Dead Papers Society

By Petra Duncan

We all face challenges communicating the work we do to others in the form of publications and presentations.  One year ago, the Health Sciences Education and Research Commons (HSERC) at the University of Alberta put together a group we called the “Dead Papers Society” (DPS), to create a team with the goals of planning collaborative manuscripts for publication, abstracts for conferences and learning about various research related topics such as ethics, referencing, authorship and literature reviews.  Although we came from different backgrounds and experiences regarding research and writing, we had a common goal: to share what we know and help one another achieve our own personal writing goals.

For the past year, eight steadfast members have met every two weeks and although there is always an agenda, the content of each meeting is driven by the needs of the members and their projects.  DPS keeps an open invitation for others to join at any time, especially if you need an audience for an upcoming presentation or want to discuss the final copy of an abstract before taking the plunge.

We help one another with editing, reviewing and thinking about publications.  Our agenda begins with a review of action items and leads right into a spotlight on a topic of interest, such as why people write.  Then we discuss a feature project, which is one of the topics that a DPS member has chosen to work on, followed by round table reporting on the other chosen projects by the team.  DPS has arranged field trips and speakers.  Our DPS file has links to articles and documents of interest.  We have been to the Health Sciences Library receiving an introduction to RefWorks and entertaining a guest speaker from the University regarding the topic of general ethics and guidelines.

Each person in our group has recognized improvements.  For me, I can immediately identify four areas of achievement:
•    Abstract writing (I got accepted at three different conferences this past year).
•    The start of my journey to get published.
•    How to read, store and use documents and papers as references.
•    How to edit and review literature works.

Today all of us in DPS have a new project started.  Of course, we are at different stages, but this is such a unique opportunity to share our plans, thoughts, and ideas in a comfortable and encouraging atmosphere.  If you have two or more colleagues who are passionate about moving forward professionally in a very tangible way, forming a DPS group is a wonderful way to keep the motivation alive.

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