The “publication power-of-attorney”, and why you should have one

(This is a lightly edited version of a post that originally ran in January 2015. But you probably didn’t see it then.) 

Here’s a problem you might not have thought of: did you know you can submit and publish a paper with a coauthor who’s deceased, but not with one who’s in a coma and might recover?

A lot of people have never thought of this, and a lot don’t think it’s a problem worth worrying about.  Please bear with me, though, because I think it’s a more important problem than most of us realize – but also one that’s easily avoided.

The unavailable-coauthor problem is actually more general than my coma example. Continue reading

Advertisements

Attempts to standardize the common names of species are deeply weird

Images: Canada jay, by Gavin Schaefer CC BY 2.0 via wikimedia.org.   Or maybe it’s a grey jay.  Or a whiskey jack.  Cougar, by Eric Kilby CC BY-SA 2.0 via wikimedia.org.  Or maybe it’s a puma. Or a painter. Or a mountain lion.  Or a catamount.  Or a screamer.  Or…you get the idea.

It caught my eye, and the media’s, last month: an announcement that the American Ornithological Society would be changing the “official” name of the North American corvid Perisoreus canadensis from “Gray Jay” to “Canada Jay”.  The grey/Canada jay* is a wonderful bird – handsome, intelligent, and inquisitive – and “grey jay” sells it short, so I’m completely down with using “Canada jay”.  But: the notion that there’s any such thing as an “official” common name, or that the AOU gets to say what it is, is deeply weird. Continue reading

How to find a squirrel

Image: Mexican red-bellied squirrel, Sciurus aureogaster: Dick Culbert CC BY 2.0 via wikimedia.org

 

Inspired by similar exercises from Small Pond Science and The Lab and Field, I present once more a few of the more interesting search terms by which Scientist Sees Squirrel has been found.  These are all real, I swear – and they’re only the tip of the iceberg.  About 95% of searches are encrypted, so I don’t see them.  Imagine what gems are buried in the encrypted searches!

 

do wizards need to know calculus Continue reading

Scientific writing, style, and the trolley problem

Image: Trolley by McGeddon CC BY-SA 4.0 via wikimedia.org

Our scientific literature has a reputation for being not much fun to read: colourless, tedious, and turgid.  By and large, it deserves that reputation (and I would include my own papers in that assessment).  There are exceptions, of course, but they’re few and far between.  I’ve speculated before about some of the reasons for this.  But there’s a possibility I think I’ve been missing, and I’m going to use this post to think through it.

One thing I see fairly often is early-career writers struggling because they think there’s a single best way to write a given piece of text. Continue reading

Some journal covers - Nature, American Naturalist, Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata

How do you choose a journal when it’s time to submit a paper?

Image: Three choices – out of thousands.

Warning: long post. Grab a snack.

Having lots of options is a wonderful thing – right up until you have to pick one.  Have you ever been torn among the two dozen entrées on a restaurant menu? Blanched at the sight of 120 different sedans on a used-car lot? If you have, you might also wonder how on earth you’re going to choose a journal to grace with your latest manuscript.  There are, quite literally, thousands of scientific journals out there – probably tens of thousands – and even within a single field there will be hundreds of options.  (Scimago lists 352 journals in ecology, for example, but that list is far from comprehensive.)

What follows are some of things I think you might consider when you choose a journal.  Continue reading

Turns out “The Scientist’s Guide to Writing” was not actually my first book!

Image: Max atop the tallest tree.  Detail from The Tallest Tree in the World.  Read on.

Warning: utterly trivial.

If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve written a book – The Scientist’s Guide to Writing.  I’ve been telling people it was my first book (and that I’m now working on a second one), and I even wrote a humongously long post about how I had no prior experience with book-writing.

But then I made a discovery.  Continue reading

I’m leading a writing workshop (at Entomology 2018)

Image: Composite.  Book cover, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing; and Entomology 2018 logo, by Michael Blackstock for the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America.  Find the story behind the meeting logo here.

Just a quick announcement, which will be of particular interest to readers who are considering attending Entomology 2018 (the joint annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America, in Vancouver, BC).  At that meeting, I’ll be leading a workshop on scientific writing. Continue reading