Understanding Original Communications

Published online: 14 February 2017

Delegate at conference presenting her research

One of the fundamental roles of The Nutrition Society is to provide opportunities for those actively involved in nutrition research to present their work.  One such forum offered by the Society is the presentation of Original Communications at the Society's scientific conferences.  These represent an opportunity for researchers, at all stages of their careers, to present the results of recent work, which is yet to be published in full papers, and to receive constructive feedback from their peers.  Members and non-members are welcome to submit abstracts for consideration of their work as either an oral or poster presentation.  Unlike many scientific conferences, where poster sessions often coincide with refreshment or lunch breaks and are relatively informal affairs, each poster at Society conferences is allocated a specific time slot during which the presenter briefly describes their work and answers questions.  For PhD students, and early career researchers, Original Communications represent an important opportunity to expose their work, and themselves, to the nutritional science community. 

You never know whether a future employer is watching your presentation or asking that tricky question!

The Society is committed to providing nutrition scientists an opportunity to present their work to as many researchers as possible.  Original Communication sessions are included in the programmes of the Spring, Summer, Winter, Irish Section Conference and at our postgraduate and Student Conferences.  Authors wishing to present their work are invited to submit an abstract which is then considered by independent reviewers.  These will normally consist of local organiser of the conference, theme leaders and Honorary Officers.  Most of the Society conferences will be centred on specific topics and often abstracts will relate directly to these.  However, abstracts will be considered relating to any aspect of nutrition which will normally fall within the Society's three scientific themes: Public Health Nutrition (PHN), Cellular and Molecular Nutrition (CMN) and Whole Body Metabolism (WBM).  The aim is to accept as many abstracts as possible, providing they reach the appropriate scientific quality.  We also attempt to acquiesce to the presenters wishes as to whether the communication is oral or poster presentation.  Presentations are normally grouped together by either topic or theme and student presenters are strongly encouraged to enter the Student Competition.

Unfortunately, on occasion abstracts are rejected and this is always based on scientific quality. If we feel there is something that can be put right immediately, we will often contact the author and give them the opportunity to correct the abstract.  However, if we believe there are serious flaws in the design, performance or interpretation of a study then the abstract may be rejected.  This is vital to protect the scientific integrity of our meetings and of the Society in general.  It is important to emphasise that the number of rejected abstracts is small. 

Instructions for preparing abstracts are fully detailed in our instructions to authors. Having talked many of the people involved in reviewing abstracts, the most common reasons for rejection include:

  1. Lack of data/statistics/results
  2. No objectives/conclusion/methodology
  3. Results not clearly presented
  4. Concern about ethics

All of these problems are likely to be spotted by more experienced researchers.  It is thus vital that students and early career researchers ensure that all abstracts have been read and approved by their supervisors and co-authors before submission.

We would like to encourage everyone with an interest in nutrition, at all stages of their careers, to continue to submit abstracts to the Society for presentation as Original Communications.  As I hope this blog has highlighted, with close attention to the instructions available there is every chance that your abstract will be accepted, whatever aspect of nutrition you are involved in. Your contributions represent a vital aspect of the work of the Society.

Article by:
Professor Andrew Salter
Honorary Scientific Officer

Article printed in Summer 2016 Gazette sent to all members.