BSG 2012: Postgraduate Workshop

Despite what Google might tell you, the BSG is the British Society of Geomorphology. It’s a fairly eclectic mix of scientists including nominal ecologists such as myself, hardcore modellers such as Tom Coulthard and traditional geomorphologists such as John Boardman.

From Monday 25th to Wednesday 27th June the BSG had its annual conference, this year being held at the University of Nottingham. In addition to the typical conference proceedings, a postgraduate workshop looking at some of the biggest challenges facing young scientists (and specifically geomorphologists) took place. Leading editors from some of the biggest journals in our field were present to share their knowledge and answer our questions regarding getting published. Well obviously myself, Simon Dixon and Chris Hackney couldn’t miss out on this opportunity. We went on an all expenses paid trip to Nottingham not for ourselves but for you, our readers.

The session began with a quick overview of publishing from eminent Professor Stuart Lane. He presented a simple yet powerful equation explaining the factors that determine the likelihood of a paper being published; the Q-R Theory:

  • Q = the importance and interest of the paper (journal subscribers will want to read it)
  • R = the rigour of the paper; its resistance to critique (replicable, correct, justified, explicit)
  • If Q + R is big then the paper should stand a good chance of getting published. If either or both Q and R are lacking, it’s an uphill struggle to publication.

In addition to Professor Lane’s opening contribution, we also had talks from Editors in Chief Steve Rice (Sedimentology), Nick Clifford (Progress in Physical Geography) and Andy Plater (Geomorphology):

  • The publication process: What are impact factors and should I worry about them? Should I publish in Open Access journals? How do I choose the best journal for my work?
  • Responding to a reviewers comments: How do I write a revision note? What if I disagree with a reviewer? How do I handle having my paper rejected?
  • Reviewing for a journal: Should I be reviewing this paper? What makes a good review? Should I keep my anonymity?

All of the talks were insightful and instructive. The key take home message? Get on with it. There are innumerable ways of making your work good enough for publication but the real trick is persistence. Ask for help. Follow author guidelines. Actually respond to reviewers’ feedback. Don’t take rejection personally; it happens to literally everyone. Never under-estimate the potential interest or value of your work but make this clear; sell it.

I’d never been much of a fan of workshops like this or even conferences. I naively thought that I could get all the advice I required either from my departmental colleagues or the wonder that is the internet. But I was wrong. The conference was a hotbed of intellectual and academic discussion that I found concurrently stimulating and informative. It’s a shame I won’t be making it back next year.

Oh and the University of Nottingham has a really nice campus. I’m quite jealous. They have many, many coots.

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