Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Scientist’s Guide to Writing is a year old!

One year ago*, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing hit the world’s bookshelves. A year is very young for a human or a redwood tree; it’s very old for a butterfly.  I hope a year is still quite young for The Scientist’s Guide, although that depends entirely on whether people keep reading and using it.

People often ask me how the book is “doing”.  I’d love to know the answer to that!  Continue reading

On being nerdsniped by Dynamic Ecology

Photos: Artificial moths from @mothgenerator; thanks to Katie Rose Pipkin for permission to reproduce them here.

Warning: 100% silly.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Fox over at Dynamic Ecology nerdsniped me with this link to the Moth Generator twitter account.

If you haven’t seen it, Moth Generator is a clever bot that constructs fictional moths by (somehow) recombining a library of graphic generation rules. For an entomologist and a nerd, like me, this is completely fascinating.  If you’re either or both, I recommend that you check it out. Continue reading

A month of spamvitations

Photo:  Wall of SPAM © Lee Coursey via flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Esteemed contributor.  Revered speaker.  Renowned researcher. You get these e-mails too: invitations to publish papers in fake* journals, to join fake editorial boards, to speak at fake conferences.  I’d certainly known I got a lot of them; but that was unquantified, because I usually just grin at their clumsy phrasing and then delete them without further thought.  “What”, I thought, “would happen if I kept track of them all for a month?  Would I learn anything?  Could I milk a blog post out of it?” Continue reading

We praise originality, but we don’t seem to value it

Image: Citation impact vs. originality, for 55 of my own publications.  See text for explanation.

 Warning: a bit cynical.

Last week I filled out a grad-school recommendation form for a terrific undergraduate student.  Among other things, it asked me to rate her “originality”.  That got me thinking.

We tell each other often that we admire scientists who are original thinkers. Originality is often an explicit criterion in manuscript assessment, in tenure assessment, even at science fairs.  The related idea of “novelty” is a major criterion in many (if not most) grant applications. Herman Melville might almost have been speaking for scientists when he said “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation*”.

So we praise originality. But do we value it?  I’m skeptical.  Continue reading

Am I the last holdout against making (publication-quality) figures in R?

It’s been amazing, over the last decade, to watch the incoming tide of R swamp every other tool for statistical analysis (at least in my own field, ecology and evolution). I’ve mostly come to accept my new statistical overlord*.  But what I don’t understand is R graphics. Continue reading

Persistence in publishing: the Tubthumping strategy

Image: Asim Saeed via flickr.com CC-BY-2.0

 This is a joint post by Steve Heard and Andrew Hendry (crossposted here on Andrew’s blog). 

Another week, another rejection, right?  If you’ve been in science long at all, you almost certainly have a bulging file of rejections for grants, manuscripts, fellowships, and even jobs. Here, for example, is Steve’s truly impressive job-rejection history; and here’s a previous analysis of Andrew’s manuscript rejections.

We were part of a recent Twitter exchange that began when Steve tweeted in celebration of submitting a manuscript – to its third different journal:

Continue reading