The Cutting Room Floor:
In our recent Best Practice Webinar Series, we explore a series of promotional strategies carried out by publishers in promoting authors’ work. Our panelists shared the best practices they have implemented to promote the researcher’s work.
“To take in, at a glance, what’s in an article without having to actually read an abstract is the need of the hour,” said HighWire Founding Director, and the session’s Moderator John Sack, underscoring the word ‘awareness’ and stating that “understanding is a more advanced stage of knowledge than awareness, and awareness triggers something like a memory and someone needs to get back to an article”.
To promote authors, help readers and work within the SDGs program concurrently, panelists briefed attendees on their organizations’ respective agendas and achievements related to the topic. Here are the answers to questions asked by attendees that were not included in the session, due to time constraints.
Our Panelists included
John Sack, Founding Director, HighWire
Srimathy Sriskantharajah, Publisher, BioMed Central’s Microbiome
Joanne Walker, Head of Publishing Solutions, Future Science Group
Omar Fabian, Multimedia Team, Research Square
Stacie Meaux, Multimedia Team, Research Square
Matthew Broadhead, Assistant Publications Manager, European Respiratory Society
Q1: How many ‘person’ hours do you estimate you spend on manuscript promotion?
Highlighting the collective effort from authors and copy editors per manuscript, Matthew Broadhead from European Respiratory Society said, “It takes a couple of minutes to generate the short link and probably a few minutes per manuscript. That’s all.”
For Research Square, a big part of this entire process is receiving feedback. While it can take up to weeks from first contact with authors to the final delivery of the multimedia product, feedback from other stakeholders can either lengthen or shorten the process, according to Multimedia Team member Omar Fabian. His colleague, Stacie Meaux, added that “it’s very little effort from the journal side,” because editors trust authors’ work, although they are welcome to look at the script and comment.
Srimathy Sriskantharajah, publisher of Microbiome, a BioMed Central journal, also said that editors trust the research script. But, from a publisher perspective, the significant time investment is in setting up the entire process and day-to-day promotion. It may vary up to weeks for promotion from her journal and for the manuscripts that are in review.
Joanne Walker, the head of publishing solutions at Future Science Group, said that the effort is more on the authors’ side, possibly because once they’ve set-up the system in the first place with all the processes, it becomes easier from the publisher side.
Q2: How many staff members participate in the process of working with authors to get the content in a post-able format? Is this all done in-house, or is it outsourced?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: This is dependent on the type of activity. For video bytes, we work with Research Square for creation, and our own production team integrate them into the HTML of the published paper. Our blog Editors are in-house staff members who volunteer their time to blog checking, or in the case of BugBitten, volunteers from the parasitology community.
Joanne Walker: At FSG, we have in-house Video and Graphics teams who can help with the creation of any digital content. This can be anything from ‘polishing’ an infographic provided by an author to developing a video from scrap. We also provide assistance and advice to any authors looking to develop these themselves.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: Every piece of content that we produce is created by one of our in-house script writers, illustrators, and animators (if applicable). Our team (up to 10 individuals with varying scientific, illustration and animation experience) also performs an internal review of each product before it is sent to a client to check for accuracy. Once the client approves the content, our in-house social media team posts it on our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts.
Matthew Broadhead: We only collect tweets, so it’s just submissions staff, managing editors, and copy editors. We don’t have any dedicated staff for this.
Q3: How do authors measure the ‘successes’ of their ‘research promotion artifacts’ (tweet/video/PLS)?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: Altmetric scores are a good way to measure immediate impact online, but success also depends on what authors are looking for when they promote their research. If they are looking for collaborations, for example, then they can gauge success by the number and quality of collaborations they get as a result.
Joanne Walker: ‘What is Success?’ is a good question. We’re often asked what is the ‘value’ of publishing a PLSP. And this really depends on what the authors/sponsors want to see. For all PLSP articles, like any journal article, various metrics are available alongside the published article. For instance, PLSPs have an Altmetric score so authors can see the attention their article is receiving on social media channels. We also display article downloads, so again authors can see how many times a unique reader has downloaded their paper. Behind the scenes, we also measure how many times a reader has accessed the original publication from the PLSP. I guess to determine the success of any digital enhancement or article promotion tool, authors should decide what they deem ‘success’ to be. Publishers have access to many tools so if authors have an idea of what they want ‘success’ to look like, the publisher can help them with this from the start.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: This is difficult to answer. It’s easy to track how many views a video has received or how many “likes” a social media post gets. What’s harder to get a grasp on is if the presence of content results in more exposure for a paper, which is what most authors are interested in. We and some of our publishing partners have performed some initial analyses, and we have found that including promotional content with a paper results in higher Altmetric scores and article views. However, in a lot of these cases, the journal is also doing some promotion around the paper/content. So, it’s hard to parse out whether these effects are due to the extra promotion or simply because content is available.
