UCL Research Domains


Publish or Perish: Getting Collaborative Social Science Published

  • An Early Career Researcher Network Workshop held on 3 May 2018
  • Summary by Laura Knight, Co-Chair, CSSD Early Career Network, Research Associate in Medical Education, UCL Medical School, Medical Sciences, UCL

The way we do social science research is changing. Funders are showing a growing interest in collaborative, interdisciplinary research which is leading to increasing numbers of cross-disciplinary projects receiving funding. Many Early Career Researchers (ECRs) are involved in these projects and, in the 'publish or perish' climate of academia, getting this non-traditional content published is a new challenge for them to overcome. The focus of the event was to help ECRs write robust articles that will pass the reviewing stage, by offering them advise and insight from journal editors and manuscript reviewers. UCL ECRs were provided the opportunity to discuss their experiences and concerns about this emerging challenge - and a number of interesting discussions were had!  

  • Click on the panelist's name below to see their contributions:

Prof. Michael Reiss opened the discussion with a fantastic overview of an ideal interdisciplinary manuscript; offering attendees a greater understanding of what they should be including, and what they need to consider when writing up their research.

Prof. Cheryl Thomas followed with an very insightful walk-through of the challenges faced by authors when writing interdisciplinary publications, as well as drawing attention to more common errors that tend to be made when writing a journal article. Essentially, attendees were shown where and how it often goes wrong for authors & what can be done to avoid receiving the dreaded rejection email.

Prof. Sandy Oliver concluded the discussion with an interesting presentation about the importance of ensuring an article's 'fitness for purpose'. The importance of selecting the appropriate journal for a paper & strongly pitching a cover letter to an editor was explained to attendees; along with advice on how to handle the dilemma between doing a 'full picture' paper or splitting it into several more in depth papers (one per domain of collaboration).  The event ended with a lively Q&A session where attendees shared, and sought advice on, their own publishing experiences.

Some key 'take away points' from the event include:

  • Before writing, make sure you plan carefully: you need to know where the paper is going and how it's going to get there
  • "Scene setting" and stating in simple language what the research was actually about, is crucial
  • Make sure that results are presented clearly (and avoid over-complicated tables!)
  • Being sure to avoid the temptation to overstate the significance of the research findings
  • Seek advice from colleagues and, where possible, go through an internal review process before submitting
  • Keep the article focussed on one topic. If you have another to discuss, you have another paper to write!
  • When submitting, don't underestimate the importance of the covering letter to the editor


Professor Sandy Oliver
Co-editor of the journal Research for All
Professor of Public Policy, Deputy Director, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, UCL

Professor Michael Reiss
Joint Editor of Palgrave's Studies in Alternative Education series, Chair of the Executive Editorial Board of Research for All, Chair of Journal of Moral Education, Joint Editor of Routledge's Foundations and Futures of Education series
Professor of Science Education, Curriculum, Pedagogy & Assessment, Institute of Education, UCL

Professor Cheryl Thomas QC (Hon)
Editorial board for Psychology, Public Policy and Law and Criminal Law Review
Professor of Judicial Studies, Director of the UCL Jury Project and UCL Judicial Institute, Faculty of Laws, UCL