Author Highlights

Interviews

Read exclusive interviews with some of our authors whose papers were selected in the Altmetric Top 100 2018 and learn about their research.

 

Laurent Lebreton - Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic

1. How did this paper come about? 

The paper was the results of three years of exploration on plastics floating in the North Pacific subtropical waters, including a multi-vessel expedition and an aerial reconnaissance mission. The main objective of the study was to provide a comprehensive quantification and characterisation of marine litter accumulating in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

2. What was the decision process in choosing where to publish?

We were aiming at a high impact journal that offered the possibility to publish open science. Our main research funding comes from private donations and publishing in open access journals is a requirement.

3. How do you think publishing in an open access journal like Scientific Reports has impacted the visibility of scientific research?

It naturally increases the visibility of scientific research. Journalists for instance may freely access the manuscript, the figures, the supplementary data etc., which later allows for the production of new figures and media supporting your publication.

4. How has the reaction to your work by the public benefited you? 

I'm not sure it benefited me directly apart from getting me busy, answering emails. I now have school classes experimenting with ocean plastics and asking me questions about marine litter. I guess the reaction surely benefited the cause and helped build awareness around the issue of plastic pollution.

5. What advice do you have for other researchers on maximising the dissemination of their work? 

The publication was complemented by the launch of a webpage showing the basic findings and animated results that could be shared on social media. We prepared an embargoed press release that we provided to journalists a week prior to the publication. In general, spending time on making figures is very important in my opinion, choosing the right color tones, aligning elements and maximizing readability is key for your audience to rapidly understand your study and be encouraged to dive into your text.

 

Heather Lynch - Multi-modal survey of Adélie penguin mega-colonies reveals the Danger Islands as a seabird hotspot

1. How did this paper come about?

A couple of years before, my colleague Mathew Schwaller and I discovered what looked to be some very large penguin colonies on islands that were not known to host breeding penguins. At first we thought our algorithm for detecting penguin colonies had made a mistake and we investigated further with higher resolution imagery to figure out what had gone wrong. But when we looked more closely, it was clear that there were several colonies of penguins that were, by our estimation, some of the largest in Antarctica. Fast forward a couple years, some collaborators and I were able to secure funding from the Dalio Foundation for an expedition to the region. We called the expedition the Danger Islands Expedition, in part because the acronym (DIE) was an homage to the difficulty of actually landing successfully in a region famous for its impenetrable sea ice. While we were fully prepared for the expedition to fail, it was a stunning success and we managed to not only survey all the islands in the Danger Islands archipelago but several other important colonies along the Antarctic Peninsula as well. As is pretty typical, analyzing all the data from the expedition and writing up our paper took over a year, so the final report of our discovery was not official until several years after we became interested in these mystery colonies.

2. What was the decision process in choosing where to publish?

Antarctic research, particularly field research, can be remarkably difficult to publish despite the interest it often generates in the media. Many journals see Antarctica as being so remote that it couldn’t possibly be of broad interest in the scientific community, which is a shame because all ecology is in some sense local to where the data are collected. We chose Scientific Reports because we thought it was more likely to be considered on its merits rather than some pre-defined notion of what would appeal. In that sense, the incredible interest this paper received within the popular press is a bit ironic, and I hope it challenges the notion that Antarctic work is only of interest to those of us lucky enough to work there.

3. How do you think publishing in an open access journal like Scientific Reports has impacted the visibility of scientific research?

One of the challenges of working in a place like Antarctica is that our community is truly global, and we have to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone who would want to read about our work has a subscription to the journals we might use to publish our data. Our first concern is always to ask ourselves, where can we publish where our results will get to those who need to see them? When we have findings that have significant implications for management, as did this paper, going with an open-access outlet makes a lot of sense.

4. How has the reaction to your work by the public benefited you?

I can’t speak for my co-authors, but for me personally, I’ve been most excited about some of the educational materials to have been developed around our discovery in the Danger Islands. There have been some really terrific science-in-the-news style products that we have helped develop with educational publishers, and I’ve heard from many teachers that teach about this paper as a means for introducing kids to satellites and drones and penguins. I’ve received countless e-mails from kids who want to know more and even a fantastic hand drawn card from a child thanking me for my work on penguins. As a scientist, and as a parent, it’s probably the best recognition you could ask for.

5. What advice do you have for other researchers on maximising the dissemination of their work?

Actually, I learned a lot from this experience, and I have to credit my co-authors for really showing me how to work with the media and stay ahead of the media interest when a story really takes off. The best thing we did was create a Dropbox folder of resources for the media ahead of time, with photos and captions and videos cleared for use by media organizations. We also created a spreadsheet with contact information, areas of specialty, and availability of all the paper’s co-authors for the days following the paper’s release. With literally hundreds of outlets reaching out every day over that first couple of weeks, we couldn’t have managed without having prepared all those materials in advance. I was also struck by how critical the visuals were to getting the story out. Having the drone video, as opposed to just the still images, made all the difference for the media’s interest in the story. It certainly makes me think more about how to frame a story in advance, since the peer review process is unpredictable and your paper might be online with little notice. If you don’t have your press materials and press release in hand long in advance, you risk missing that narrow window of opportunity to really share your work with the broader public.

 

Tove Fall - Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study

1. How did this paper come about? 

When I was practising as a veterinary clinician it struck me how much dogs mean to their owners. When I became a researcher working in registry-based epidemiology, I and my colleagues realized how cool it would be to try to assess the potential health effects of dog ownership moving away from self-reported outcomes.  

2. What was the decision process in choosing where to publish?

We really wanted to reach out to the scientific and non-scientific community with our findings. We first tried some very selective journals, but the manuscript was rejected. We then chose to go with Scientific Reports, which publishes high quality research and is open access. 
 
3. How do you think publishing in an open access journal like Scientific Reports has impacted the visibility of scientific research?

It has been extremely good in the way that people outside academia could read the article.

4. How has the reaction to your work by the public benefited you? 

I have been invited to talk about our dog research in many different settings, both in academia but also to the general public. I think that the attention has also increased the acceptance for these research questions among my peers. These study questions are often regarded as more “soft” than my other research, which is often based on novel technologies such as sequencing. 

5. What advice do you have for other researchers on maximising the dissemination of their work? 

Put effort into making a good press release that all the co-authors are happy with. Do not oversell your findings – the journalists will exaggerate them anyway. If there are any caveats, spell them out already in the release. Set aside time to talk to media – you do not want to be busy when BBC and New York Times call.