Matthew Broadhead: ERS’ approach is more of an author and a reader service rather than a “journal marketing tool” and that it’s for people to talk about their stuff rather to generate hits or followers. It’s a good question. We’re still arguing about how they measure the success of their articles. The more you let something go free, the harder it is to keep an eye on it. Unless you spot it making a difference to someone, or it goes seriously viral, anything you measure is likely to be a distant proxy for impact.
Q4: How can authors who create content on their own promote their content?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: Twitter/ social media is a good way. They can also contact the journal or publisher to find out what avenues they have available for authors.
Joanne Walker: Authors should work with their institutions to help promote their work, especially if they have something like a video explaining their work. Issuing a press release certainly helps to create some ‘noise’ around a publication. Authors could also try to engage more on social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, which are great places for authors to share content amongst their peers. Authors could also see if the journal or publisher offers any additional promotion services – it’s in the journal’s interest to raise the profile of an article to drive more interest in their publication. There are also companies like Cactus and Enago, who provide cost-effective solutions to help authors promote (as well as develop) their content.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: For content that is based on a manuscript, the ‘holy grail’ for most of our authors seems to be posting it on the article page of the manuscript. If this is your goal, always be sure to reach out to the journal as soon as possible, as some only accept certain types of content and at specific times in the review process. If the journal requires that the content undergo peer review, then the content might need to be submitted earlier than you had originally expected.
Although it is always ideal to have the publisher promote this type of content on their own sites, there are a lot of ways that authors can promote their work on their own. Most institutions have a press office that is always looking for content to share. Try reaching out to them to see if they’d be interested in using your material. Some institutions have their own online galleries for material such as Video Abstracts and Infographics. Try reaching out to the owners of those galleries to see if posting your content is an option. Also, videos and infographics are great on a lab website.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of posting your content on your own personal sites. When posting a video on a video-sharing site such as YouTube, be sure to include tags to make your video more discoverable. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are also good options for sharing.
Matthew Broadhead: I guess they know better than we do who they want to talk to, and who people already listen to in their field. A “RT” from a leading patient advocate, or an interview on a popular podcast might be worth more than dozens of unaided posts.
Q5: What is your view on author-created artifacts of this nature?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: I see this mainly in the form of blog articles and tweets on Twitter, and they are of very good quality. Authors know their research the best, so it stands to reason that they are best placed to explain it to other people.
Joanne Walker: Wholeheartedly encourage these. There are so many tools out there for authors to provide digital enhancements to support their work. Videos and podcasts can easily be created by an author. I think many authors are wary of the time this will take or that it won’t look ‘professional’ enough, but this really shouldn’t be the case.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: Any type of content that is created to help bring awareness and understanding to complex topics is important. Although there is value in having a professional create this content, we’ve seen some really nice examples of author-created content that works. As long as it’s clear, interesting, and accurate, any type of content can be effective.
Matthew Broadhead: There is often a lot of disinformation and misinformation in the public sphere. If our authors want to be good actors and help to ensure accurate information is made available, then that can only be a good thing.
Questions about Spin
Q6: Is there any possibility that either the content or context of these promotional artifacts (tweetable abstracts/ PLS) are vulnerable to spin?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: There is always the possibility for any paper, whether it is promoted or not, to be taken out of context. In terms of blogs, video bytes and social media posts, we take steps to make sure that we stay true to the original published article. For instance, we always have each blog article checked by a blog Editor before publication.
Joanna Walker: Plain language summaries are summaries of articles that have already been published in a journal. So, we know that the article itself, in order for it to have been published, has already undergone quite a strict peer-review process. We know that the science is credible and sound. The plain language summary of publication (PLSP) articles we publish, that provide a non-technical summary of an original research from another journal, are themselves also peer-reviewed. They’re peer-reviewed for scientific accuracy and how well they represent the original article, and then they’re also peer-reviewed for how they read, how they’re laid out, etc., as a plain-language summary. So, we know that through that peer-review process, there’s no cherry-picking of the data. If the article is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, they’re not misrepresenting or ‘spinning’ the data, because it has to be a summary of the original article.
Matthew Broadhead: It’s unavoidable to a degree in a tweet – there’s not a lot of room for nuance. However, managing editors would pick up anything too egregious that got past review.
Omar Fabian: See answer to Q7.
