By Serap Aksoy and Joel Ochieng
An important goal for PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (PLOS NTDs) is to develop global capacity in publication practices in low- and middle-income countries, given that NTDs disproportionately affect people living in these areas. Accordingly, almost one-half of the PLOS NTDs Deputy or Associate Editors are based in institutions outside of North America and Europe. Attracting papers from Disease Endemic Country (DEC) authors remains a high priority. Thus, disseminating information on Good Writing Skills and Manuscript Publication processes is essential to allow authors from these countries to succeed in getting their works accepted through the peer-review system.
On June 18, 2015, co-EIC of PLOS NTDs Serap Aksoy, and PLOS NTDs Associate Editor Dan Masiga held an Editor Workshop in Nairobi to discuss issues essential for the publication process. Drs. Joel W. Ochieng, Senior Research Fellow and Leader of Agricultural Biotechnology Programme and George Obiero, Director of Centre for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics at the University of Nairobi, hosted the workshop. Over forty senior scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate fellows, as well as several undergraduates attended the meeting. Among the topics discussed was the Open Access movement and the leadership of PLOS in this effort. Following the presentation made by Dr. Aksoy, the group discussed issues related to publication ethics and concerns related to plagiarism and data manipulation. Dr. Aksoy addressed questions related to the manuscript submission as well as peer-review process and the rights and responsibilities of authors through this process. The slide-set can be accessed on the PLOS NTDs website. Dr. Masiga discussed the Article-Level Metrics resources and their benefits. Many in the audience were unaware of the Article-Level Metrics used at PLOS, which allows for research articles to be primarily judged on their individual merits, rather than on the basis of the journal in which they are published. capture the manifold ways in which research is disseminated and can help users determine the value of an article to them and to their scientific community.
This workshop revealed several difficulties that plague postgraduate students and early career scientists in their efforts to have research work published. The majority of students expressed their nightmare when it comes to selecting a suitable journal to submit their work. The workshop heard that hundreds of journals in the same subject area are now available on the web, making it difficult for early career researchers to select from. A number of researchers were also unaware of criteria for discerning credible journals. The discussions focused on how to choose a journal that is a good match for your research based on the aims and scope of the journal, the intended audience of the planned manuscript, novelty of the work being presented and the significance of the reported findings for specific versus broad scientific community.
This was the first time that editors of an international peer-reviewed journal have visited students and researchers in biological sciences at the University of Nairobi to discuss practices and processes that enhance their capacity to prepare papers with higher chance of being accepted. Participants requested opportunities to organize a two-day writing workshop at the university for higher impact. PLOS NTDs looks forward to participating in future workshops and furthering this collaboration with the University of Nairobi.
Serap Aksoy, Ph.D is a co-Editor in Chief for PLOS NTDs and Council Member for ASTMH. She lives in Connecticut, USA, where she works on tsetse fly transmitted sleeping sickness at the Yale School of Public Health. She has no conflicts of interest to declare.
Joel Ochieng, PhD is Senior Research Fellow and Leader of Agricultural Biotechnology Programme at the University of Nairobi. He lives and teaches at the University on genetics and biotechnology. He has no conflicts of interest to declare.