Supporting Young Researchers Learning How to Communicate Science

Last Friday, 25 March 2022, the annual Science Month (Wissenschaftsmonat or WIMO) was rounded off with the presentations of the six finalists. See who the finalists were and what earned three of them the Karger Prize. In addition, find out why supporting this event is so close to the heart of our chairwoman Gabriella Karger.

Gabriella Karger, what is Science Month?

Science Month is an annual event held at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Basel. For one month, students learn how to create, understand, and communicate scientific content. The Science Month Congress caps off the event.

This congress always features an invited keynote speaker. This year, Professor Gordon Guyatt from Canada will talk about “evidence-based medicine” (EBM) which describes the approach to medical education and practice.

And then six finalists are given 15 minutes each to present their own master’s theses and answer questions from the jury and the audience. About 220 participants usually attend.

For the first time, this final event took place in a hybrid format due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Why does Karger support it?

The idea of creating the Science Month was a fantastic idea of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Basel which we supported from the very beginning. Since the Bologna Reform started, all medical students have had to write a scientific master’s thesis in order to be admitted to the final examination. With the aim of providing students with the necessary knowledge, the faculty had decided in 2011 to organize this Science Month for students in their final year. The knowledge and skills imparted during the Science Month, as well as the time slots for self-study, allow students to learn general skills such as writing and evaluating abstracts or creating and giving a scientific presentation, and to actively apply them using their own master’s thesis as an example.

What does our involvement look like?

Firstly, we sponsor the Karger Prize, which goes to the three winners selected by a jury of professors of the Faculty of Medicine on the Congress Day that caps off the event. Secondly, Paul Lavender, the Lead of our Strategic Competence Center Education & Learning, hosts a seminar on “Open Access and Predatory Journals”. Predatory journals publish articles with little or no peer review in exchange for financial remuneration. Often, authors only find out they are dealing with a predatory journal when their paper is already published, and then it’s too late. Since predatory journals are not listed in the major databases, all the hard work of the authors was in vain. On top of that, their reputation is damaged, and they might have problems receiving funding. Therefore, we want to educate young researchers about these dangers in our seminar so they can already avoid those pitfalls early in their careers.

We also layout and publish the 198 abstracts of all participants of the Science Month in the Abstract Book. For some of the students this is the first time they see their name in connection with a published scientific work.

Who won the Karger Prize at this year’s Science Month?

After the 15-minute presentation of their master’s thesis, the finalists (Caterina Mariani, Lilian Mayrhofer, Vanessa Michlig, Maja Ramin-Wright, Sophia Reimann and Samuel Zumbrunn) answered questions from the audience. The 3rd prize went to Maja Ramin-Wright the 2nd prize to Vanessa Michlig, and the winner is Caterina Mariani. I would like to thank all participants, and I want to congratulate the winners on their outstanding ways to communicate science.

WIMO Finalists 2022

WIMO Finalists 2022

What made them win? Or maybe to put it differently: What is important in science communication?

Scientific articles must follow a certain structure: The abstract and introduction are followed by the explanation of the methods. After this, the results are presented and discussed. Of course, the sources are also important to mention. So, there is a whole lot of rules to follow and there are certain parts that cannot be left out. Apart from all these rules, the text also needs to be written in a convincing way. After all, a researcher wants to win over the reader of the article to support their line of thought and trust their results.

And why is supporting young scientists so important to Karger?

Distributing scientific findings in written form is still the foundation of scientific success. With their research results, young scientists will shape the future of health sciences. So, by actively contributing to the Science Month, we aim to advance young researchers as well as the health sciences. This is why we see supporting young researchers as such an important task, especially in Basel where our headquarters are located.

Constantly Evolving to Successfully Navigate a Stormy Sea

Karger Publishers has been going through substantial changes recently. There are several reasons for this transformation, and it is evident in all areas of the business. Karger now feels almost like a new company, but remains firmly rooted in its foundation.  

Shifts in Scientific Publishing and Health Sciences

Looking at the environment in which Karger Publishers operates, there have been massive shifts in scientific publishing as well as in health sciences.  

Digitization and technological innovation have been prominent topics in scientific publishing for quite some time now. But they are becoming more important in different areas, from handling the various steps of the production process, to digital products and service offers, and the use of artificial intelligence – just to name a few examples.  

Another game changer is the Open Science movement, which is inevitably transforming the market. The needs and roles of the various stakeholders within the scientific community are shifting considerably. 

In the health sciences, digital technology has become ever more important, e.g. in the subject area of digital health and the inclusion of digital biomarkers in research, as showcased by our journal Digital Biomarkers, or the Vesalius Innovation Award finalist ECG247 (formerly Appsens). This startup is developing a platform that enables the exploration of data from a comprehensive literature review of research questions.  

Transformation of Our Business Areas

We have to be agile and adapt to this quickly developing environment – or as in a Briton proverb our CEO Daniel Ebneter likes to cite: “A calm sea never made a skilled sailor”. So, we are transforming our business to excel in these challenging times.  

