How good (a manuscript) is good enough?

Image: © (claimed) Terrance Heath, CC BY-NC 2.0

“How good a manuscript”, I’m sometimes asked, “is good enough to submit”?  It’s a natural enough question.  A manuscript heading for peer review isn’t the finished product.  It’s virtually certain that reviewers will ask for changes, often very substantial ones – so why waste time perfecting material that’s going to end up in the wastebasket anyway? Continue reading

What’s in an idea?

Image: Idea by Alexas_Fotos, CC-0, via pixabay.com

This is a guest post by Quinn Webber, a 2nd-year PhD student at Memorial University (MUN) in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Quinn is an avid science blog-reader and has begun writing for the MUN Graduate Studies blog. His post there on the origin of ideas struck a chord with me, and I asked him if he would adapt it for Scientist Sees Squirrel.

As a 2nd-year PhD student, I seem to spend most of my time coming up with ideas and plans for thesis chapters. As of now, the plan is for five chapters: a conceptual review that integrates the ideas underlying the rest of my thesis (currently in revision), followed by four ‘data’ chapters. Some of the ideas that make up these chapters have been rattling around in my brain for a few years, while others were conceptualized and refined in recent months after reading new literature and chatting with colleagues, lab-mates, and my supervisor. It’s the process of conceptualizing and acting on ideas that I’m interested in and excited about. Ideas become the blueprint that guide data collection, analysis, and ultimately the thesis or manuscript. Continue reading

The power of “thanks”

Image: Scrabble tiles by Wokandapix via pixabay.com, released to public domain.

Warning: a little saccharine.

My mother, no doubt like yours, was right about a lot of things (although she was wrong about some other things).  One thing she was really, really right about was the importance, and the power, of saying “thanks”.

I know, that seems trivial; but we sometimes forget.  This crossed my radar recently because I saw a tweet exhorting people to thank reviewers and editors (that is, members of journal editorial boards) who had worked, unpaid, with their manuscripts.  A reply* expressed surprise that journal editors might be unpaid (and therefore, implicitly, deserving of thanks).  I had several reactions to all this.

First: some people might think “why should I thank those power-wielding career-destroying gatekeeping mean people”?  I plead guilty to having this thought myself, occasionally and temporarily. Continue reading

My journal life list

I enjoy watching birds, but I don’t keep a life list.  I don’t keep a life list for anything, really, which might surprise people who know how data-nerdy I am.  The exception: the journals I’ve published in.  I don’t really know why I track this, but for some reason I find it fun. (To be honest, I’m kind of proud of it and I celebrate each new addition, but I can’t tell you why and I have a sneaking suspicion that I shouldn’t*).

So here’s my list as of today: Continue reading

Recent reading on the history of natural history

I’ve been reading a lot books lately on the history of natural history, as background research for a new book (the proposal is currently in review, and you’ll have to wait to learn more). Among the books, some are new, some are old; some are well known, some are obscure.  Here are my minireviews (in no particular order), in case you’re looking to add that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read. Continue reading

Are two years’ data better than one?

Photo: Two giraffes by Vera Kratochvil, released to public domain, via publicdomainpictures.net. Two giraffes are definitely better than one.

Ecologists are perennially angst-ridden about sample size.  A lot of our work is logistically difficult, involves observations on large spatial or temporal scales, or involves rare species or unique geographic features.  And yet we know that replication is important, and we bend over backwards to achieve it.

Sometimes, I think, too far backward, and this can result in wasted effort. Continue reading

Well, THAT could have been awkward: job-interview edition

What, Andrew MacDonald asks, do you do if you and a friend are interviewing for the same job?  Academia is a small world, and so this is not a question that can be counted on to stay safely hypothetical.  It has, in fact, happened to me.  Awkward?  Maybe a little.  Especially once you hear the rest of the story. Continue reading