“Neuro Forum” – Involving the next generation of neurophysiologists
In a recent editorial, David Linden, the newish Chief Editor at J Neurophysiology, introduced his readership to an original section in his journal entitled “Neuro Forum”. The design is based on the “Journal Club” series started in 2006 by J Neuroscience and is supposed to be penned by younger scientists (students and post-docs).
To differentiate Neuro Forum from the J Neurosci Journal Club, authors will be able to comment on any paper from any journal published within the previous 3 months. In addition, besides producing commentaries on one particular paper, authors can also write mini-reviews on hot topics.
This is a great initiative for young neuroscientists, but they shouldn’t stop there!!! This is an opportunity for J Neurophys to expand even further beyond the printed manuscript and storm into the digital domain that has been so exhaustively discussed throughout this site and others.
First off, Dr. Linden’s offer to provide a venue promoting critical writing amongst younger neuroscientists is admirable. There are not many opportunities for students (or even post-docs) to meticulously analyze a specific paper or topic and actually have their written assessment of the work read by a significant audience. Usually, such an exercise goes up on a personal or lab blog that maintains a readership of a few colleagues, your significant other and of course, mom. The difficulty for most young scientists to find broad exposure for their writing beyond the published manuscript, which is usually more “team-effort” writing anyway, was one reason why I started the Journal Club feature held in the NN Neuroscience Forum. Of course, that locale is regularly read by barely more than the list I provided above… Nevertheless, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to convince people to participate in this online journal club, at least as an author. I started receiving regular inquiries via email, with graduate students asking me if they could participate. In line with this, when I am out and about at NN social gatherings here in NYC, I often have to answer the question – “Do you know of any opportunities to write about science of which I can take advantage?”
This is where initiatives like Neuro Forum can come in and provide a strong medium for this demand. And the journal readership/community can offer the widespread exposure that many desire. But I don’t think J Neurophys should stop there. They should allow online commenting and discussion within this new format, really turning the section into a forum. Now granted, although I had little trouble finding people to produce primary content (i.e. journal club write-ups) in the NN Neuroscience forum, I had a terrible time getting the conversations about the specific analysis of the featured paper to take-off. I like to think that this is because of the limited readership of the forum, and because the club covered such a broad array of topics, restricting the number of forum members willing to participate in the discussion. Since Neuro Forum should boast a decent size (presumably being the regular readership of J Neurophys), with a significant number of “forum members” possessing plenty of expertise within the relatively targeted topic area (neurophysiology), perhaps discussion nurturing could be more successful.
Dr. Linden states that he wants to attract a new generation of readers, contributors and reviewers to J Neurophys. This new generation will be, in my opinion, extremely keen to participate in such a venture and would probably be even more interested in an opportunity to comment, discuss, question and generally broaden their participation in the broader scientific process (as a student, I remember enjoying joint lab meetings and journal clubs because it provided me an opportunity to think critically about subject matter beyond the stuff I was doing everyday in the lab). So I propose that J Neurophys goes all Web 2.0 on this project and really courts the younger scientist. If done right, this forum could be beneficial to both the journal and the scientist-in-training, and in the process, establish the “brand loyalty” that Dr. Linden and J Neurophys is looking to promote.