Q7: Can we ensure others on the web don’t take anything out of context? If we can’t ensure, can we guard against? If so, how?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: We cannot police the web, but we have to make sure whatever we post on the web is factually correct and that we ourselves have not taken the research out of context in any of our promotional activities.
Joanne Walker: This is a problem faced with any open access content – that data can be taken out of context. However, by publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal under an open license, we can ‘protect’ this data by stating that anyone re-using the content should cite the original source. All PLSP articles we publish are published under a CC BY-NC-ND license. We specifically chose this license to ensure that any content from PLSPs that is re-used is correctly cited so should not be taken out of context.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: There is always some possibility that someone takes this content out of context or re-interprets it for someone else. The YouTube comments section is always open for chatter. But our workflow has some redundant “anti-spin” measures in place to help combat that. That’s because our team works in collaboration with authors, editors, and various other stakeholders. Authors help us ensure any content we put out is scientifically accurate. While editors and our own team (many of us with post-graduate training in science) help make sure we don’t overstate any scientific findings or their implications. Of course, this content is still vulnerable to spin downstream of that. We’re definitely interested to learn what happens when these promotional materials enter those waters and, more generally, what kind of impact they have for authors.
Matthew Broadhead: We see people using published papers on all sides of arguments on Twitter and no doubt they do it elsewhere. Once things are published, they are in the public domain and therefore out of our control and could be taken out of context. If we notice controversial arguments, we may refer conversations back to editors/handling editors/authors, and ask them to make a commentary, either from their own Twitter accounts or from our organization’s Twitter account. Maybe adding a “what this paper does not mean” to abstracts and plain-language summaries might help!
Q8: How do we ensure authors aren’t ‘cherry picking’ data/information in any of these strategies?
Srimathy Sriskantharajah: If an author writes a blog about their own paper, it is always checked by an independent Editor before posting on the BMC blogs network forum. Our in-house press office writes the press releases themselves and the Research Square video bytes team write the scripts for the video bytes, ensuring there is no author bias. However, authors do verify what has been written to ensure what is published is factually correct.
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: Here’s where it’s valuable to have input from editors. We’ve had cases where an editor has helped us temper an author’s expectations about their reported findings. Our team’s own unique mix of scientific backgrounds has helped us do the same. Having checks like this in place is one way to ensure that promotional materials are presented in their appropriate context. Another check we’ve built into our own process is asking authors about the limitations of their work. Getting them to answer that question can sometimes lead to good insight and context that we can’t glean from a manuscript alone.
Matthew Broadhead: The only way is by having gatekeepers. Make sure as many eyes as possible are on them prior to publication.
Joanne Walker: See answer to Q6.
Audience Questions for Research Square
Q9: What’s the most unique way a Research Square video has been used?
Omar Fabian & Stacie Meaux: This is pretty cool. A group from the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics and Cluster for Pioneering Research in Japan wanted a video describing experiments conducted at Tokyo Skytree – the world’s tallest tower (634 m). Using highly precise atomic clocks (one placed in the observation deck and the other on the ground), their tests confirmed that gravity can actually warp time. Anyway, they were quite pleased with the video we produced – enough to actually feature it in an educational display inside the observation deck of the Skytree tower! Here’s a link to that video: youtube.com/watch?v=EDirgdlPEuA.
Q10: Are you partnering directly with authors or with journals/publishers?
Omar Fabian: We work with both authors and journals/publishers.
Q11: Does In Review shows the final disposition of the submitted manuscript once peer review is complete?
Omar Fabian: Yes, In Review gives authors and readers access to the status of a submitted manuscript while the paper is under review at the journal.
In Review is a free journal-integrated preprint service that allows authors to post as a manuscript online in the form of a preprint with a DOI (Digital Object Identifier). In this feature, authors can track the status of their manuscript with a peer review timeline and real-time updates.
Audience Question for European Respiratory Society
Q12: Are tweetable abstracts peer-reviewed?
Matthew Broadhead: They’re available to reviewers as they are submitted along with the manuscript, but we don’t provide specific guidance or instruction about reviewing them. We’re not aware of a situation where a reviewer has requested an author to change the wording.
Q13: What platform are they editing tweets and pulling in issue images?
Matthew Broadhead: When someone clicks the ‘Click to tweet’ suite button it opens a second Twitter window which is editable that enables authors or readers to personalize the Tweet. It pulls in any images from the article with Twitter code in the HTML.
A lot is covered in this Webinar session. Speakers explained the idea behind the development of their promotional strategies. They not only targeted authors but also readers – who want to digest most of the scholarly content just at a glance.
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