Hello there bloggies! Hope you all had a fantastic Labor Day weekend. I spent it taking a break from things and editing my book (but more on that tomorrow).

Welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

With the academic year ramping up, all of your favorite, tedious meetings and events will be starting up again. One of those is journal club. And who usually gets stuck giving journal club? Grad students and postdocs!

Giving journal club can be quite the chore (especially when you have experiments/analyses to run and papers/grants to write), but here are my top tips for making journal club a fun experience for you and your audience.

  • Relate the paper to your audience. When interpreting a paper, people always try to see how the work is related to their own work and how they can use the principles to further their research. Start this conversation in your presentation. Propose possible experiments and see what your colleagues have to say.
  • Don’t only rely on the top tiered journals. Journals like Science, Nature, and Cell come with a certain amount of prestige. But, that doesn’t mean that the best papers to present are in those journals. Better, more appropriate studies may be in more specialized journals that include a more nuanced discussion that your colleagues will appreciate more. Plus, some of the more prestigious journals have strict formatting requirements that prevent the best communication of their results. And sometimes the best research is there instead of the flashy journals!
  • Don’t get bogged down in technical details. The goal of journal club is to introduce new research to your group and foster discussion. Spending 30 minutes wading through the technical details of an experiment will put your audience to sleep. Focus on the findings, their implications, and how they inform the group’s work.
  • Use figures and tables. The good thing about journal club is that the paper’s authors have made a lot of the tables and figures for you. The main meat of the paper is in these figures and tables. Use them! Show how the authors depict their findings, what interpretations you can draw, and (just as importantly) what conclusions you cannot draw from them.
  • Dig into the supplement. Most papers nowadays have supplementary material. Don’t ignore it. Many times, the supplement contains important results that just didn’t fit into the main text. Look it over and see whether there are figures you can include in your discussion.
  • Don’t be obvious in your paper choice. Journal club is an opportunity to discuss research that you and your group would not normally spend time on. Use this chance to talk about different methods or ways to approach research. It’ll broaden your perspective on research and be more fun than just talking about the same things over and over again.

Journal Club can be another forced presentation added to a trainee’s already very full plate. They are ways to make Journal Club more fun and enjoyable for you and your audience. Read and discuss new science and have fun with it!

Thank you for stopping by Trainee Tuesday! How do you try to freshen up Journal Club? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you all later!

-Dr. F