Plant Postdocs Seminar Series: Preprint, Present, Peer-review, and PREreview

Early career researchers (ECRs) represent a big part of the scientific community and they need a platform to present more often to showcase their work, build their network, identify future collaborations, attract funding opportunities, and prepare themselves for their next career move. Since the current formats provide very few opportunities, professional networks should come forward to foster more opportunities for ECRs. With virtual meetings/seminars gaining traction these days, it doesn’t take much to expand the pool of invited speakers to include historically underrepresented groups without much financial burden.

Plant Postdocs is an emerging professional network and platform for ECRs in plant-related fields. Sunil K. Kenchanmane Raju (@Sunil_KumarKR), Postdoc at Michigan State University and co-founder of Plant Postdocs says “Plant Postdocs started with the idea that rather than complaining about challenges faced by ECRs and waiting for the system to change, we could begin to advocate for changes ourselves. By bringing together like-minded people, and empowering them with the sense of community, we help foster an environment where solutions to some of these challenges can be initiated at the postdoc level with the hope that it continues beyond.”  The best we can do as an organization is to suggest and request that people in power create more opportunities for us. At the same time, we can ‘be the change we want to see’ and create opportunities for ourselves. 

“Plant Postdocs started with the idea that rather than complaining about challenges faced by ECRs and waiting for the system to change, we could begin to advocate for changes ourselves. By bringing together like-minded people, and empowering them with the sense of community, we help foster an environment where solutions to some of these challenges can be initiated at the postdoc level with the hope that it continues beyond.”

Sunil K. Kenchanmane Raju
Postdoc at Michigan State University and
co-founder of Plant Postdocs

In the spirit of being the change we want to see, Plant Postdocs has started a brand-new initiative, a monthly seminar series for ECRs. The ‘Plant Postdoc Seminar Series’ provides a global platform for postdocs with recent pre-prints or published papers to present their work to their peers. Through this seminar series, we plan to provide opportunities for 24 ECRs to present their work each year. These talks are recorded and available on our YouTube channel, broadening the reach and making it easily accessible to any future employers. By encouraging pre-print presentations, we are helping bring attention to the speakers’ work before it’s published.

ECRs require more than just opportunities to present their work. Keeping this in mind, the seminar organizing committee has implemented two new initiatives – (1) having a couple of plant postdoc members peer-review and post their review report on the presented pre-print (2) initiating informal discussion sessions with the seminar speakers after each presentation. Peer-reviewing the preprints serves multiple purposes. First, it provides authors with feedback from peers to improve their work while it is being peer-reviewed for journal publication. Second, it provides opportunities for postdocs who are willing to gain experience as peer-reviewers. Moreover, by publishing peer-review reports on PREreviews, we are promoting transparency in peer-reviewing, and it also serves as a scientific output and recognition for their work (For example: Facundo Romani, (@facundoromani) recently reviewed our March seminar speaker Pallavi Singh’s (@Thepallavisingh) preprint and the peer-review report is posted on PREreviews). Many scientists and professional organizations are discussing the value of starting preprint journal clubs to foster discussion at a stage where feedback can be readily incorporated into the next versions before journal peer-review and publication. Informal discussion sessions have full-networking benefits and open the door for a more engaging discussion about the presented work, techniques used, and future collaboration as well. 

“I moved back to Brazil recently and having a scientific online community to connect with other ECRs by attending and presenting seminars is very important for me. Presenting my recent work at the Plant Postdoc seminar series was a great practice for future presentations either in conferences, or job interviews. At the end of the day as postdocs, we are all going through the same challenges, and it is great to find a community we can support and empathize with.”

Camila Ribeiro
Postdoc at Embrapa Maize and Sorghum, Brazil, and Plant Postdoc seminar speaker

Camila Ribeiro, (@camicoribeiro) a postdoc at Embrapa Maize and Sorghum, Brazil, and Plant Postdoc seminar speaker says “I moved back to Brazil recently and having a scientific online community to connect with other ECRs by attending and presenting seminars is very important for me. Presenting my recent work at the Plant Postdoc seminar series was a great practice for future presentations either in conferences, or job interviews. At the end of the day as postdocs, we are all going through the same challenges, and it is great to find a community we can support and empathize with.” 

Watch out for calls and apply to be a speaker in the Plant Postdoc seminar series and share your science with your peers from across the globe. For more information contact the organizers, Allison Barnes, Sunil Kenchanmane Raju, or visit plantpostdocs.com.

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