How to get your scientific paper published
The writing of scientific research papers is an essential part of being a Ph.D. student and a researcher within the field of Global Health. But how do you write good scientific papers and how do editors work with scientists of submitted papers? At this year's National PhD Conference in Global Health we had the opportunity to learn from one of the best within the field, Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief at The Lancet.
Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief at The Lancet (Photo: Nicoline Lokdam)
The 2nd National PhD Conference in Global Health took place on the 12 and 13 April in the Sørmarka Hotel and Conference Centre, in the South of Oslo. The conference has been organised by the Norwegian Research School of Global Health and the participants are PhD students from universities all over Norway within the field of Global Health.
A major focus of the conference is how to write, submit and publish good quality research papers in scientific journals. This was kick-started by an inspiring and thought-provoking talk from no other than Editor-in-Chief at a leading global health journal - The Lancet - Dr. Richard Horton.
“We, as researchers, have a crucial role in bringing facts back to society”. – Dr. Richard Horton
“This is not about how to get published in The Lancet!”
Richard Horton started out by addressing the question of what is indeed the ‘magic trick’ of getting your work published in the world’s most influential and prestigious scientific journals?
Furthermore, he explained four important issues that authors should think about when submitting their papers to scientific journals:
- Readership: Will the readers of this journal be interested? Why should your audience read this? This needs to be explained very clearly to the editor in the cover letter when the paper is submitted.
- Originality: Are these findings new? What’s the new idea, angle or perspective of this work? If the topic you study is already explored in other settings or among other groups, explain how the context you study is adding a new perspective.
- Topicality: Put your research into a broader context, how does the paper resonate with the global conversation within this field? Is the paper or the topic relevant for an important upcoming event, meeting or negotiation?
- Validity: Are your results true? Is it good science? This is important, and many authors put most of their focus into this particular issue. However, when editors initially assess the papers they receive, they first and foremost focus on readership, originality and topicality.
“Journals have personality”
Journals have a history, they stand for something and they have personality, which means authors need to take the context of the journal into account before they submit their paper. Following this, Richard Horton underlined how science and journals are all creations of people:
“Science is not a scientific process, science is a human and social process – nothing more nor less”.
This also implies that author should “engage with the journal”, especially if your paper is rejected and you do not agree with the arguments and explanations from the editors, “Never take rejection lying down. If you have been misunderstood, say something!”, says Richard Horton, and explained how some of the best papers he has published in The Lancet were actually rejected at first, but in the end got published, because the authors communicated with the journal, which allowed them to reformulate how their work was actually relevant and original.
When reading scientific papers, the most important parts of the paper, according to Richard Horton, is the initial ‘claim’ of the paper and the final ‘meaning’, placing the results in “the totality of available meaning”. In other words, it is crucial that authors “speak from their heart to the reader,” telling the story that you want the reader to take home.
Passing on important lessons from experienced world-leaders can make an immeasurable contribution to inspire and educate young researchers. We look forward to more events like this organised by the Norwegian Research School of Global Health and other Norwegian institutions to build a community of active and engaged professionals to help solve the problems our world is facing now and will face in the future.