How to write for AoB Blog


We’re now accepting guest posts. If you don’t need to read the guidelines you can skip to the form below. A form like this is irresistible to spammers who love to leave articles full of affiliate links to various sites. To prevent them from using automated submissions we have a small challenge. What three letters does Annals of Botany use as a prefix on their new open-access journal AoB PLANTS? Yes, the answer really is that simple, but it should stop 90% of spammers.

What are we looking for?

What follows are guidelines, more than rigid rules. At its most simple: Anything between 400 to 1000 words on botanical research or a botanical event that interests you.

Some examples:

You could discuss a paper or papers that you think deserve more attention. They don’t have to be published by Annals of Botany or AoB PLANTS. If there’s an interesting Tansley review you want to discuss from New Phytologist then we’re happy to publish your post.

If you are focussing on one paper from another journal then we do ask that your discussion is positive. We accept that other journals can publish poor papers, but a post like “This paper in The Journal of Provocative Botany is TERRIBLE!” would be a conflict of interest, given that AoB Blog is funded by a competitor. It’s also more useful to other plant scientists to highlight what’s good in the field instead of giving publicity to what’s bad. It doesn’t mean you can’t point out flaws in a paper. It means that the purpose of the post shouldn’t just be to point out all the flaws in a paper in gruesome detail.

If you’re discussing a paper that is not your own work, that paper has to have been published fully. Sadly ‘advance-access’ is not enough. One major publisher has threatened to pull papers from publication if they’ve been discussed in blogs when they’re in advance access.

Reviews are welcome. Textbooks, pop-science books, even science fiction if you can connect it to how botany works, or how it’s perceived to work.

Conference reports are good. If you’re including images from the conference then we’d rather not publish detailed photos of slides showing data. This can interfere with the Inglefinger rule for some journals, and well-meaning photo could muck up someone’s publication plans. As mentioned above, some publishers are more sensitive than others.

We’ll also publish job posts, but we need a bit more than “The Jones Lab has a post-doc position. Apply here.” What we’d like is something on the kind of work that’s being done. Something that gives us an impression of why the job is necessary. As an example here’s a post from 2012 advertising a PhD position at Cambridge.

There aren’t enough posts about being a botanist. If you can write about your current work or about the process of researching then we’ll be delighted. If this is research in progress then we’ll be happy to be vague about what you’re actually finding.

We’ll also take funding pitches. Crowdfunding is becoming more accessible to researchers, with science projects appearing on Kickstarter and Experiment. A post that simply says “please send money” will probably be rejected, but most projects have comprehensive pitches explaining why the research needs to be done. We’re happy to publicise a post that makes a strong case for finding – even if you don’t plan to publish in Annals of Botany or AoB PLANTS.

What we’re not looking for

The blog itself is non-commercial. If you have a plant-supplies business or something else that is selling a product we’re probably not interested.

If you have original research to publish, then this is not the right place for you. We’ll talk about research here, but we want to link back to papers.

We’re also not a good place for pseudoscience. If you want to discuss a paper that says deforestation in the Amazon is under-estimated, because most visible ‘trees’ are in fact ghosts of trees, then we’ll reject that. The same goes for homeopathy or forest reiki.

Put simply, if you’re looking for a loophole in everything above that will compel us to publish your post, then you’d probably be happier publishing at somewhere like If you’ve not been looking for loopholes, then we’ll most likely be interested in what you have to say.

How to post

There is a form below, which we are getting closer to. The easiest way to write a post is to use your favourite text editor to write a post on your own machine. When you’re happy with it, open a plain-text editor, like Notepad on Windows or Textedit on MacOS and paste the text into that. Add a space to the end of the text, now highlight it all and copy that into the big text area below.

Any formatting you have in your text will be lost, but formatting from Word plays very badly with WordPress. You’ll be able to highlight text to embolden or italicise it. To add links, highlight the text you want to have as a link. Now click link and then type or paste the address, including http:// or https:// at the start of it.

Images are important

Each post on the blog now has a featured image. People like to click images, and adding images to a post means people are much more likely to share it. If you have a photo of your own, then you can upload it via the form. There is a size limit. No more than 1200px across or 800px high.

If you don’t have a photo you can use Creative Commons images, provided we credit them correctly. You can find Creative Commons images on Wikipedia. You can also find them on Flickr.
This link looks for Creative Commons licenced images of plants that allow modification and commercial use. We probably don’t need commercial use, but this is such a legally vague modifier that it’s best to be safe and have the option.

Once you have found an image you like past the URL where you would like to appear – like here:

Photo: Jonas Löwgren / Flickr.

Then we’ll sort out crediting and formatting so you get the image you want, like this.

If you don’t include any images we’ll find one for you. You’ll get to see a preview of the post before it goes out, just in case it’s a hideously wrong photo.

If you want to embed video, that’s possible too. If you see a video you want to include from YouTube or Vimeo then you can paste the URL on a line by itself. So as an example pasting…
…will end up with you getting this in your post.

There are other possibilities, like embedding maps and audio, but these will take a bit more work and we’ll need to email about it.

It’s not just your post, we also need this

The form is now so close you can almost see it, but there are a couple more boxes you’ll need to fill in.

Most important, your name, we’d like to credit you. If you don’t want to be credited by name we’re happy to use a pseudonym. We’ll also need your email address, so we can contact you about previews and scheduling. If you have your own website, include the address in the URL box and we’ll link to that too. If you don’t have a website, you can type none, but now would be a very good time to register for an ORCiD. It’s just 30 seconds and will have plenty of use outside this blog.

Something else we need are post tags. These are either words or phrases that your post is about. So a post about photosynthesis in a pitcher plant might have tags: Carnivorous plant, Sarracenia, photosynthesis, chromatography. These tags will help connect your post to other related posts, and connect them back to yours.

What happens once I submit the post?

It will go into our pending pile. An editor, probably @41un, will look over it. If it needs tidying for formatting then this will happen. We’ll also look for a suitable image if you haven’t included one, because posts with images get a lot more sharing on social media. Then we’ll activate a preview of the post for you to check. Once everyone is happy we’ll schedule it. Depending on how busy we are, it could be published any time between one day and one month after submission. Generally the better performing time slots get blocked off earlier in advance than other times. If what you’re posting is time-sensitive then we’ll try to bump another post out of a slot to get yours in.

If you don’t hear anything after a couple of working days then feel free to ping @41un on twitter or send an email here. Because of work schedules, it’s quite possible that a post submitted on Friday won’t get looked at till Tuesday morning.

Once a post is published here then it gets pushed to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The featured image goes to our Pinterest board.

Here’s the form to submit your post

Please complete the required fields.
Please select your image(s) to upload.

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