The Sargent group shares their tips for writing Behind the Paper posts

After writing nine Behind The Paper posts, Ted Sargent's group at the University of Toronto shares what they've learned about connecting with their communities.

Go to the profile of Eva Amsen
Feb 21, 2020
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Ted Sargent’s research group at the University of Toronto’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is working on several interesting projects across chemistry, physics and engineering. For example, some members of the group are working on metal catalysts to convert CO2, while others are researching the properties of perovskites, which can be used in solar cells or LEDs. 

We’ve been able to read about a lot of their ongoing projects over the last months, because the group have published an impressive number of Behind the Paper posts on the Chemistry Community and the Device & Materials Engineering Community. (A list is at the bottom of this post.)

How do they do it? Even though the invitation to write a Behind the Paper post is usually sent to Sargent, he passes on the opportunity to the papers’ first authors, and encourages them to write.  

“Writing for this distinct audience is a great experience for the students and trainees,” Sargent says about their involvement with the Communities.

Fengwang Li
Fengwang Li

One of the postdocs in the group, Fengwang Li, has written two Behind the Paper posts about his work on heterogeneous catalysts.

“To me, writing-up such stories instead of research articles is really a new – but definitely exciting – experience,” says Li.

Li is enjoying writing Behind the Paper posts. He gets feedback from Sargent on the drafts, but is starting to feel more confident about writing them now.

“It gives me an opportunity to recall the time how I developed the idea, people who were involved in the project, those successful and (more) unsuccessful experiments, sunshine shed in through windows and snowstorms on my way back home..”

Yanwei Lum
Yanwei Lum

Yanwei Lum, a former postdoc in the group and currently a researcher at A*STAR in Singapore, has also enjoyed writing about his work for the Community. 

“For me, these Behind the Paper posts give an opportunity to reach out to a broader chemistry community,” says Lum. “Hopefully, people who under normal circumstances probably would not have read my paper, but chanced upon my blog post would gain a little insight into the kind of work we are doing and its importance.”

Sargent adds that these Behind the Paper posts reach a much broader audience than the research article itself:  “Even though the Nature-family journals are interdisciplinary,” Sargent says, “the title, abstract, and introduction often appeal to rather deep experts (such as peer reviewers, who are very profound experts indeed) in the specific topical area of the work. The Behind the Paper post seeks to make the work and its significance tractable to knowledgeable and scientifically expert colleagues but who come from a somewhat more remote field of application/science.”  

This interdisciplinary reach, combined with the opportunity to practice a different writing style, is the motivation for Sargent to continue to encourage his group members to write Behind the Paper posts.

The Sargent group's Behind the Paper posts (so far)    

Chemistry Community:

Device & Materials Engineering Community:

You can also follow the Sargent group on Instagram or Twitter, where they often share updates about their work.


Go to the profile of Eva Amsen

Eva Amsen

Community Manager, Freelance

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