How To Publish Research Presentations in Formal and Informal Ways
Presenting original research at conferences, symposiums, workshops and other professional meetings is an essential part of a successful academic or scientific career and it also tends to be a rewarding activity. Beyond the engaging social interaction with like-minded individuals and the many opportunities to multiply valuable connections, attendees who are also presenters benefit in two distinct ways. For one, they are able to learn about the new research of colleagues and offer constructive comments on that work; secondly, they are able to share their own recent or current research with those colleagues and receive helpful feedback in turn via formal questions and informal discussions. More than one scholar facing difficult research twists or frustrating dead ends has experienced the revitalisation that comes with participating in a lively academic or scientific conference, and occasionally has even discovered the very answers he or she was seeking.
However, as primarily spoken material, the content of research presentations does not always become part of the permanent academic or scientific record, occasionally even in fields where conferences and symposiums constitute a primary means of disseminating new research. In addition, a conference presentation listed on a CV may not be regarded as highly as published documents are by the hiring committees and funding agencies that assess a researcher’s achievements and potential. It is therefore almost always desirable to publish a research presentation in some way as well as sharing it orally with conference attendees, but the question of where or how to publish research presentations often arises. A number of publishing options for research presentations are outlined and discussed below along with tips and advice on how to publish a research presentation in reputable and productive ways.
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Informal Conference Records
Electronic versions of the research presentations given during a conference or symposium are sometimes collected by the conference organisers and made available to participants and attendees. Similarly, the presentations along with the questions and discussions that follow may be recorded (visually as well as aurally), again primarily for attendees. In either case, there is often a cost associated with obtaining a CD or DVD of the presentations, but a printed or electronic list of presentation titles and abstracts may be free. Although such records are sometimes referred to as conference proceedings, they are usually intended only for participants and attendees and do not constitute formal publication, though they may prove an effective way to disseminate research presentations somewhat beyond the meeting and its attendees if participants are given the freedom to share the files personally or online. See the discussions of University Websites, Personal Websites and Professional Media below.
Conference proceedings are also the responsibility of the conference or symposium organisers and are in most cases considered formal publications. Not all scholarly meetings produce published conference proceedings, but they are extremely common in some scientific fields. The proceedings for a particular conference may include every presentation given during the event or only a selection of them. If some of the presentations are not published in their entirety, the abstracts for those presentations will usually be included, and in some cases most or all of the presentations will be represented via abstracts only. If there is a plan to collect presentations into a published volume of conference proceedings, participants are usually informed in the initial call for papers, via an invitation from the organisers or when presentations are accepted for the conference.
Editorial policies for exactly how to publish research presentations in formal conference proceedings vary, so the presentations in some proceedings are peer reviewed and copyedited just as the articles published in scholarly journals are, whereas others are printed or disseminated online without undergoing such editorial rigour. Research presentations might be published with the content precisely how it was originally given without any changes, but more often each participant is asked to provide a publishable version of his or her presentation after the conference is over. Exactly how much revision is allowed in the presentations varies, but participants are usually permitted to make changes for the published presentation based on audience responses at the conference and new research since the event. The addition of citations and references in the documentation style indicated by the organisers is always necessary, and so too are any stylistic or formatting requirements outlined in the guidelines provided by the organisers.
The publishers of conference proceedings vary as well, so the society responsible for a conference may publish the proceedings, or a particular academic or scientific journal may take them on as a special issue, or an independent academic publisher or even a vanity press might publish the presentations from a conference. Who publishes a research presentation can be extremely important, so it is vital to give some thought to the publisher’s activities and reputation within your field of study and the scholarly community as a whole. Will the publisher be able to provide high-quality editing and peer reviewing? Will it offer wide and appropriately targeted dissemination? Will the research presentations be freely accessible online? Will they be indexed in the key databases used for discovering research in the field? These and other questions are worth answering by doing a little research and asking the organisers for specific information about how they plan to publish the research presentations offered at the conference. Opting out of the conference proceedings may not be possible after your presentation is given, so it is best to learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision before you agree to participate.
