Atlas: Elsevier’s new virtual journal

atlas Atlas is a new virtual journal launched by Elsevier that publishes articles with a social impact, chosen from across science, social sciences, technology and health.

With the slogan “Research for a better world”, it aims at showing the value of science and scientific publishing in ways that resonate with global challenges. Researchers are well placed to explain concepts, but journalists can bring the crucial attention needed to integrate science into society. Each month Atlas will showcase research that can (or already has) significantly impact people’s lives around the world. Atlas articles will fall into four broad categories: people, planet, resources, and technology.

Each article is chosen by an external advisory board that includes representatives of some of the world’s most renowned non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They choose from a shortlist of articles suggested by the Publishers of Elsevier’s 1,800+ journals. The key criterion for selection is the social impact of the research. Then, Atlas’s science writers summarize the research in an easy-to-understand story. The selected articles will also be made freely available on ScienceDirect, which the library subscribes to.

VOX: CEPR’s policy portal

CEPRVOX is an online information policy portal set up by CEPR. It operates with a Consortium of other sites, including the Italian site LaVoce, which provided inspiration for the idea and help from the start, the French site Telos, the Spanish site Sociedad Abierta, and the German Ökonomenstimme.

Vox aims to enrich the economic policy debate in Europe and beyond, and to promote the dissemination of research-based policy analysis and commentary by leading economists.

The intended audience is economists in governments, international organisations, academia and the private sector as well as journalists specialising in economics, finance and business.

The columns are organized by topic, date, reads or tag. If you choose to view the columns by topic, they are displayed in alphabetical order, showing the number of columns in each topic. The organization by date shows that the articles cover the period from March 2007 to present, and allows you to view the columns by month. The classification by reads shows you the most popular content, whereas ‘By tag’ displays the most frequently used tags, linked with the articled they are used in.

How to subscribe?

“RSS feeds” allow you to receive news about Vox columns directly to your desktop, iPhone, iPad, etc. To use RSS, you need an “RSS Reader”. There are many, but we recommend Feedly since it’s easy to set up and works across desktop and mobile devices.

To access feeds from your browser (on a PC or Mac) – Click here and follow the instructions. You need a Google Account to run this – but the up side is that it makes it effortless to synch across your laptop, desktop, iPhone, etc.

To access from your iPhone, iPad or Android device – Download the Feedly app from the App store and touch on the ‘bars’ top left to pull up the LOGON screen; log on with the same Google account and you automatically get the RSS feeds you added on all your other devices.

The APA style: definition and common errors

APA StyleAPA style is a format for academic documents such as journal articles and books. It is codified in the style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA), titled the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

The style originated in 1929, when a group of psychologists, anthropologists, and business managers sought to establish a simple set of style rules that would codify the many components of scientific writing to increase the ease of reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences, for clarity of communication, and for “word choice that best reduces bias in language”. The guidelines for reducing bias in language have been updated over the years and presently provide practical guidance for writing about race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status (APA, 2009, pp. 70–77; see also APA, 2009b).

APA style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences, but it is also widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals (including medical and other public health journals), in many textbooks, and in academia (for papers written in classes). Along with AMA style and CSE style, it is one of the major style regimes for such work. It has become common even in disciplines outside psychology, such as nursing, education and anthropology.

APA Style consists of rules or guidelines that a publisher observes to ensure clear and consistent presentation of written material. It concerns uniform use of elements such as selection of headings, tone, and length, punctuation and abbreviations, presentation of numbers and statistics, construction of tables and figures, citation of references, as well as many other elements that are a part of a manuscript. One of the characteristics of APA style is the absence of colorful language, metaphors or other attention-grabbing elements. According to it, papers must present themselves in as neutral a language as possible. In addition, APA style uses a very specific framework of citation and reference page styles.

Following this well-developed system of writing conventions, however, is not always easy. The most common APA errors made by authors of papers concern formatting and citation of references. According to a research carried out by the Journal of European Psychology Students’ Bulletin, 86,3% of the student papers contained incorrectly formatted head, whereas 75% did not have page numbers or the page numbers weren’t properly formatted. Another tendency was a missing abstract (72,7%), as well as the lack of keywords (61,3%).

Surprisingly, in-text citation errors were found in 84% of the papers studied by the Journal of European Psychology Students’ Bulletin. The most common ones include incorrect use of ‘et al.’, spelling inconsistencies, incorrect use of ‘since’ instead of ‘because’, and incorrect hyphenation.

Free research on the Web: 27 million documents


A 2013 European Commission report found that, among new papers being published, perhaps half are now free. Further, a 2014 study published in PLoS One, “The Number of Scholarly Documents on the Public Web,” has used computer science techniques to estimate the total amount of research knowledge available on the Web. 

Key findings:

As of 2013, when the scientists used algorithms to make their estimates, there were at least 114 million English-language studies available on the Web.

Of these 114 million, 27 million were open access — meaning that about one-quarter of online research knowledge in the English-speaking world is now free to the public on the Web.

There were significant differences in the availability of papers across disciplines. Some of the disciplines connected with the most profitable industries had the highest percentages of open papers: 50% for computer science; 42% for business and economics; 35% each for geosciences and physics.

It is also true that material and agricultural sciences and engineering all were estimated to have only 12% of their papers open to the public.

By contrast, only 19% of social science studies were found to be open access.

The authors note that academic research, open access or not, is not uniformly available on all search engines. For example, at the time of the study, Google Scholar indexed approximately 100 million of the 114 million studies available on the Web — 87%, therefore it would be useful for researchers to consider as a standard practice querying multiple databases and academic search engines.

