BEEDIE LUMINARIES–When asking four undergraduate students from the University of British Columbia about their experience getting published in JMIR (Journal Medical Informatics Research), they had an unexpected response:
“To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect and we didn’t really even consider publishing our work as a real option”. In fact, they went on to discuss the challenges and misconceptions they encountered and how they were faced with confusion, and even failure, throughout the process.
Still, they succeeded and their paper entitled “Machine Learning and Causal Approaches to Predict Readmissions and Its Economic Consequences Among Canadian Patients With Heart Disease: Retrospective Study“, now sits on the JMIR website fully published after a full year of edits and hard work.
As a reader, you may or may not be familiar with the process of publishing work in a notable academic journal, but these students are here to make the process easier for you. Here to break down the myths and share their secrets, it’s time to meet your authors: Ethan Rajkumar, Jubelle Paa, Sandra Radic, and Kevin Nguyen!
Readers, please meet your authors!
STUDENTS–Hey! We’re 4 students with an idea we wanted to share with the world.
More specifically, we’re 4 students who wanted to contribute to scientific literacy, but who just one year ago had no clue where to start. Sound familiar? This blog’s for you!
We recently got our idea published in the JMIR Formative Research Journal, which was a dream come true, and we would love to walk you through our publishing process to help you gain insight into the scientific publishing world.
Some context – our journey started back in May 2022 when we came together with the shared goal of participating in the Inter-University STEM Fellowship Big Data challenge. Our project was centered around leveraging Machine Learning and Data Science to predict hospital readmission. After months of hard work we were able to win the JMIR Innovation Award, which was an award that was the choice between a monetary sum, or funding towards getting published in one of JMIR’s journals. As a team, we took the risk and decided to pursue the latter. This was the start of our publication journey.
Four students, pictured above, are the authors of a recently published journal article in JMIR. In order, Sandra Radić (top left), Kevin Nguyen (top left), Ethan Rajkumar (bottom left), Jubelle Paa (top right).
Nice to meet you! Let’s get into it. What’s it like starting the process of getting published?
The publishing process is a windy road. Our advice: don’t be afraid of failure – rejection is redirection.
We initially did not get accepted to the first JMIR journal we applied to. We actually received a D rating (one step above rejection!), and some hefty feedback. Below is a summary:
- The abstract needs more structure and detail, and our objectives, methods, and the connection between results and conclusions must be clearer.
- There was a call for the inclusion of more recent and relevant references and a deeper explanation of our methodology in the background and methods sections. Some content might need to be relocated for better structure.
- Some assumptions and statements in our manuscript were critiqued for being too general or lacking evidence.
The reviewers also suggested adding sections such as Ethical Considerations and Data Availability.
Ouch! So you didn’t just give up, right?
No, of course not! A common misconception is that you only get one shot at publication, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Oftentimes there are more suitable journals or publishers that are a better match for your paper. In our case, we decided to explore more journal options within JMIR.
Though the D rating was difficult to hear, the feedback we got was invaluable. We strongly recommend taking feedback from editors seriously, and taking the time to think about it critically. Don’t get discouraged, because if the editor is giving you feedback it means they believe in your work and are willing to spend energy on you to help make your paper as best as possible. It will take time though, and that’s normal. Be prepared to go through multiple rounds of editing.
Our corresponding editor suggested that we should address the comments that were made, and try submitting again to a different journal. We followed this advice and ended up narrowing down the scope of our paper, improving our methodology and overall results, and consequently submitted again to a couple of journals before landing on JMIR Formative Research Journal. This time we were successful! And the rest is history.
Just kidding, there’s more.
Step Two? It’s all about the mental prep.
The mental prep bit of the process is what these students call a long ride… and that’s okay!
Publishing is a lengthy process. Think of your definition of lengthy, and then add another 6 months to it.
In our case, it took us just over a year to go through the whole process. Oftentimes it takes even longer, depending on the project size and publishing needs! Don’t let the time commitment discourage you, and always remember that this is a process everybody goes through.
Committing to any project for a long period of time can cause strain in your personal life, especially when juggling multiple responsibilities including extracurriculars and full-time school. Our team learned of the importance of supporting each other, setting boundaries, and taking breaks when needed.
When you have a far-away deadline, be it for anything from an assignment to a publication, the work leading up to it can appear daunting. It is vital to break down this large task into multiple smaller ones in order to complete everything in a manageable and effective way. In group work, it is equally as vital to take ownership of your tasks and communicate when you need assistance.
Compassion and patience are two qualities we improved on that we didn’t expect to at first, and we came to find they were essential to succeeding in this process.
Step Three: Editing, editing… and more editing.
It is highly likely that your paper will go through multiple rounds of editing. This is overwhelming – trust us, we get it! Instead of letting this overwhelming thought get the better of you, we recommend thinking of each round as a step closer towards getting published. Receiving feedback from a publishing company is invaluable, and with their experience your writing will only become better, and your message will be conveyed even more strongly. Besides, the fact that your paper is getting edited so closely means it’s a paper worth publishing! With this motivated mindset, you will get through it, we promise.
Transparency is key. At the end of the day, you want to submit a manuscript that’s robust and that represents your research well. We found that our publisher was very flexible and accommodating to our needs, so long as we maintained good communication. For instance, if you feel you need an extension to submit your best work, in our case, our publisher was open to that. We were very lucky to feel supported by JMIR employees throughout the entire process, and we learned that editors are there to help answer questions, provide clarifications, and guide you through the process – so don’t be afraid to communicate!
But wait… Don’t you need a supervisor to get published?
The most traditional way of getting published is by working under an academic supervisor. This is an amazing opportunity, and a highly highly recommended route, but it’s not necessarily the only way to publish your work.
Our team had a very unique path to publication, where we tested out our project idea by competing in the 2022 Inter-University Big Data Challenge (IUBDC) before independently applying to JMIR. We worked very hard on our initial manuscript and were able to win the JMIR Innovation Award, which we are endlessly grateful for. With this monetary award along with the encouragement and support of IUBDC representatives, we were able to apply to JMIR, eventually landing with a publication in their Formative Research Journal.
Now, the financial aid absolutely helped us in this process, because as students it is not always possible to pay out of pocket for everyone. We recommend looking into research awards such as through competitions like the IUBDC, but you can also apply to grants through organizations including but not limited to NSERC, the Government of Canada, or even through your respective post-secondary institution.
The key here is to not limit yourself – there’s no right way to “get published”, but rather many opportunities to showcase your research and get your foot in the door.
We would like to acknowledge people who have supported us through our publishing journey:
- Adrian Stanley, JMIR Reviewer and Mentor
- Qiyang Geng, Contributor
- Benjamin D. Fedrouk and Zackary Masri, STEM Fellowship and IUBDC Challenge
- JMIR Publication Team
Any other questions?
Our team is more than happy to continue this conversation and help you out in any way we can! Contributing to scientific literature is a collaborative process, and publications of research are a beautiful method of inspiring each other and building towards new found discoveries.
Please feel free to reach out to us! Oh, and check out our paper here!
Congratulations again to these students! We are so excited to see what comes next for you all.
Meet Luminaries like Sandra, Jubelle, and Ethan here. #BeedieBright!Back To Top