Many researchers have found themselves with more time to write and submit manuscripts in the past year. As more research gets published, some authors may find it difficult to stand out in the crowd; however, authors do not need to rely on a journal’s impact or sphere of influence alone. In this interview, Philippa Jefferies discusses different approaches and helpful tips for researchers looking to promote their publications outside of journals themselves.
LetPub: Thank you for joining us! As an academic who’s shifted seamlessly to the world of academic publishing, could you please tell us about your academic background and how you transitioned to scholarly publishing?
Philippa: I studied Physics at University of Birmingham for four years. During this time, I worked with the Condensed Matter Physics research group and was able to take part in some research with them. After I graduated, I completed a master’s in science communication at University of West England, Bristol. This helped me learn about different ways of communicating science through various forms of media. My master’s project looked at how scientific research articles can be communicated and made more accessible to audiences outside of academia, such as to patients, policy makers, and so on. This definitely sparked my interest in science publishing.
LetPub: That sounds like a you found your passion pretty quickly! As many of us know, it can be difficult to leave academia for an outside field. Could you explain to us briefly how you were able to complete that transition?
Philippa: I think part of the challenge is knowing what opportunities are out there besides the obvious. I think my master’s program helped to show me the many different possibilities within science communication, as well as how to communicate science to a variety of audiences, not just academic.
My experiences in academia helped me when starting a career outside of traditional academia. When transitioning I think it’s important to identify the key knowledge and skills learned in academia and leverage these to demonstrate how you can bring value to other careers. My experiences have also helped me learn how to network well with colleagues in and out of academia, which is particularly important for my role now.
LetPub: Could you give us a quick introduction to River Publishers?
Philippa: River Publishers is a global publisher focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including communications, security, energy, and circuits. We publish a wide array of content from research monographs, professional books, textbooks, review books, and edited volumes on key STEM areas. We are experts at working with editorial boards, editors, authors, organizers, and reviewers to produce high value content.
LetPub: I understand you work as River Publishers’ Acquisitions Editor. Could you explain what an Acquisitions Editor’s responsibilities include?
Philippa: As Acquisitions Editor, I work on finding new book projects. I work with both academics and professionals to help communicate their research in the form of books. I also work a lot with our open access publications.
LetPub: That sounds very exciting! Are you involved with any other projects at River Publishers?
Philippa: I’m also involved with our broader communications and carry out regular interviews with our authors and editors, which can be found on the River Publishers’ YouTube Channel and social media platforms. This also involves our Cybersecurity Magazine, which aims to provide cybersecurity associated information in a language accessible to everyone.
LetPub: I haven’t seen many publishers produce their own magazines. Could you elaborate on what your magazine focuses on and how it differs from River Publishers’ other offerings?
Philippa: The other content we have in the cybersecurity space, namely our book series and journal, is very technical, aimed primarily at an academic audience. Cybersecurity Magazine allows us to share cybersecurity information to a much wider audience, who may not necessarily have a strong technical background. After all, cybersecurity is important for everyone, as we all use technology and communicate digitally. Our articles cover security basics, security standards, opinion pieces from experts and current cybersecurity developments. All our articles are reviewed carefully so we can make sure they are of high standard.
LetPub: You’re right, cybersecurity is extremely important for all of us! One of the other aspects I found interesting about River Publishers is the open access books. Could you elaborate about these open access books, such as how that option came to be and why you think open access books are valuable for authors?
Philippa: Our open access books allow readers to connect with research and scientific content at no cost to them. For many, open access is a requirement set by European Union funded research, and our open access publications allow these research initiatives to disseminate their findings.
Open Access with relevant indexing also allows a significant increase in access and citation of the publication, which will benefit an author. River Publishers follows the gold publication standard with fair pricing for publication.
LetPub: You’ve been involved in many innovative projects lately. I’d love to hear more about the author interviews and the webcasts you conduct with researchers.
Philippa: This is something that we started towards the end of 2020. We wanted help with the promotion of our books and journals, give a boost to our public communications, and provide more than just links to new articles or books. Our interviews involve a discussion with an expert around a relevant topic. These aren’t too technical as we want to make them accessible to anyone interested, regardless of technical background. We also do written interviews with authors. Our journals elect a best paper each year and we have composed interviews with these authors, too.
