Hosting a Focal Plane Journal Club: testimonials from our speakers

Posted by , on 17 March 2021

On 13 May 2020 we hosted our first Journal Club meeting. The aim of these meetings was to select microscopy-related papers and discuss them in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone was welcome to participate, and we gave special attention to early-career scientists (from undergraduate students to postdocs) who might not have the opportunity to participate in this kind of discussion in their lab or institution. So far, we have hosted 10 journal club meetings with an average attendance of ~20 scientists. After finishing our 2020 Journal Club series, we asked our presenters about their experiences of these meetings. Below there is a selection of their answers.

Why did you want to host a journal club?

They all agreed that it was a unique opportunity to discuss a paper with a wider scientific community from different research fields.

“We will be looking at a more accessible digital future no matter what happens with the current pandemic. I’d like our lab to host digital journal clubs to reach more interested parties and to share our science.”

Kathleen Pulin

“I love talking about microscopes and their applications. And the field of bioimaging has people from so many areas of research, I inevitably learn something from the discussions that arise from these presentations.”

Wilson Adams

Why/how did you select your paper?

The responses varied: a paper from a group they admire, a paper spotted in Twitter or their own preprint.

“I had spotted the paper on Twitter and it had immediately sparked my interest being within my specialism but a new application I didn’t quite understand. By choosing this paper this pushed me to really take the time to understand it, investigating further the parts that were beyond my understanding and aiming to prepare a presentation that would enable others to understand it. What helped was that the paper was really well written – giving me both confidence in my ability to determine what is a well- and a not-so-well-written paper and also clues about how to write up my own manuscripts.”

Joelle Goulding

“I picked a current paper that showed how scientists are collaborating to present research in the crisis; it was more about the type of teamwork going on, multiple institutes, many players, obvious respect for the microscopists and technical staff by the research scientists.”

Kathleen Pullin

How was the discussion?

They all agreed it was an interesting discussion given the different scientific backgrounds of the participants.

“Short but engaged.”

Romaine Laine

“The discussion was great – we were able to pick up on points I hadn’t understood, which we could discuss, and the wide range of expertise meant good ideas and alternate views. We didn’t just discuss the paper – we discussed related applications and I was also able to answer other questions posed by the group which were directly related to my current research. The group is diverse, having members from both physics and biology based fields.”

Joelle Goulding

How was the overall experience?

The general experience was positive and everyone enjoyed presenting.

“Presenting our own preprint in a Journal Club was a unique opportunity to step back from the scientific details of our work to assessing it in the broader context of research, its relevance, and how it bridges the current gap of knowledge. I particularly enjoyed having the time to discuss how our research relates to work in other model organisms and to data acquired with different microscopy techniques.”

Elisabeth Kugler

“Great but slightly unusual to be presenting other’s work in such a public way, but the openness is so important that we need to get over that kind of feeling.”

Romaine Laine

Why would you recommend hosting a Journal Club?

Everyone agreed on the great opportunity this represents as a personal learning exercise, but also on the possibilities it offers for networking and learning from others.

“Journal clubs in general are a fantastic chance to assess papers in a more abstract way and to look beyond the scientific details; or to exactly look at those, depending on the journal club’s host facilitation style. Reframing our own research for a Journal Club was an invaluable experience, which I would not want to miss. Also, meeting researchers who share the same interest and discussing science is always fun!.”

Elisabeth Kugler

“YES! Of course. Not only from a personal learning perspective, but the amount of interpersonal interaction has the potential to open a lot of doors for you professionally down the road. Get out there and put yourself in front of people. Don’t be afraid to learn, ask questions, etc.”

Wilson Adams

Romain Laine also said: “It’s a great exercise and most likely one that will be here to stay and should be here to stay,” and we couldn’t agree more! That’s why we are already planning the Journal Club meetings for 2021. This season we are making some changes on how to choose and present papers. We will be opening a poll to ask you which papers you think we should discuss. We’ll rank the most popular and invite the people that suggested them to present the paper. In order to engage the presenters and facilitate the networking between all of you, we’ll try to group two or three people to prepare and present the paper.

Please use the link below to suggest your papers – just enter the DOI (e.g. doi: 10.1242/jcs.248062) of the paper of interest. We will keep the poll open and continue to collect suggestions in order to know what topics are of interest to  you.

We’re planning to start the 2021 Journal Club meetings in April-May, so please start giving us your suggestions and join us!

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