Virtual Scientific Writing Series Builds Capacity for FETPs to Develop Scientific Manuscripts

Chloe Billstrom, Communications Intern; Amber Lauff, Communications Manager

One of the core competencies of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) is scientific communication, including writing and publishing scientific manuscripts that share the results of epidemiological work. Scientific papers provide a platform for FETP residents and graduates to not only share their work, but also to inform public health policy and interventions. While many FETPs have expressed a strong interest in academic publishing, they are often not sure where to start. To meet the need for additional training, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Global Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) partnered with TEPHINET, the CDC Foundation, and the World Hypertension League (WHL) to present a special eight-part scientific writing series from April to July of this year. 

The series, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, aimed to increase FETP residents’ and graduates’ knowledge of writing and publishing scientific papers. Three WHL faculty–Dr. Daniel T. Lackland, Dr. Michael A. Weber, and Dr. Paul K. Whelton–led each virtual training session, sharing decades of experience in research, writing, editing and publishing. Over 16 weeks (sessions were held bi-weekly), the experts walked learners through the steps involved in planning, writing, revising, and publishing scientific manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal. The knowledge and experiences of the presenters was invaluable to the participants. One attendee stated, “The webinar was fantastic, fascinating, and encouraging. The professors and staff were all kind, helpful, and incredibly knowledgeable, making the material we were given enjoyable to study.”

Countless positive testimonials from participants were complemented by a high level of engagement and participation from FETP fellows and alumni around the globe. On average, each training session had 514 attendees from 82 countries, and 162 participants were awarded certificates for attending seven or more sessions. The virtual platform not only expanded the reach of the training, but also addressed barriers experienced in previous scientific writing trainings. 

Dr. Qaiser Mukhtar, Program Implementation and Capacity Building Team Lead for the CDC's Office of Global NCDs, emphasized the benefit of being able to host the training virtually, stating, "When we've conducted similar scientific writing workshops in the past, they were done in an in-person format, which limits the number of participants and forces the content to be condensed down into a format that can take place over a shorter period of time. Being able to host a virtual series that took place over the course of 16 weeks allowed for participants to more easily absorb and digest the information over a longer period of time and removed many of the barriers that come with in-person participation, such as the cost of travel."

A majority of  participants reported feeling more confident in their ability to share study results, write proposals, choose and review scientific journals, and respond to editors. 

Recordings of all eight training sessions can be found on TEPHIConnect. FETP residents, graduates, and mentors may join TEPHIConnect to view the recordings. TEPHIConnect is also a place for networking, continuing education and mentoring, and accessing other professional opportunities. 

Additionally, TEPHINET offers an online, self-paced scientific writing training course for anyone interested in the topic. The webpage has garnered over 30,000 visits from more than 170 countries. The virtual series, online course, and TEPHIConnect are excellent ways for FETP fellows and alumni to gain skills in scientific writing.