The traditional focus of Slovak education and research has been on knowledge acquisition. However, to succeed in contemporary science, it is also necessary to acquire and continuously develop a wide range of soft skills. The training schools organised by the ERAdiate team at the University of Žilina (UNIZA) aim at addressing this gap. After the successful UNIZA Grants Week 2017, the second edition of the training school focused on academic writing and scientific communication.
A total of 71 participants attended the training school, including around 30 doctoral students from UNIZA and various participants from other Slovak universities such as the Technical University of Košice and the Comenius University of Bratislava. The event also attracted the interest of a young researcher from the University of West Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. The programme of the training school was articulated in three days of lectures and workshops, with a final panel discussion. A mix of local and international trainers was selected having in mind both the specific characteristics and needs of the local audience and the international dimension of the event. The opening session of the training school stressed the importance, more prominent today than in the past, of investing in students’ and researchers’ soft skills: when completing a PhD, doctoral students are expected to have acquired and developed a broad set of soft skills that are a core asset of an institution, said Markus Dettenhofter, Executive Director of CEITEC in Brno (CZ). The skills acquired with a PhD are so valuable in a knowledge society that they can open up almost any career opportunity, not only an academic one.
The performance of Slovakia in scientific publishing was compared to international standards by Daniel Straka, Executive Director of SOVVA in Bratislava. In a global scientific context in which China has emerged as a strong player, Slovakia improved its performance on various indicators in the last 15 years. However, it is still lagging behind especially as far as top publications are concerned. On the other hand, Slovakia ranks 2nd in the world for the number of articles published in predatory journals.
Peer review is not perfect, but it is the best way to ensure the quality of a scientific publication. Elisabetta Cherchi from the University of Newcastle (UK) addressed the issue of peer review, with a focus on publishing in transport science. Complementary viewpoints were provided by Mario Malički (University of Split, HR) on the importance of scientific dissemination, which today involves being present on academic social media as well. As scientific publishing also involves its “dark sides”, Mario underlined how critical it is to strictly adhere to ethical research standards. These are especially important when aiming at being recognised as a peer in the international scientific community. Tips on how to succeed in publishing in high-impact journals were shared by ERAdiate team member Ľuboš Buzna, who underlined the importance of research mobility and the investment in developing and participating in collaboration networks. Apart from learning from best practices, the experience can in some cases disclose opportunities of collaboration with top researchers and research groups, as it was the case for Ľuboš at ETH in Switzerland.
In addition to talks addressing various perspectives of academic publishing, the training school also featured hands-on workshops with local trainers on relevant aspects of the preparation of a manuscript. The training school was closed by an interesting panel discussion addressing the topic of increasing the quality and impact of scientific publishing at UNIZA. The panel discussion, moderated by ERAdiate ERA Chair Holder Tatiana Kováčiková, featured four panellists representing Faculties of UNIZA and the view of international researcher, provided by Shahab Khormali from the ERAdiate team. An interesting and articulated self-reflection on the challenges and opportunities of UNIZA emerged. Among others, there was consensus on the need for the institution to further invest in researchers’ soft skills and motivation to increase the quality of scientific publications.
Despite the quality of the talks, participants particularly appreciated the lively and open sharing of ideas and tips. Lectures were often very interactive and involved exchange of views and reflections between speakers and participants. Participants also profited from the opportunity to interact with speakers during the informal moments of the event.
In conclusion, the Training School was an opportunity of learning, reflection and interaction for all participants. Events like this should be regularly organised to further develop competences and stimulate an open exchange of views between PhD students, young and senior researchers. Giuseppe Lugano, who supervised the event organisation, emphasised that “it is also through this kind of events that an institution demonstrates to have a long-term vision. This is a strategic investment aiming at gradually unlocking the potential of its young generations of students and researchers”.
Training School Day 1
Role of soft skills in unlocking R&D potential in CEE by Markus Dettenhofer, Executive Director of CEITEC Brno, CZ
Scientific publishing in Slovakia compared to international standards by Daniel Straka, Executive Director of SOVVA, SK
Academic publishing in transport science by Elisabetta Cherchi, University of Newcastle, UK
Peer review process: meeting reviewers’ expectations by Elisabetta Cherchi, University of Newcastle, UK
Academic Paper Structure- How to write a quality abstract by Lenka Môcová, Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Žilina, SK
Training School Day 2
Publishing research outputs in attractive ways: analysis, findings, outputs by Mario Malički, University of Split, HR
Research impact and Research Ethics: strategy, channels and key steps by Mario Malički, University of Split, HR
How to get words on paper by Olena Hundarenko, University of Žilina, SK
Publishing in high-impact journals by Ľuboš Buzna, ERAdiate / University of Žilina, SK