Writing for Impact: Advice and insights from our scientific writing workshops
In addition to publishing books, journals and a children’s science magazine at CSIRO Publishing, we also offer writing workshops specifically designed to help research scientists and engineers develop the writing skills they need for their careers. In the last year the demand for the writing workshops has grown so much that the team has expanded from one to two facilitators, with Bopha Roden joining Camilla Myers, who’s developed the writing workshops and has been delivering them since the beginning.
Here at CSIRO Publishing, we haven’t been exempt from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic either. Camilla and Bopha have adapted to delivering workshops virtually throughout 2020. For this new blog post, we spoke to Camilla about what to expect from one of the workshops, her advice for early career researchers, and what’s changed in the move to online teaching.
You’ve had a diverse research and publishing career. What led you to developing and facilitating writing workshops?
I wanted a new challenge after many years as a journal editor and then a journal publishing manager. I learned a great deal as a journal editor, making decisions on hundreds (possibly thousands) of papers, and I always enjoyed sharing that knowledge through talks and seminars while I was in the role. In the talks I could see the desire among students and early career researchers to develop their writing skills and to understand what a well-written journal article looks like. I put up the idea to develop the writing workshops and was extremely fortunate to have the support of CSIRO Publishing and the CSIRO Learning & Development team in creating the courses available today.
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has put in-person workshops on hold for the moment, so how have your workshops changed in response?
The most obvious change is that we are now offering the workshops via WebEx or Microsoft Teams. More importantly, though, we have redesigned the sessions and activities for the online environment, so that the workshops retain their applied, interactive format in which participants can work together.
One of your workshops is called ‘Publishing with Impact’. What does ‘impact’ mean to you and what are one or two simple things researchers can do to enhance their impact?
To me, when referring to the impact of a paper, ‘impact’ means ‘making a splash’, i.e. getting noticed and then changing the way people think about their own research and the field more broadly. The published work contributes substantially to our knowledge and is used by others to advance our knowledge further.
Two things researchers can do to enhance the impact of their papers are:
- Work on the title to ensure it highlights what is new and different about the work, so that the paper gets noticed
- Provide enough context for the research question at the start of the paper to enable readers to understand the work’s importance and how it contributes to the field (this makes writing a strong Conclusions section easier too).
What is the number one bit of advice you’d give to young researchers when writing about their research?
Start early! 1) Because writing takes much longer than you think. Getting your ideas down may not take much time, but what makes the difference in ‘good writing’ (writing that communicates the point you want to make) is careful editing. Careful editing takes time. 2) Because the sooner you start writing in your career, the more practice you get, the easier it becomes, and the better writer you become. Publishing papers as soon as possible gives you a head start in developing your track record.
How can individuals organise workshops at their institution?
Email or telephone me or my colleague, Bopha, with a few details of the workshop you are interested in, the learning group, and what you’d like to achieve. All our workshops are tailored to the needs of both the sponsoring organisation and the individual participants, as far as possible. So, we will look forward to discussing what you’d like to achieve and how we can put something together for you that will meet your needs.
To read more about the kinds of workshops available, head to the Workshops page on our website. Courses are usually booked by a host institution, so if you think a writing workshop would be valuable to you and your colleagues, please reach out to Camilla and Bopha to discuss options.