We have looked at the entire health sciences ecosystem to see how we can support the community with smart knowledge/content solutions. Previously, we focused solely on a segment of the research cycle, supporting researchers from the moment they had a paper ready to publish to when they searched the literature for their next research endeavor.  

Building on our experience in this field, we are expanding our business areas to include products and service offers along the whole cycle of knowledge. In the future, researchers will be able to rely on us already in the phase of their research planning and execution. And we have expanded our business into the transfer knowledge cycle where scientific information is made clear for the clinical practice and patients.  

Focus on Our Stakeholders and Their Needs 

Supporting our stakeholders along the whole cycle of knowledge is only one way in which we aim to put their needs at the center of everything we do. We try to find out what motivates and inspires our customers, partners, and employees. In addition, we look at their pain points and tailor our products and services in a way that supports their work as well as possible.  

New Company Structure and Collaboration System 

All these changes are also reflected in our company structure, which was adapted to the new strategy at the beginning of 2019. The company is now structured into four arms:  

  • Karger Labs focuses on strategy and innovation. This is where subject areas and strategic competencies are developed with the aim to transform them into products and services. 
  • Karger Experience is aimed at communities and markets. Here we forge relationships to the various customers and partners in their environment and continuously learn about their needs.
  • Karger Factory manages the entire publishing process from the manuscript submission to the finished publication, as well as customer service, and IT solutions. 
  • The Corporate Office encompasses all service functions.  

This is not only our company structure, but is also physically reflected in our building. For the renovation of the office building at our headquarters in Basel, the new company structure was taken as a starting point to determine which teams would work where and what room setup they would need. We are looking forward to returning to our offices when working in the office is safe again.  

With the introduction of a system of “Circles”, we have also transformed the way we work together within the company. Circles are decision-making bodies consisting of employees from all relevant parts of the business who collaborate on a specific topic. They have the power to take decisions within their remit or delegate tasks to other Circles, taskforces, or units. This ensures fast decision-making with all relevant points considered.  

Finally, this transformation is also reflected in our new brand appearance.

How to Communicate Science through the Big Picture?

What do science, publishing, and filmmaking have in common? All want to get their message across to their audience. By using the same narrative techniques as filmmakers, scientists can catch the attention of their audience and tell their story so that it stays better in the memories.

Karger Publishers is continuously exploring new ways of knowledge transfer from scientists to their various audiences. That’s why we have started organizing and sponsoring a few events that connect film, storytelling, and science.

In January 2020, we set out to host the first event in connection to film: “Karger Publishers at the Movies”. Our CEO, Daniel Ebneter, had seen the film “Human Nature”, a documentary about gene editing, at a festival. Gene editing describes technologies that enable scientists to change DNA by adding, removing, or altering certain parts of the genes. He was so inspired by this approach of explaining a challenging topic to a large audience that he brought it into discussion with our local scientific network in Basel, Switzerland, and the idea of Karger Publishers at the Movies was born. We organized two screenings of the documentary, followed by moderated panel discussions with experts in this field. The event enabled the transfer of complex scientific findings including its ethical questions in a simple and engaging way to a diverse audience.

Audience in a movie theater watching a documentary from Karger Publishers

Karger Publishers at the Movies 2020

Beyond Classic Research Papers

The positive reactions and interest of the participants showed us the power of cinema to explain scientific topics, and we began to explore further ways we could support the transfer of scientific knowledge with new means that go beyond the classic research paper. Therefore, we started cooperating with the Swiss Science Film Academy, its festival, and its founder, Samer Angelone. He holds two PhDs in film studies and biology and teaches at different universities. Coming from both worlds – film and science – his goal is to build a bridge between science and society via film. This is an aim to which we as a scientific publisher can very much relate, since we also want to facilitate scientific communication between the various actors in health sciences.

One of the first events we organized together with Samer Angelone was the workshop Storytelling for Scientists. A group of young scientists learned how they could use storytelling techniques to communicate their science more effectively.

storytelling workshop organized from scientists by karger publishers

Storytelling Workshop with Samer Angelone

Dramatic Storytelling in Science

In addition, Gabriella Karger, our Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, has been part of the jury of the Global Science Film Festival since 2020. Together with other experts she had the opportunity to evaluate the great variety of competing short films. We are honored to be part of the festival since we share the same goal of transferring scientific knowledge to various communities.

Some of the short films shown in the Global Science Film Festival are usually created by participants of the Filmmaking Marathon. This year, we sponsored the event for the first time and were able to send five participants from our network. The scientists were trained in tools used in dramatic storytelling and filmmaking to communicate their research, thereby making their science more readily accessible for a broader audience.

If you want to see some of these creations, join the Global Science Film Festival taking place in Zurich and Berne on November 19-28, 2021.

We will be presenting each of these events in more detail in upcoming blog posts. So, stay tuned!

Cora Wirtz-Spycher

With a background in business communications, English linguistics, business, and art sciences, Cora leads Corporate Communications at Karger Publishers. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and trying out different cuisines. She loves tea and hates coffee.