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Poster publishing – where science meets graphic design

When it comes to preparing a poster for presentation, there are some amazing poster resources on the web for researchers at all levels of poster proficiency.

For those starting out, I like How to create a research poster from the Bern Dibner Library (simple and basic). For a comprehensive primer, I like Designing Conference Posters from Colin Purrington (comprehensive advice delivered with a sharp wit). Finally, if you are artistic and proficient (see Benjamin Gorman’s “draft” poster pictured below, looks great already!), then Dr Zen’s Better Posters and his constructive critiques can help to make your posters even more powerful.

Benjamin Gorman’s draft poster.
Benjamin Gorman’s “draft” poster.

To quote Dr Zen, “academic conference posters are often ugly, with tiny text, confusing layouts and dubious color schemes”. They may be so bad they elicit this reaction (animated GIF), courtesy of #whatshouldwecallgradschool. If we step back and think about the reasons why, it is because posters fuse two skill sets, research communication and graphic design, and both are slightly removed from the primary competence of “doing science”.

However, curiously, in an article entitled Poster Perfect in The Scientist, Colin Purrington observed that “Although occasionally there would be visually pleasing posters that promoted less-than-stellar science”, he usually found that “the attractiveness of a poster was highly correlated with the quality of the science”. Graphic design and scientific inquiry require different skills, but oddly enough, it appeared that “the people who understood the beauty of fonts had a sense of pitching their science” he said.

One reason to invest effort in preparing and printing a poster, is to communicate the essence of your research in a relatively compact space with the opportunity to interact with your audience if your content catches their eye. This may be particularly appealing for earlier career researchers who aren’t ready to publish or those who would rather avoid public speaking.

Previously, the other slightly frustrating part of poster preparation was their relatively short conference shelf life, possibly followed by a (by then dog eared) display of the poster in the lab. However, as is the case with so much of life, the internet has transformed this space such that digital poster publishing is the new normal. Posters can now happily live online and attract attention to your work in perpetuity.

Here at ScienceOpen, publishing posters is simple and pretty much like publishing an article but cheaper. Posters are published as a PDF in in ScienceOpen Posters (eISSN: 2199-8442). There are two routes to get involved, either your conference organizer has an arrangement with ScienceOpen and they pay a reduced fee and you can publish for free, nice! Or you fly solo and pay $120. Naturally, your poster is available for Non-Anonymous Post-Publication Peer Review just like our articles. To submit a poster, simply email our Editorial Office.

To kick off our poster section, we’ve published nearly 30 posters in total – 7 posters from the American Chemical Society Meeting; 7 from the International Symposium of Silicon Chemistry; and 13 from the European Students Conference where we awarded our first ScienceOpen Poster Awards.

Welcome to our wonderful world of digital posters!