Source: Massive and growing volume of free research on the Web: 27 million documents and counting / Journalist’s Resource (Harvard Kennedy School, Shorenstein Center)

How to write a conference abstract

ConferenceAbstractDr Helen Kara, Associate Research Fellow at the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, recently wrote a post on the LSE Blog “Maximising the impact of academic research”. Below are a some insights:

Dr Helen Kara responds to the ‘essential ‘how-to’ guide to writing good abstracts’ previously published in The Impact blog. She elaborates specifically on the differences for conference abstracts and offers tips for writing an enticing abstract for conference organisers and an engaging conference presentation.

She starts by pointing out some fundamental differences between article and conference abstracts:

  • Article abstracts are presented to journal editors along with the article concerned, whereas conference abstracts are presented alone to conference organisers. This means that journal editors or peer reviewers can say e.g. ‘great article but the abstract needs work’, while a poor abstract submitted to a conference organiser is very unlikely to be accepted.
  • Articles are typically 4,000-8,000 words long. Given that conference presentation slots usually allow 20 minutes and presenters should speak at around 125 words per minute, a conference presentation should be around 2,500 words long.
  • Articles are written to be read from the page, while conference presentations are presented in person. You need to engage your audience, and conference organisers will like to know how you intend to hold their interest. Written grammar is different from spoken grammar, therefore the old-skool approach of reading your written presentation from the page must be avoided.

The competition for getting a conference abstract accepted is rarely as fierce as the competition for getting an article accepted. Some conferences don’t even receive as many abstracts as they have presentation slots. But even then, they’re more likely to re-arrange their programme than to accept a poor quality abstract. And you can’t take it for granted that your abstract won’t face much competition.

Here are four useful tips on how to write a killer conference abstract:

  • First, your conference abstract is a sales tool: you are selling your ideas, first to the conference organisers, and then to the conference delegates. You need to make your abstract as fascinating and enticing as possible. And that means making it different. So think through some key questions:

What kinds of presentations is this conference most likely to attract? How can you make yours different?

What are the fashionable areas in your field right now? Are you working in one of these areas? If so, how can you make your presentation different from others doing the same? If not, how can you make your presentation appealing?

There may be clues in the call for papers, so study this carefully.

Remember that conference organisers are trying to create as interesting and stimulating an event as they can, and variety and a good balance of presentations are crucial.

  • Second, write your abstract well. Unless your abstract is for a highly academic and theoretical conference, wear your learning lightly. Engaging concepts in plain English, with a sprinkling of references for context, is much more appealing to conference organisers than complicated sentences with lots of long words, definitions of terms, and several dozen references. Conference organisers are not looking for evidence that you can do really clever writing (save that for your article abstracts), they are looking for evidence that you can give an entertaining presentation.
  • Third, conference abstracts written in the future tense are off-putting for conference organisers, because they don’t make it clear that the potential presenter knows what they’ll be talking about. If your presentation will include information about work you’ll be doing in between the call for papers and the conference itself, then make that clear.
  • Fourth, of course you need to tell conference organisers about your research: its context, method, and findings. It will also help enormously if you can take a sentence or three to explain what you intend to include in the presentation itself. This will give conference organisers some confidence that you can actually put together and deliver an engaging presentation.

So, to summarise, to maximise your chances of success when submitting conference abstracts:

  • Make your abstract fascinating, enticing, and different.
  • Write your abstract well, using plain English wherever possible.
  • Don’t write in the future tense if you can help it – and, if you must, specify clearly what you will do and when.
  • Explain your research, and also give an explanation of what you intend to include in the presentation.

While that won’t guarantee success, it will massively increase your chances. Best of luck!

Helen Kara is the author of Research and Evaluation for Busy Practitioners (2012) and Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences (April 2015), both published by Policy Press.

Ethics in research

ethicsA post written by Sarah Tanksalvala on Thomson Reuters EndNote blog deals with the concept of ethical research. Here are a few insights.

Everyone knows plagiarism is wrong, but whatever your academic discipline, the concept of “ethical research” roams into a lot of gray areas.

For example, did you know that the number of participants, or the way you ask someone for an interview, can determine whether your research is ethical or not? Or that the scientific method is an ethical issue?

Dubious research practices can be damaging to both participants and academia, and it’s also one of the fastest ways possible to damage your reputation. When planning any research study, there are a number of things you’ll need to take into account.

Method matters

Regardless of the study, the most fundamental aspect of ethical research – unless there’s a technology failure – is sticking to the scientific method.

“If you don’t like the data, you may change your hypothesis or better yet, design a better experiment,” says Richard Hichwa (professor and senior associate vice president for research, the University of Iowa). “The thought process of ‘the hypothesis and data don’t match, so I can tweak it to make it match,’ that’s a shady perspective.”

This is important for more than reasons of academic honesty, though. If the next steps of your research involve human participants, you need to know exactly what value you’ll get from the experiment and if it warrants the risks to your participants. If your original studies were flawed or tweaked, you won’t know this.

Use your subjects wisely

If there’s no risk to a participant (such as with a survey), you have more flexibility in the number of people you choose to participate.

When you are conducting research that involves human subjects, participation must be purely voluntary, and you must avoid using language which pushes the participant to do things they might not want to do.

Even asking for an interview can be problematic if you phrase your request in a way that makes them feel obligated or pressured, such as, “I’d really appreciate it if I could interview you.”, especially when dealing with vulnerable populations. Even after they accept, you must maintain this standard of voluntary participation, so subjects know they are not obligated to go any further.

It is also crucial that you maintain the privacy and confidentiality of your subjects unless they voluntarily – and without any pressure – give you permission to record or identify them in some way.

Read more here