The road to publishing scientific papers: a successful case for the DAPA team at CIAT

Ruta para la publicación de artículos científicos: un caso exitoso del equipo de DAPA - CIAT

Everything within the universe has a special order and in life everything has a method. Projects have to go through stages that cannot be postponed, as in the case of publishing, and this is even more so when they are of a scientific nature.

These types of publications need time and specific knowledge to meet the requirements of the specialized media that publish them, not without the publications first being reviewed and edited. Scientists at CIAT constantly face the challenge of complying with the requisite to make their research widely diffused.

A good example is “Timescales of transformational climate change adaptation in sub-Saharan African agriculture” published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This article, led by the expert on climate impact Julian Ramírez-Villegas, was widely diffused not only because of the importance of the journal but also because of the number of readers reached through diverse media.

The article recounts a five-year process in which CIAT scientists investigated, collected data, and analyzed data to understand which climate conditions are the most favorable for the development of specific crops. Ramírez-Villegas and his team, after laying out the goals, had to overcome a shortage of resources in order to advance the project, which finally by 2014 received financial aid when Ramírez-Villegas himself won a grant from Young Innovative Scientists for US$10,000, which helped the team to continue collecting the data required for the project.

Which steps should we take in order to achieve a successful divulgation of scientific papers? The following phases refer to the above experience:

Determining a high-impact topic. A scientific article should contain new content and high quality in theme and structure to qualify for publishing.

Intellectual production and decision making. In order to progress toward the goal, the team members must remember that time is limited to obtain final results. The DAPA team had to retreat daily to share knowledge, produce ideas, and jointly build a scientific paper.

Finding the right medium for divulgation. After studies have been prepared, the data collected, and the document written comes the question: “In which scientific journal do we attempt to publish?” The specialized scientific journals are very strict and demanding and have their own publishing selection method. The DAPA research team first contacted the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), for which a 250-word summary was prepared that included the introduction, results, discussion, materials, methods, and references. The article was then sent to various scientific expert editors for their approval.

It is important to note that the CIAT Information Services team gives advice to researchers to help them find the most adequate journal in which to publish their results.

Corrections and advice. Once the written article is ready, it must be reviewed by scientific peers (external appraisers) who give their impressions and whatever advice is needed. In this case, the paper was sent to advisors who reviewed it and indicated that the methodology, results, and conclusions agreed with the information included. The external reviewers expressed their points of view and gave advice but, nevertheless, the PNAS editor turned down the article.

Two months after the process with PNAS, the DAPA team sent the paper to Nature Climate Change, which, after a few adjustments and 100 days of waiting, decided to publish it.

Media management and impact. When the research has been accepted and published, media have to be managed in order for the research to be diffused widely. Regarding the above article, CIAT’s Communications Area and its associate, the CGIAR Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), developed a strategy to diffuse the article by using as support a public relations agency, which reworked the contents to be diffused through other communication networks.

A press release on the article was published by news agencies such as the BBC. Al Gore tweeted the link to National Geographic and its 2.9 million followers and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), an initial member of the project, invited the DAPA team to present the results in London.

Measurement of results. There’s no way to know how successful an article is if the scope is not measured. For this reason, the CIAT information systems team makes use of Almetrics, an analytical system that helps to measure the positive impact of scientific papers online. The biggest impact occurs when the people who formulate the norms read through different media such as news agencies, blogs, and social media such as Twitter about CIAT and the studies it is carrying out.

The DAPA team’s article currently has 320 points apart from being the eighth most-read article from the journal.


Additionally, Google Escolar is used to help measure the impact of the article by measuring the number of citations and quotes.

CIAT will continue in its commitment to guarantee that its scientific results reach the highest number possible of users, thus helping to spread information globally. It will insist on constantly sharing information with the international community, thus complying with the standards demanded by the world’s most renowned journals.