How to Communicate Effectively in Scientific Publishing?

A publication is usually a collaborative effort of several researchers, editors, and reviewers. It is not uncommon for a reviewer or an editor to ask for changes in the content of the paper based on their understanding of the research. Even with different roles assumed by each person involved in the process of publishing, it does not mean there cannot be miscommunication among them. There are times when communication breaks down between an author and a reviewer or an editor. When this happens, authors may feel frustrated, defensive, or confused about what to do next.

The objective of this blog post is to highlight some common challenges and provide tips on how you can communicate effectively as a research author with your reviewers or editorial team. Read on to discover tips from other authors’ experiences that may help you future proof your own communication experience.

Communicating with your reviewer or editorial team

Reviewers are expected to provide constructive feedback that is based on their understanding of the content. In many cases, this understanding may not be aligned with what the authors intend to communicate. Similarly, an editor may approach you with a suggestion or a request for changes to the paper based on his/her interpretation of what the content means. In these situations, it is important you establish a good communication channel with the reviewer or the editor so that you can properly understand what is being communicated and respond in a way that ensures the rest of the process flows smoothly. You may find it useful to understand the perspective that each of these individuals has with regard to the communication process.

Being an effective communicator

Communication is a two-way street. It is your responsibility to ensure you are communicating well with others, but it is also important to be receptive to their communication as well. Here are some tips on how you can be an effective communicator with your reviewer or editorial team: -

  • Be open to constructive criticism: As an author, you may have put in hours of hard work and effort to produce a high-quality paper. You may think that the paper cannot be any better than it already is. You may feel compelled to defend your paper against criticisms, but you should understand that the review process is not about judging the paper or trying to tear it down. It is about collaborating with others to improve the paper so the content has the maximum possible impact on the readers.
  • Communicate clearly: It is essential that you clearly communicate what you want to convey to others. The surest way to do that is to put yourself in your reviewer’s or editor’s shoes. This way, you will know what information is relevant and what information is not needed.
  • Be receptive to others’ communication: As an author, you may be eager to communicate your thoughts and intentions with your reviewer or editor. At the same time, you may be reluctant to listen to their feedback. You should not assume that the communication is about you and how you feel about the review process. Instead, it is about the shared goal of improving the paper.

How does writing your Paper Effectively improves Communication?

Your paper is one of the main communications points and it is very important that you spend some time improving the way concepts are described. The way you write the paper will help the communication that takes place throughout the subsequent process to be clearer and simpler. For this reason, here are some tips to follow when writing your paper.

Define the purpose of your paper

Before you start working on the paper, it is important to understand the purpose of the paper. The purpose statement is the single sentence that includes the paper’s main idea, the readers targeted, and the relationship between the paper and other related work. If you are having a tough time identifying the main idea of your paper, it may be helpful to use one of the following approaches:

  • Think about what problem your paper is trying to solve: This is the most common approach used by authors when they are trying to write a paper. Problem-based papers define the problem and then propose an approach to solve it.
  • Ask yourself who the paper is for: Another approach is to frame the paper based on the impact it could have on the readers. You can use the who, what, when, where, and why approach to define the paper’s purpose.
  • Ask yourself what other papers are related to yours: You can also try to frame your paper based on the relationship between your paper and other related papers.

Clarify the expectations of your paper

There is no standard format for a research paper. Each field has its own conventions for formatting and structuring papers. You can use this to your advantage to clearly communicate your expectations for the paper.

  • Structure: The structure of a paper communicates the flow and order of the information. It is completely up to you to decide how you want to organize your paper. However, it is crucial to keep your readers in mind. Make sure that the choices you make with regard to the paper’s structure are consistent throughout the paper.
  • Paper length: Paper length varies greatly across fields and types of papers. However, it is important that you communicate with your reviewers and editor the length of the paper. This way, they will know where to draw the line when giving you feedback.
  • Formatting: The style of formatting for a paper varies greatly across fields. You can use your editor’s suggestions as a guide for where you should draw the line with your formatting.

Focus on the key message and purpose

A research paper is all about the content. The content is what will draw the readers in and keep their attention. The content is what will trigger action in the readers. A paper’s content is the core of everything.

  • Choose your examples wisely: The examples you use in the paper are important for two reasons. First, they help you illustrate the main idea of the paper. Second, they can be a source of distraction that takes attention away from the main idea of the paper. Choose your examples wisely so that they are relevant and helpful in supporting the paper’s main idea.
  • Keep jargon to a minimum: Jargon is an important part of any field of study. However, it is not necessarily the best idea to use jargon in the paper. It is important to be accessible with your paper. This way, your paper can reach the widest possible audience.
  • Write with the readers in mind: It is important to write with the readers in mind. The readers should be able to find value in the paper and understand what the paper is trying to say.
  • Focus on clarity and briefness: It is also important to be clear and brief with the paper. You want to keep the readers engaged and interested in the paper. You don’t want to lose their attention because the paper is too long or it is hard to understand.

Sum up what has been Agreed upon and what is Still in Question

As you respond to your reviewer or editor, it is important to summarize the points that have been agreed upon and the points that are still in question. This way, everyone involved in the communication process knows what needs to be done next and where each person stands with regard to the communication. - Producer/consumer relationship: Communication is a two-way street.

When you communicate with your reviewer or editor, it is important to be mindful of the producer/consumer relationship. You are the producer of the paper, and the reviewer and editor are the consumers. You are responsible for communicating your expectations and requirements for the paper. At the same time, you should also be receptive to the consumer’s feedback and suggestions.

Listen to feedback: It is important to listen to your reviewer or editor. While you should be clear about what your paper should include, you should also consider their feedback and suggestions. After all, they are the ones reviewing your paper.

Ask questions: If something doesn’t make sense or if there is something you are unsure about, you should ask questions. The feedback may be coming from a good place, but you may not understand it because it isn’t clear enough.

Summarize: As you respond to your reviewer or editor, it is important to summarize the points that have been agreed upon and the points that are still in question.

Ask for clarification if you are still unsure about the feedback

Communication involves two parties, and there are times when the flow of communication may break down. It is important to understand that miscommunication may be the result of several factors, such as different roles and perspectives of each person, different communication styles, language barriers, different cultural backgrounds, and time constraints.

Ask clarifying questions: If there is something that you don’t understand or if there is something that you feel is incomplete, you should ask for clarification.


Roberto Rabasco

+10 years’ experience working for Deutsche Telekom, Just Eat or Asos. Leading, designing and developing high-availability software solutions, he built his own software house in '16