Independent Edited Collections
An alternative to conference proceedings as an answer to the question of how to publish research presentations is the edited collection of research essays or papers that focus on a particular topic, theme or research problem. Such a collection may be very similar to the conference proceedings discussed above, particularly if the collection is produced by the conference organisers with the goal being to publish a significant selection of the research presentations from the conference. On the other hand, a collection appropriate for publishing a conference presentation might have very little or nothing at all to do with the conference itself. A research presentation might, for instance, be published in a collection dedicated to a topic or theme similar to that of the conference but containing papers from various sources, not just the conference. This sort of publishing opportunity must usually be sought, found and arranged by the author of a research presentation, and it is necessary to inform the editors of the collection about the initial conference or symposium presentation as well as any informal or formal publications of the abstract or the entire presentation that have already taken place.
While an abstract published in a volume of conference proceedings is rarely problematic for future publishing options, some collection editors will not accept research presentations that have been published elsewhere or previously disseminated in any other way, even if the version submitted for publication differs significantly from the original presentation and other versions. The guidelines or author instructions provided by the editors of the collection must be consulted and observed with precision as the presentation is transformed into a publishable chapter, and the editors will generally act as peer reviewers of the research and writing, so be prepared for a round of feedback and revisions. Finally, the questions about scholarly reputation, editorial standards, dissemination practices, discoverability and accessibility that I suggested should be asked about conference proceedings should also be applied to both the editors of the monograph and the press that will be publishing the book. Remember that a monograph produced as an e-book as well as a printed book will often prove more searchable, discoverable and citeable for today’s readers.
Academic & Scientific Journals
Publishing a research presentation in an academic or scientific journal tends to be a top choice for how to publish research presentations. Scholarly journals exist, after all, to publish new and valuable research, so they are the perfect venue for innovative and groundbreaking work in progress or just completed. This focus on novelty means that it is absolutely essential when submitting a manuscript to an academic or scientific journal to disclose the dissemination history of the paper, so the original presentation at the conference should always be mentioned in the cover letter sent with the journal submission. If an abstract or the entire presentation has appeared in conference proceedings, make this clear to the editor and explain with clarity and precision exactly what about the content of the presentation has been changed for journal publication. Most journals will not be interested in a manuscript that has already been published in a very similar form and is readily available to readers online, but acquisitions editors are well aware that conference presentations often contain research in progress and some will be keen to publish the finished version.
Submitting a research presentation to an academic or scientific journal for consideration means observing the same formal processes you would were you submitting any other kind of research manuscript for journal publication. Be sure to read the guidelines and instructions for authors carefully and follow them with precision and consistency to produce an error-free research paper that is structured, formatted and submitted exactly as the journal would have it. Pay special attention to the required style for in-text citations and the final list of references, and to limitations or restrictions such as a maximum length for the paper or any of its individual sections, or a maximum number of references that can be cited and discussed. Sometimes learning about a journal’s practical requirements as well as a journal’s publishing scope and aims can help an author decide whether the journal is right for the research or not, so if you need several tables and figures to visualise your results for readers, but the journal allows none, a little more shopping around for a journal that will better meet your needs is necessary.
Academic and scientific journals, like other scholarly publications, vary in their editorial and dissemination practices, so it is wise to do some research to find out more about a journal’s policies and business model before making the decision to revise a research presentation for submission as a research article. Has the journal or any of its authors been accused of scholarly misconduct? Does it follow an open-access model or will your writing be behind a paywall? What is the journal’s impact factor? Are its publications included in the databases and indexing resources commonly used in your field? Will its publication schedule enable you to publish your research in a timely fashion? Beyond these concerns, it is important to remember that top-tier scholarly journals have very high rejection rates and tend to pride themselves on rigorous review and editing practices, so even a successful research paper may require significant revisions and corrections after peer review. The best impression will be made if the research is sound and carefully explained, the writing is clear and correct, and the structure and formatting observe every aspect of the journal’s guidelines.
Academic & Scientific Monographs
If a research presentation as originally given focussed on a very small part of a larger research project, it may be appropriate to expand the manuscript and publish it as a monograph dedicated to the larger project. If this is the goal, a great deal of time and effort, and quite possibly additional research and analysis, will need to be invested in the original presentation before it can be published even as a short book. As my comments above suggest, significant revisions may also be needed or wanted with the other options for how to publish research presentations, and some additions (such as citations and references) will always be necessary. However, turning a short research presentation into a book-length study is an enormous undertaking and may only be a wise decision in some disciplines and fields of study. In the humanities, for instance, publishing a monograph remains an essential aspect of launching a successful career, but in the sciences publishing new research in peer-reviewed journal papers tends to be more productive and influential.
