Building capacity for academic writing.. by Professor Anne Rogers

Anne Rogers professional 1 30PC smaller
Professor Anne Rogers is Director of NIHR CLAHRC Wessex

CLAHRCs have been all about building the infrastructure and capacity to undertake applied health research. There are of course the big and visible achievements such as in the NIHR CLAHRC Wessex building a thriving Data Science hub for responding to the most pertinent questions asked of us by the NHS. Another less visible achievement is building the skills of local clinical academic and health services researchers in writing for publication. We know that evidence shows that institutional support provides an enabling environment in terms of writing for publication1.  So, this has formed a key focus of our capacity building efforts.

Scholarly article writing and publishing in international peer-reviewed journals can be experienced as a challenging task for developing  clinical academics researchers and healthcare professionals pressed for time. It isnot always covered in  the core curriculum and limited knowledge about who decides what and how in academic peer reviewed journal articlescan appear mysterious and daunting. Decisions  made  about the publication of a paper is the result of interaction between authors, editors and reviewers which is often less than visible and has its own set of politics and hurdles to navigate for people wishing to disseminate their research findings. It also takes place against an  increasingly marketized  academic publishing industry in which the credibility of evidence and research is more difficult to decipher than in the past.

Green and Speed have recently summarised this environment vis:

“Academic publishing is a growth industry, with around 2.5 million English language articles published each year (Ware & Mabe, 2015). Truth (2012) described a

‘publication tsunami that is now an exponential wave’. The effects of this tsunami are well rehearsed: the enormous pressure on peer review processes; reduction in the time researchers have to read individual outputs; and, perhaps most commented on, the growth of a commercial market of fee-for-publication-based journals which lack the usual bulwarks of scientific credibility such as academic editors or robust peer review processes. This growth of outputs is one outcome of the increasing commodification of knowledge, whereby researchers face relentless incentives to salami-slice their findings, and must rush to publish. In health research, this has, arguably, contributed to a damaging over production of trivial findings that do not hold up to replication or the test of time.’ Schoenfeld and Ioannidis (2013)

So, navigating the politics on top of attaining the skills to write papers adds substantial complexity and burden to the process of getting published. With the dual focus of acquiring the skills and needing to navigate the publication system.

There are three elements to our writing capacity building activity in  which we have combined the following:

  1. a small group course on writing skills run by think write http://www.thinkwrite.biz
  2. advice knowledge and information about thinking about submitting and reviewing of papers to inform writing and the preparing research for publication (Peter Griffiths, Anne Rogers, Chiara Dall’Ora). We coverknowledge based on the experience of being editors and of publishing extensively in applied health research with how editors make decisions, the thorny issue of impact factors and how to tackle referees’ comments.
  3. A third element provides mentorship in supporting individuals to write up a dedicated article which can be submitted for publication with support provided from academic mentors with experience of publishing in applied health research.

Over the last three years we have run 5 two daywork shops attended by 63 people. Our final NIHR CLAHRC writing workshop takes place on the 3rdSeptember 2019

Pictured: Dr Chiara Dall’Ora and Professor Peter Griffiths, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton.

1Kramer B, Libhaber E. Writing for publication: institutional support provides an enabling environment. BMC Med Educ. 2016;16:115. Published 2016 Apr 18. doi:10.1186/s12909-016-0642-0

Judith Green & Ewen Speed (2018) Critical analysis, credibility, and the politics of publishing in an era of ‘fake news’, Critical Public Health, 28:2, 129-131, DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2017.1421597

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