TEPHINET Explores Strategies to Increase Academic Publishing Opportunities for the Field Epidemiology Community

Tina Rezvani, Communications Manager

Participants of a workshop on scientific data visualization offered during the 10th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in October 2019


As the global network of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs), TEPHINET is in a unique position to spearhead initiatives to support academic publishing by members of the field epidemiology community.

"Reviewers of mainstream academic journals often do not understand the unique methodologies used by field epidemiologists to investigate disease outbreaks," says the TEPHINET Secretariat's Senior Associate Director for Science, Dr. Angela Hilmers. "We seek to increase global recognition of field epidemiology as a science and raise the profile of FETP work. There is great interest from within the field epidemiology community to have a dedicated academic space to share peer-reviewed outputs from our discipline."

Earlier this year, the TEPHINET Secretariat conducted a survey to assess field epidemiologists' interest in publishing their findings in traditional peer-reviewed journals. Almost 90 percent of the 278 FETP graduates and trainees who responded to the survey reported being interested in publishing an academic article within the next 12 months. However, less than half had experience achieving a successful publication in a peer-reviewed journal, either as co-author or as first author.

Recognizing the need to engage a variety of stakeholders to define a strategy for TEPHINET to best aid field epidemiologists with their publishing goals, the Secretariat interviewed several key informants to gather insights on opportunities and challenges related to academic publishing. Interviewees where chosen for their expertise in field epidemiology and/or scientific publishing and communication.

Interviewees highlighted the absence of a dedicated international field epidemiology journal and the fact that publishing would help FETPs build competencies and contribute to establishing a verifiable record of epidemiological events and responses.

In addition, some interviewees expressed their opinions on why TEPHINET is the right organization to undertake this initiative. "TEPHINET's approach is really wonderful," said one informant. "There's a 'spirit of collaboration across cultures' and it would be wonderful to capture that spirit in a journal."

While a dedicated field epidemiology journal is an option with popular support among TEPHINET's stakeholders, the path to creating one would require significant funding and resources and considering industry-related trends and challenges.

To explore different options for increasing the visibility of FETP scientific outputs, TEPHINET hosted a virtual working group meeting in October 2020. During the meeting, 20 experts in field epidemiology and/or scientific publishing discussed the feasibility and next steps for exploring three distinct strategies. These include the establishment of a new journal, the creation of a supplement to an existing journal, and the production of a scientific digest.

"We were thrilled with the highly collaborative and enthusiastic nature of our October meeting," says Dr. Hilmers. "It is clear that our working group participants feel passionately about this issue. What emerged from this meeting is the need to continue exploring funding and partnership opportunities to support these efforts. The TEPHINET Secretariat will continue to define the strategy for this initiative and speak with partners about possibilities. Partnerships and collaboration will be key to finding sources of support and maximizing our impact."

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Individuals interested in collaborating with TEPHINET on this initiative may contact secretariat@tephinet.org.

FETP graduates and trainees who are interested in publishing should consider these opportunities from TEPHINET:

  • TEPHINET plans to offer scientific writing workshops at future TEPHINET global and regional scientific conferences.
  • TEPHINET has just launched a new Scientific Writing E-Learning Course.