Researchers face unique challenges at the beginning of their careers and this week we’ve asked one early career researcher (ECR), Alessia Mastrodonato, what’s on her wish list to publishers as an ECR working to get her research published.
Visit our Early Career Researcher Resource Center for more custom resources and support solutions to help throughout every stage of the publishing process.
I became conscious of the importance of neuroscience when I was in college in Italy and my best friend became depressed. I did not know much about his illness, but I remember that none of the medications he took were efficacious. This made me feel hopeless, but at the same time very determined to understand the mechanisms underlying depression and to find new drugs to help. In 2011, I started my PhD in Neuroscience at Catholic University School of Medicine in Rome. I was the only student awarded a fellowship for three years by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research in the Neuroscience Program. During this time, I quickly learned how to carry out a set of experiments effectively, rigorously, and efficiently in order to produce trustworthy results. I published several papers in high impact factor journals. After defending my PhD thesis, I attended my first Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference, and I met my current PI, Dr. Christine Ann Denny. At the time, she had just discovered that a single injection of ketamine protects against stress-induced depressive-like behavior. I immediately asked her to join her lab as I was excited by the idea of being able to prevent mental illness before the symptomatology even developed. This was exactly what my friend and many people in the world needed.
As researcher, I am expected to share my research work in scientific journals that constitute valuable and lasting references for the scientific community and that make critical research available to those who need it, like my best friend. The number of papers we publish, and their impact factor are often viewed as a reflection of our scientific achievements. Writing high-quality scientific papers takes time, and the publishing process can be very draining. I found myself struggling many times, but I didn’t give up because of my unwavering passion and the support I had during my journey. However, if I could write a “wish list” for a journal, like I can do now for Springer Nature, I would ask for:
1) Double-blind review, in which the authors’ identity is concealed from reviewers and vice versa. Some journals already do this, but it would be great if all of them could apply this approach. This process would make the review fair and unbiased by variables such as origin, scientific discipline, gender, etc.
2) Transparency, speed and commitment in the review process. My experience has been very positive thus far. Unfortunately, this is not true for every journal as it can take months to get a revision after submitting a paper;
3) Greater clarity in stating the aim and scope of the journal to facilitate the author’s choice. It would be useful for this information to appear on a journal home page with no need to search for it in the menu.
4) Ease of submission. Sometimes authors submit to a journal and, in the case of rejection, they have to reformat the manuscript before sending to another journal. If journals had a uniform acceptance criterion for manuscripts, this would assist the primary submission and then allow authors to change formatting later on if accepted (e.g., reference formatting).
5) A free editing service that can help non-native English scientists. Writing in a foreign language detracts a lot of time from science and is often a reason why some papers are rejected. As English isn’t everyone’s first language, an editing service would facilitate international scientists in publishing their work.
The wishes I have made are not exhaustive, but they could help scientists improve the likelihood of getting their work published, and that is key to having a fruitful, exciting, and rewarding academic career.
Check out Springer Nature’s Early Career Researcher Resource Center for resources to guide potential and returning authors through every stage of the publishing process.
In the summer of 2016, Alessia joined Dr. Christine Ann Denny’s laboratory at Columbia University as postdoctoral fellow. Since then, her work has been focused on investigating the mechanisms underlying ketamine-induced stress resilience and how individual memories are modified by ketamine administration. Within two years of joining the lab, she has published two first-authored manuscripts in Biological Psychiatry and Scientific Reports and co-author a third manuscript in Neuropsychopharmacology. In 2017, she was awarded the Rotary Global Grant to investigate the brain circuits underlying ketamine prophylactic efficacy, and, in 2018, she was awarded the Sackler Award by the Sackler Institute of Developmental Psychobiology at Columbia University to investigate ketamine effects during adolescence. Alessia was recently awarded the 2018 Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) to attend the SfN 2018 Conference and present her work on prophylactic ketamine. She is currently applying for NIH grants in order to develop her skills with the ultimate goal of transitioning into an independent PI position. In addition to her research work, Alessia also enjoys organizing events and activities for the Columbia Postdoctoral Society (CUPS) at Columbia University, as she was recently elected chair of networking and community building. You can find her on the following platforms: