Imposter syndrome, and some posts I’m proud of

Like a lot of scientists, I’ve got a little bit of imposter syndrome.  I’m secretly* afraid that my colleagues will discover that I’m not actually very good at what I do and that I don’t belong in science.  (To be clear: strictly intellectually, I understand that I’m not really an imposter; but that has almost nothing to do with how I feel.)  I have this worry about my research, about my writing book, and even about my blogging. At some point in the writing of nearly every new post, I find myself thinking “I’ll be embarrassed if people read this”.  (A while ago, I connected this to introversion, but I don’t think it’s just that.)

There seem to be two really useful ways to deal with imposter syndrome.  One is to admit that you feel it, and I’ve just done that.  The other is to recognize good work that you’ve done.  Continue reading


Making a conference introvert-friendly

Image: Joe Wolf via CC BY-ND 2.0

I need your help, because I was asked a question and didn’t know the answer.  Read on…

Conferences are an important part of life as a scientist.  They’re a valuable part of network-building and a chance to exchange the newest ideas, the newest techniques, and the newest results.  But they’re also exhausting – and particularly so for scientists who are introverts, and find the crowded rooms and halls and the non-stop social interaction draining.  Plenty of scientists are introverts – I’m one – and so this isn’t a trivial issue.  I wrote some time ago about how I manage going to conferences as an introvert.  But until just last week it never occurred to me to wonder about the issue from the other end:  to wonder what conference organizers might do to make conferences more welcoming to introverts.  Continue reading

I’m writing another book!

I got some great news recently that I’ve been itching to share.  I can tell you now – because just the other day signed, I signed the contract.  I’m writing another book! Continue reading

I refuse all review requests with deadlines < 3 weeks. Here’s why, and how.

Warning: another grumpy one

I’m seeing it more and more: requests to review manuscripts with ludicrously short deadlines.  Sometimes 10 days, sometimes 7, sometimes one week (5 business days).  And I see editors on Twitter bragging about a paper they’ve shepherd through the entire review process in 5 days, or a week, or two weeks.  I want all this to stop. Continue reading

Gardens, beachheads, and invasions

Photo: Japanese knotweed © gerald_at_volp_dot_com, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Note: This is a science outreach piece belonging to a series I wrote for the newsletter of the Fredericton Botanic Garden.  I’d be happy to see it modified for use elsewhere and so am posting the text here under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. If you use it, though, I’d appreciate hearing where and how.

A visit to a garden is a chance to see beautiful plants, and often, unfamiliar ones.  For centuries, gardeners have scoured the world for beauty that evolved in far-off lands. Many of our most cherished garden plants, then, originated somewhere else – and being the first to grow something new and strange has always been something to boast of.  The quest for new accessions is a fundamental part of gardening, and it’s fun and educational, but over the years it’s had its dark side, too.  That’s because gardening has been an important pathway for the arrival of invasive alien plants (and other creatures). Continue reading

Less than a tribute: when Latin names are insults

This is an excerpt from a longer essay exploring the darker side of eponymous Latin naming, which will appear as a chapter in a book I’m currently writing. Stay tuned for more about that project, which should any day now be formally under contract.

 When Carl Linnaeus invented modern “binomial” Latin names, he freed scientific naming from the necessity of carrying a full description of every named species.  This made it possible, for the first time, for a scientist naming a new species to honour someone admirable or notable.  We can all point to species named that way: Berberis darwini, for example, or Spurlingia, or any of several species named for Maria Sibylla Merian.  But any tool that can build can also tear down; and just as Latin names can honour, they can dishonour.  Linnaeus was the first to use naming to celebrate scientists who had gone before him – but as it turns out, he was also the first to succumb to temptation, and use Latin naming to insult someone with whom he had quarreled.  He wouldn’t, as we’ll see, be the last. Continue reading

University administrators should understand universities

Photo: Brunel University campus, © Brunel University, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Warning: I’m grumpy today.

In my current role as Department Chair, I deal with a lot of administrators.  Some are academics, serving as Chairs, Deans, Vice Presidents, and so on.  These folks are doing important jobs (and you should consider joining them), for which they often don’t get much respect.  Others – and these other ones are my subject today – aren’t academics, but rather professionals of other kinds.  They may be human-resource managers, legal advisors, office administrators, accountants, financial clerks, risk-management directors, and on and on.  The list is nearly endless, which is no surprise given that every university needs to operate itself, and universities are large and complex organizations.  But I have a beef with some (not all!) of this non-academic group: they don’t always understand what a university is. Continue reading