of journalism” and worryingly “climate change remains marginal to most people’s personal and political choices” (Nature editorials, 2017Brüggemann et al., 2017).

5. The launch of the InsuResilience Global Partnership on Tuesday, that aims to help protect 400 million poor and vulnerable people around the world by 2020 by providing insurance against the damage increasingly being caused by extreme weather caused by global warming.

6. Women, especially women of colour, are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. The Women and Gender Constituency aims to reverse this inequality and also to raise awareness of the work done by women to combat climate change.

If you feel an urge to make a change, check out – The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World!

Even more highlights are listed here by the COP23 website.


Academic Guilt

I am constantly thinking. It’s one of my downfalls. For example,

  • “I have so much to do!”
  • “How can get I get it done in time?”
  • “I should just get started.”
  • “Where should I start?”

And the cycle starts again.

I never stop thinking about the work.

Academic guilt” is when you feel bad leaving the office before everyone else or taking annual leave. During your free time you find yourself thinking “I should be doing my work”. This guilt is one of the reasons mental health is so poor within universities.

There is constant internal pressure. You want to do well, you’ve paid a lot of money to be at university, you’re constantly thinking about your career after university etc.

With additional external pressure from the university: exams, career advice, training, meetings, deadlines, outreach, admin, email, opportunities, seminars etc.

RELAX! Enjoy yourself (but not too much). Join societies (but not too many). Get work experience (but don’t work more than 8 hours a week). Time to relax over the summer (but doing an internship is the only way to get a job).

This is the part where I would like to prescribe a solution, a way of not feeling guilty. Hopefully, it’s enough to know that other people feel the same and to understand why people have difficulty managing their stress. Today I found it easier to stay in my pajamas than to go to the office and I feel guilty. I feel awful. And I feel no more or less ready for hard work tomorrow.

Getting the Most Out of Meetings

Here, “meetings” refers to every time you are talking to another human about your PhD. Whether one-on-one, presenting to a room of people, or when you are desperately trying to pay attention as someone presents to you.

Situation 1. One-on-one meeting (informal)

  1. Simple question: How’s your work going?
    • PhD students/researchers love to have a good vent. A problem shared is a…good way of starting a conversation (or however the saying goes).
    • You learn about their research and get to release frustrations.
  2. Use their experience to your advantage
    • Giving advice is easy when you’re constantly making mistakes like PhD students/I seem to be.
    • Learn from the people around you, you don’t always have to go it alone.
  3. Get out of the office
    • First, so you’re not disturbing other people from working but also to get a change of environment, it’ll turn your brain back on.

Situation 2. One-on-one meeting (formal)

  1. Preparation
    • I always have a huge list of questions for my supervisor, the problem is that we would often get sidetracked on one or two of them and then I would feel bad taking more of their time so I would forget the rest. Prioritise your questions in a short list.
  2. One person going on and on –  you’re not sure how long they’ve been talking but you feel like you stopped listening hours ago.
    • Stop them! – often they’ll be lost too, they want to be stopped, so stop them. Ask a question. Or say “sorry, I’m a bit lost”.
  3. You’re the one going on and on and on
    • Just stop it! Pause. Recollect your thoughts. Summerise or allow someone else to input.

Situation 3. Presenting to your lab group (informal)

  1. Don’t just present, ask questions!
    • Does this graph make sense? Where do you think I could go with this result? Has anyone else found this problem with this experiment? BUT don’t ask questions that your supervisor could easily answer or you could google.
    • Also it breaks up the presentation into a conversation, for me, this really helps me manage my presentation anxiety.
  2. Take it seriously
    • This is a great opportunity to prove to your supervisor that you haven’t just been sat around doing nothing and allows you to practice talking about your research.
  3. But also have fun with it
    • Add a funny picture, analogy or hook to keep people awake and paying attention. It’s informal, you should take it seriously but not worry too much.

Situation 4. Listening to a talk at a conference (formal)

  1. Prepare before you go
    • This stops you missing a really dynamic talk because you didn’t understand the title and thought it wasn’t relevant to you. This is the best piece of advice I can give, the more you research the conference beforehand, the more you can get out of the experience.
  2. Sign up for those “silly” networking sessions – they are amazing fun, you make lots of PhD allies at different institutes, often you get drinks/food.
  3. Lost in a talk? Tweet about it!
    • It helps you focus your thoughts or you can just tell everyone how confused you are. Tweeting keeps me awake and focused on the main results of the research. Also you get your voice out their to be found by other attendees/potential future collaborators.
  4. So lost, you’re practically asleep? – call it quits.
    • Rest until you have a talk which is relevant or interesting to you. No-one (who is human) can pay attention from 9am till, often, 6pm in the evening. Leave and have a walk or go network.
  5. Try and summerise what you’ve learnt, plan who you want to talk to and what you’ll say and think about what you’ll do differently once you get home.
  6. Ask a question – scary right? Doesn’t have to be.
    • Just write down your question and ask them whilst you get coffee. This might seem scary as well but just remember that the reason they came to the conference was to talk about their research and learn about other peoples.
    • Email them? Tweet them? Just make sure you ask.