Cybersecurity Magazine is another outlet for us to showcase relevant research from our journals. We post extended abstracts and our authors have joined us on our monthly podcasts.
LetPub: It sounds like you have several initiatives going on to help authors share their research outside of traditional methods. Based on your experience, what do you think the positives are about using alternative methods to share research outside of relying on a journal’s audience?
Philippa: Using these kinds of methods to disseminate and promote your research can help a greater variety of people learn about your work. You have a chance to really show the applications and novelty of your research. You can reach a different audience using these methods than simply publishing in an academic journal (especially one that is behind a paywall).
LetPub: Are there any drawbacks to using these forms of media?
Philippa: A major career milestone is a peer-reviewed publication. A possible drawback would be that, especially for an early-career author, it is still important that research is properly peer-reviewed, and this isn’t a step that should be bypassed. Even if an author is publishing outside of the peer-review process, peer-review publication should be the aim.
LetPub: I absolutely agree – peer review is a huge milestone for all scientists and shouldn’t be avoided, but instead supported by using additional forms of media. Is there a specific platform or format, such YouTube or producing podcasts, that you feel is more appropriate for sharing scientific studies than others?
Philippa: I think it depends on the research and the audience you are trying to reach. Videos can be a great way of visualising research or helping people get to know a researcher, but it isn’t applicable for everything. Equally, podcasts are great for longer discussions; however, if any visual media is needed to help with understanding the presented topic, then this isn’t the best method to use.
There are lots of people out there doing some really exciting things with science communication and helping researchers to disseminate their research in different ways. It’s worth exploring different types of media before deciding on one.
LetPub: Let’s return to the more general topic of publishing. Publishing is critical for researchers at all stages of their scientific careers. Given your experience, do you have advice for an author who is trying to share their published research with others who might not be experienced with some of the platforms or media types we’ve discussed?
Philippa: I’m not too sure if this answers the question, but sharing the content as widely as possible, on as many platforms as possible, allows you to present it to more people in a way that is best for them. For example, our videos are uploaded using YouTube, but we share the video on all our social media accounts (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter) and our relevant website pages. Our Cybersecurity Magazine podcast is available as a video on YouTube, but also as audio only on platforms such as Spotify.
Knowing how to use these platforms properly can take some time, but the basics are not too complicated and there are often free introductory resources available online.
LetPub: That definitely answers the question! I think, as authors, we often wonder if we are sharing our research ‘the right way’. However, using social media is a part of daily life! With that in mind, what are your top tips for authors, particularly first-time users, who would like to share their research on social media but are a bit nervous to try it?
Philippa: I have a few tips for using social media in the most effective way possible. First, use a concise, clear, and honest headline to grab audience attention. This is the first thing they will read. Second, don’t oversell your study; for example, don’t use clickbait and don’t disappoint the audience when they click on your link – this falls in line with the honesty of your title. Third, if you can, use visuals – a picture or graph grabs attention more easily and will significantly increase traffic. Fourth, make sure links and videos work before posting – broken links will just lead to frustrated readers. Finally, make sure you really think about the audience you want to reach – who are they, what do they want to know, what is their previous knowledge, and use that when crafting your post. It will help you be more targeted and better appeal to the audience you desire.
LetPub: I think those are some really helpful tips for anyone using social media, new or experienced. Do you feel career stage influences how you should share your research with others?
Philippa: I think the motivations are different. Early career researchers want peer-reviewed publications but can also be enthusiastic about presenting their research through additional forms of media.
LetPub: Definitely. What about late career or more established researchers?
Philippa: Late career researchers can be more or less open to sharing their knowledge. Some late career professionals worry about legacy, so they may be more cautious and share only when absolutely necessary. Others have almost overshared their research, so it’s really a personal preference.
When it comes to how they share their research, I’m not sure there is much difference. Working with a publisher may be particularly useful for early career scientists to share their research beyond journal articles, as it allows their content to be properly reviewed and disseminated globally beyond their own sphere of influence.
LetPub: Thank you so much for sharing your time with us! Do you have any last words of wisdom for researchers currently trying to increase their impact or audience?
Philippa: Research publication is about disseminating knowledge. Working with a publisher like River Publishers ensures that knowledge is clearly communicated, reviewed by outside sources, edited before publication, and available to readers globally.