The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic manual for scientific publications. But in 2020 it was revised and expanded as ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.The ACS Guide to Scientific Communication Not only does it provide professional advice to students, researchers, educators, and librarians, but it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers respond to the evolving world of publishing.

These ACS Axial Series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication. Portions of the original text are available free of charge for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read license. Certain sections are given at the end of each post.

Most people are drawn to disciplines like chemistry by their interest in math and science rather than by their passion for writing or the arts, for example. However, early in their studies and careers, they realize that the ability to communicate is essential to becoming a successful scientist or engineer. Even in the most basic chemistry courses, cognitive learning processes require the transmission of information through words and images.

Good communication requires a solid understanding of the content, audience and communication medium. It would of course be difficult to describe an experiment, its data, and its implementations without first having a thorough knowledge of it. An author or instructor is responsible for the content, its level and its delivery. The information must be valid and understandable.

Understanding the content is necessary, but not enough: the author needs to know with whom he is communicating. In scientific communication, the crucial question is who the audience is. During a career in science, researchers need to communicate effectively with three specific audiences: colleagues, decision-makers, and the public. These target groups differ considerably in their knowledge and needs. The content should be understandable for the target audience (or for people with more knowledge of the subject). The author is responsible for understanding (or at least appreciating) the level of the audience.

Communicating science to your colleagues

The Association of College & Research Libraries defines academic communication as “the system by which research and other academic writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the academic community, and retained for future reference.” Scientific communication provides information that can be supported by evidence and supported by tests and experiments. For academics, peer-to-peer communication is fundamental to a career. The forms of this communication can change at different stages of a career. Posters are often the first place where students communicate their research results. Presentations and publications will follow. However, all communication methods remain important throughout the career.


Posters are a powerful means of connecting the presenter with an audience, albeit in a one-on-one or small-group setting. The posters are organized into sessions that allow time for participants to view all (or most) of the planned posters. The authors of the poster will be present during the meeting and will be available to give a summary or to discuss the content. The session is very fluid; Visitors to a poster stop or randomly walk past. A group can form while the presenter is discussing the work, which creates a different dynamic than a one-on-one meeting. The moderator should expect to answer some questions multiple times, and an effective poster tries to anticipate some of them.

The poster should be designed so that it can be viewed in the absence of the authors. Posters are assigned a specific area – often up to 4 × 8 feet, sometimes up to 2 × 4 feet. The content includes text and images. Particular attention must be paid to the organization of the content material so that the viewer can easily recognize the broad picture and follow the flow of information from top left to bottom right.

Posters are often divided into small “blocks” or areas, with navigation between the components either being natural or assisted by the use of numbered parts. The need to make the text font large enough to be legible from a reasonable distance (approximately 4 to 6 feet) precludes the extensive use of long text. Labels on images and captions or data tables must also be legible, given the size of the poster. There are limits to how much information can be adequately captured and how much text and images can be included.

Discover the elements of a successful poster design:

Components of an effective poster. Source: inChemistry.

A user can design a poster using tools such as PowerPoint. Include, edit and move parts of text and images; and print a final version. Large posters require special printers to accommodate the size. Commercial copy centers and even online services make posters available to everyone. (Some vendors can print the poster on fabric so that the poster can be folded for easy transport.)

In addition to posters, presentations are an important way of conveying your work to your colleagues, especially at scientific conferences.

Learn to give a great poster presentation:

For more information on preparing presentations, see section 1.1.2 of the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.

Published content

Published content currently consists of magazines, preprints, books, monographs and conference reports.


Journals publish the research and the grant from systematic research or studies. Individual journals are likely to have multiple types of manuscripts (e.g., articles, comments, notes, perspectives, and communications), each of which serves a particular aspect of the journal’s mission. The journal’s constituencies define the content and level of expertise that is targeted. A flagship journal is likely to be published in all fields of chemistry and other sciences. Additionally, expectations of quality (in addition to novelty and usefulness) raise expectations of publishers, reviewers, and readers.

Given the balance between all of these requirements and a higher level of competition, it’s not surprising that it will be more difficult to get your submission out there. Magazines with more specialized content present similar challenges, although audiences could be more consistent, at least in the context of the topic.

However, the potential for effective communication (in addition to appropriate content) determines where an author publishes and where a reader looks for information that meets their needs. The content of a journal article is dictated by the journal and its authoring guidelines.

Further information on preprints, books, monographs and conference reports can be found in section 2.2.1 of the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.


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