Monthly Archives: October 2018

Don’t stop writing in the Chasm of Despair

Image: In the Chasm of Despair (crop), Gavster CC 0 via pixabay.com.  Happy Hallowe’en?

 Warning: it’s not clear whether I’m using metaphor here, or whether metaphor, having taken full control, is using me.

In nearly every writing project I take on – no matter whether it’s an 800-word blog post or an 80,000-word book – there’s a point where I feel like what I’ve produced so far is horrible, that I can’t see how to fix it, and that I’ll probably never find my way to a worthwhile end.  I sit in front of the screen cursing, if I can summon the energy to curse; if I can’t, I just stare at the page with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I call this point in my writing process the Chasm of Despair.   Continue reading

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How big an obstacle are common contractions for non-native speakers of English? Polls!

I recently had a run-in (OK, a minor disagreement) with a reviewer who wanted me to scrub all contractions from my manuscript – and who specifically objected, not to some fancy or newly-coined acronym but standard, common English contractions like didn’t, it’s, and we’ll. Continue reading

Twitter and your Research Program: tweeting your publications

At the 2018 conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, 5 friends and I put on a workshop on the use of Twitter in science.  Today: slides and commentary from Alex Smith‘s piece of the #CSEETweetShop.  How can you use Twitter to share the word about your own scientific publications?  And how does it help?

I’m an imposter (begins Alex). I joined Twitter in September 2013 looking for a way to promote and distribute the photos and videos that I take in the field.  The way I had done this in the past (individual blogs or websites) was getting views only from my family at first, and then slowly it seemed, not even them.  So I joined Twitter because I thought it was the social media platform that would help me promote the work my lab does. So speaking at the CSEE 2018 symposium on Twitter and Science I felt a bit of an imposter because since October 2013, my Twitter experience has been all about learning from others. But here we go…tweeting your research, why would you want to; and then some suggestions for how to go about doing it. Continue reading

Back yard cats, balloons, and butterfly releases

Image: Balloon release at the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival, by Editor5807 CC BY 3.0, via wikimedia.org

Someone’s cat just wandered across my back yard, and that got me thinking about butterfly releases.  No, really – stick with me for a moment.  There’s a connection, and, eventually, a bigger point.

By now, everyone ought to be aware that letting domestic cats roam outdoors is a terrible idea.  It’s terrible for the cats, who live shorter and less healthy lives; but much more important, it’s terrible for wildlife – cats kill millions of songbirds each year, and have (on islands) even been directly responsible for bird extinctions.  That there are self-identified cat “lovers” still insisting on letting cats outside says a lot about the phenomenal ability of humans to avoid (often deliberately) the acquisition of knowledge.  But this post shouldn’t become a rant about cats, so I’ll move on.

Balloon releases have more recently come under scrutiny, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re also a terrible idea.  Continue reading

Wow – a “People’s Choice Award” for Scientist Sees Squirrel!

I was awfully pleased to learn, late last week, that Scientist Sees Squirrel has won the 2018 People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Favourite Science Blog*.  What an honour!  The award competition is run yearly by the blogging network ScienceBorealis in collaboration with the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.  There were 9 nominees this year, and readers were invited to vote for three favourites.  If you voted for Scientist Sees Squirrel, thank you!  And if you voted for three other blogs (as I did), thank you also, because the full slate of nominees is much more interesting than any single winner could have been.  I’ll explain. Continue reading

Presenting statistical results: pointers in scientific writing

This semester, I’m coteaching a graduate/advanced-undergraduate level course in biostatistics and experimental design.  This is my lecture on how to present statistical results, when writing up a study.  It’s a topic I’ve written about before, and what I presented in class draws on several older blog posts here at Scientist Sees Squirrel.  However, I thought it would be useful to pull this together into a single (longish) post, with my slides to illustrate it.  If you’d like to use any of these slides, here’s the Powerpoint – licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.

(Portuguese translation here, for those who prefer.)

Here goes.

How should you present statistical results, in a scientific paper?
Continue reading