Research that involves the contributions of many different experts and authors is often particularly appropriate for publication in a monograph. Individual chapters and sections might be produced by different researchers, or several scholars could work on any one part or the whole book together. Research, writing, editing, revising and proofreading tasks are far less onerous when many qualified hands contribute and many attentive eyes can check the work. Seeking an appropriate press to publish an academic or scientific book will also take time and research, but keep in mind that the review and editorial practices of the publisher should meet or exceed acceptable publishing standards in the research area. University presses, for instance, tend to observe such standards and be especially good choices for original research, whereas vanity or pay-to-publish presses might promise to publish a research manuscript hastily, but eliminate key editing and reviewing stages to do so. Each relevant publisher and its recent publications should be examined and assessed with care. Finally, the accessibility of a searchable electronic version of a scholarly book is always appealing, so keep dissemination and reader access in mind when considering how to publish a research presentation as a complete book.
University Websites & Repositories
If formal publication is not a priority when considering how to publish a research presentation, but ensuring that the presentation is available to interested readers is, uploading the document to a university or institutional website is an excellent idea. In most cases multimedia can be accommodated, so that video of the presentation taken by the conference organisers could be used, but do be sure to inform the people who made it and obtain any permission that may be necessary for reuse. Electronic files of the abstract and research presentation can also be uploaded (again with the appropriate permission if either was published in conference proceedings or elsewhere) along with any visual material such as tables, maps and images that might help readers understand the research and its context. Changes of any kind might be made to the content of a research presentation before uploading, and revisions that stem from feedback received at the conference tend to be especially appropriate, but this kind of informal publication does not necessitate revision of the presentation. In-text citations and a list of references to accompany them constitute the sole exception: if these were not included in the original presentation, they should be added before the text is made available to readers. Failure to do so suggests poor scholarship and may result in accusations of plagiarism. Although depositing a research presentation in a university repository does not amount to formal publication, many hiring committees and funding bodies do consider this sort of activity in a positive light, and as long as other investigators can find your research, they can use and cite it, so be sure that authorship, title and metadata are exactly as they should be.
Personal Websites & Blogs
Personal websites and blogs offer another effective way in which to disseminate research presentations without formally publishing them. As with university and institutional sites, various kinds of media can usually be accommodated or at least linked to the site. It may seem appealing to mix personal with professional information on the website used to disseminate conference presentations and other research documents, but readers are likely to take the research on a personal website more seriously if the owner comes across as a professional researcher or career academic or scientist. Some online databases and indexing resources will also track and include research documents found on websites that contain predominantly scholarly material, but not documents on websites that contain significant amounts of other kinds of information. If the idea is to attract serious readers, it is therefore important to make the website a scholarly one by restricting it to research-based material. It is also important that the website can be easily navigated not just by readers, but also by the search and parsing software used by indexing databases, so looking into the requirements for effective indexing in relevant research fields is essential to produce a website that will prove a successful online context for informally publishing research presentations.
Blogging can be a particularly engaging way in which to share all kinds of research, including the research presentations given at conferences, symposiums and other professional meetings. It might take a few blog posts to reproduce the content of a research presentation, but there is no need to stick to the original text. A blog post that briefly summaries a presentation and highlights the objectives of the research and its key findings may be far more effective for communicating with online readers in any case. Alternatively, the author of a research presentation could write a blog about the experience of giving a presentation at a conference and focus on how the research was received and will perhaps take new directions as a result. The sky is really the limit when it comes to blogging, but maintaining professionalism through research and writing excellence is imperative, as are including citations and references for your sources and obtaining necessary permission for any reused material.
Professional Media Platforms
Many academics and scientists now share their research on professional media platforms such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate. These are used by millions of scholars and can provide far more exposure than a personal or even a university website can, so they are excellent tools for disseminating a research presentation far beyond the participants and attendees of a conference. In some cases a video of the presentation can be uploaded to a scholar’s profile page; in others links to media of this kind available elsewhere online (on YouTube, for instance) can be provided. The text file of the presentation can certainly be uploaded and will very soon begin appearing in searches, with the author usually being informed about who is reading and citing it. Here too there will be the freedom to upload a research presentation in whatever form may be preferred, but obtaining permission for reuse of any earlier publication of the presentation will prevent potential problems with copyright infringement, and including appropriate and accurate citations and references remains essential.
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