Procrastinating like a Pro

1. I tidied my desk. Documents into labelled folders, removed clutter, created a nice space for my open lab book. So neat!


2. Made a cup of tea (had a biscuit too – ssh!)


3. Printed journal club papers that are one month away


4. Checked email and organised my inbox


5. Has Amazon got any good e-books on sale?!

6. Pokemon Go session


7. Washed most of the clothes I own

These aren’t actually my clothes. I don’t have a garden.

8. Wrote this blog post


The moral of the story is that I know I’ve overworked myself this week so I’ve ran out of steam. The key is to recognise what you’re doing wrong so you can be more efficient in the future. Also “productive procrastination” is still bad if you have work that needs doing now.

Teaching Opportunities at Sheffield

Demonstrating  P1010194

Teaching undergraduates in practicals or on field courses. Essential if you want to become an academic/go into teaching. Information will be provided by individual departments about demonstrating opportunities.

  • REQUIREMENTS – attend an introductory course from your department and provide evidence of your ability to work in the UK
  • SKILL DEVELOPMENT – communicating science, leading, testing your knowledge in a given field

Learning and Teaching Professional Recognition Scheme

This scheme allows early career researchers and staff to gain a qualification in recognition of their contribution to teaching and supporting learning. This can be completed if you do ANY teaching, in or outside the university, including demonstrating. Conditional on whether you complete the admin involved and get observed on one occasion. There are two types the Foundation Pathway and the Personal Pathway.

Foundation Pathway (HANDBOOK) – Require you to follow a prescribed programme of activities and to develop work for assessment which will be assessed by the pathway programme team. It has three main elements:

  1. Workshops and accompanying self-evaluation (bookable via the LMS)
    • Foundation Pathway Orientation Workshop (start by booking this and they will register you onto the scheme)
    • Academic Culture: Transitions and Expectations
    • Large Group Teaching: Lecturing
    • Small Group Teaching: Seminar Facilitation OR Lab Demonstration
    • Assessment and Feedback
    • Teaching: Design and Delivery
    • Digital Possibilities
  2. Teaching observations
  3. Developing teaching philosophy

Personal Pathway – self-directed, offers an “individual and flexible route” to professional recognition. The application comprises three elements:

  1. Mapping of your practice to the UKPSF (UK Professional Standards Framework) Dimensions of Practice. This includes providing artefacts of evidence to support the claims you make in your application.
  2. Examples of Practice (case studies)
  3. Details of your two Referees and their supporting statements.

This pathway is begins with attending an “Explorer Event” to find out more (via LMS). It seems as though this pathway is more for people with experience teaching who just want additional recognition. Less information is available compared to the Foundation Pathway.

SURE scheme – get your own undergraduate!

Outline a project that can be undertaken in 6 – 8 weeks and try and get it funded by the SURE scheme. Undergraduates then apply and you teach them techniques and guide them through the process. Especially good if you have spare experiments that you just don’t have time to complete yourself.

  • REQUIREMENTS – from what I understood about this project, PhD students could apply for the grant but it does say on the SURE website that you have to be a member of staff. Maybe it has to be done in conjunction with your supervisor.
  • SKILL DEVELOPMENT – grant application, leading and mentoring your student, interpersonal skills, project management



Science in Policy

CaptureI have no idea what career I want to pursue after my PhD. So, I’m attending a number of courses to help me decide what interest me and then for the next three years I can gain skills that will help me breakthrough into that sector.



This week, I attended a “Science in Policy” seminar, organised by a group of staff and early careers researchers (PhD/Post-doc) with a keen interest in how science shapes policy.

The most interesting part I found was that when they spoke about where the evidence for science policy comes from. One of the route was through POST (Parliamentary Office of Science Technology), a government department that produces four page documents called “POSTnotes“, that summarise a current or up and coming research field.

These policy briefings include reviews of the relevant literature and are peer review by local experts. POSTnotes now come out every two weeks so there’s quite an extensive directory of past research topics to get your teeth stuck into. Taking a quick look this morning I’ve already found plenty that I want to read.

e.g. Mental Health Service Models for Young People (the most recent POSTnote)

“If you do nothing, nothing will change.
If you do something, there is a small chance, change will come”