The magazine you’re reading right now, Neuromag, was founded at the University of Tübingen by graduate students of the Graduate Training Centre of Neuroscience (GTC). The seeds were planted in 2015 by Michael Paolillo, a PhD student at the GTC by means of creating a blog for graduate students to publish their writings and opinions – a project under the roof of the GTC that no one could have accurately guessed how far it would come. Mike knew it would not be a piece of cake, but he didn’t share the level of pessimism that his skeptics had. It was January 2016 when I received the circulating email call to join this new project and responded to the call. Mike imagined more than a blog, a printed magazine that belongs to Tübingen and gathered the first team. We weren´t the first graduate student team in the non-profit magazine business, but we were ambitious nevertheless. It was then that I started working with Adobe InDesign, to be able to create a visually appealing high-quality print issue. So many hours went into the first issue, more than any following issue indeed, since learning something new takes more time than practicing what is learnt. Once the first final draft was ready, Mike and I had a meeting with the GTC board and convinced them that this idea would work and their support, especially financially, would not be in vain. At first the address of our web space was neuromag.wordpress.com, later it evolved to neuromag.net. Note that we knew nothing about publishing business in a professional sense; we had ideas, general skills and ambition and these were enough thanks to the support of the GTC. Now I am writing this piece for the fifth issue of Neuromag to give you the gist of its history and its inner working mechanisms.
What does Neuromag do?
Neuromag is an open-access scientific communication project organized by graduate students in Tübingen. Team members invest their spare time from their studies to bring new high-quality articles with print issues to you, the readers. Currently, we distribute print copies around Tübingen and to interested readers outside of Tübingen, thanks to the financial support of the GTC. We do not pay our authors just as we do not get any payment as team members. Our aim is to reach out to a larger audience to share scientific knowledge that is an interesting read. Also, we are open to advertisements for the future print issues to increase the number of print copies. If you want to advertise your company then please contact us for more details.
How does Neuromag work?
We collect articles, our editors review them and the admins publish them online on our website at neuromag.net. If you are interested in sending us your article check out our author checklist that is online and contact us. When we reach the target number of articles (complete or in progress), our design team starts preparing the next print issue. For the print issue we start with the general layout that was created for the first issue and fit the articles to the template. The artists and designers work together to ensure high visual quality, while the editors check the contents. Everyone in the team is involved in the feedback process for the drafts and thus takes a part in decision-making.
What happens in between print issues and new articles?
Our communication and social media team keeps you up to date about fresh articles that are available online and circulates the print issues and existing articles. Besides the website, we are present on other online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Who is the boss?
There is none. We are a team of graduate students, we self-coordinate. We have a Head Coordinator team member who takes the responsibility of seeing the big picture for an issue and coordinates its progress. We use logical decision-making and heuristics for our working pipeline and aim to stay flexible while being consistent.
Who can join the team? What should one do to join?
We welcome graduate students of the GTC. Our team is fluid and flexible; you can reach out to any of us to get an invite for the next Stammtisch and for the open team meetings. To see who the current team members are, check the last page of the print issue or the website. We look for highly motivated individuals who are willing to work in a team and develop new skills that are not only specific for Neuromag but also transferable to other professional occupations. For example, reviewing an article, checking for sources of information, preparing a printable piece of work, distributing information and of course the soft skills that we learn on the way while working in a very diverse group. In the age of so-called “fake news” everyone would benefit from developing skills to get to the facts and report them consistently at a level that is easy to understand.
We are inspired by the NeNa, the local junior Neuroscientists Conference of Tübingen that is a 19-year-old child of the GTC and hope that the Neuromag will live long and be a learning and creating platform for the future generations. Personally, I get so much joy from working at Neuromag. Yes, I don’t get paid, like none of us does, but it’s not all about money. I can see the skills I acquired and improved since January 2016 and this is priceless for me. As a senior PhD student I should hope to get my PhD as soon as possible and start a new chapter, which is why I am looking towards handing over my responsibilities. I am writing this to encourage prospective team members to join the Neuromag team and keep it alive while developing yourself beyond your studies and getting a taste of the professional publishing business. Maybe Neuromag will turn out to be your side-passion-project during your studies, as it has been mine!
Gizem Altan is currently a GTC Doctoral student at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience in the Vision and Cognition lab of Prof. Dr. Andreas Bartels