Monthly Archives: October 2022

Preprints, peer review, and the eLife experiment

The “journal” eLife (more about the quotation marks shortly) made a splash last week, announcing a major change in their publication process. In a nutshell, eLife will no longer let peer review influence whether they accept or reject a manuscript. Instead, if they send it out for review at all, they’ll publish the manuscript along with its peer reviews. Authors can respond to peer review either by revising their manuscript or by writing a rejoinder – but they needn’t. You should read eLife’s rather breathless editorial (Eisen et al. 2022) to get the full picture.

It’s a major change for eLife, but I think it’s less revolutionary than it’s painted. Continue reading


Two trivial writing mistakes that really grate on me

Like most academics, I read a lot. And I mean a lot: student papers, draft manuscripts and thesis chapters, manuscripts I’m peer reviewing, grant proposals, blog posts, and yes, newspapers and magazine articles and novels. So I see polished writing, and unpolished writing, and rough-draft writing. And I have that academic instinct to spot writing errors. I see lots of those, believe me – including, of course, in my own writing.

Some errors impede communication, and some are trivial. You’d think I’d rant about the former and forgive the latter, but I’m afraid I’m not that rational. Continue reading

How to boost a book, and an author – and why you should

Last week, I reassured you that you don’t need to buy my books – I’m perfectly content if you borrow them from a library, or from a friend. I suspect most authors are the same – most of understand very well that writing books isn’t going to make us wealthy!

But let’s imagine that you’ve read a book and liked it, and you’d like to thank the author in some small way. You can do that, in ways that won’t cost you a single penny, and I can guarantee you your gesture will be gratefully received. Continue reading

I don’t mind at all if you get my book from the library

If you’ve been reading Scientist Sees Squirrel at all, you know I’ve written a couple of books: The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, and Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider (so far). When I’m talking with folks about these books, there’s a bit of awkwardness that often comes up. Someone will politely mention their interest in reading one of the books, and I’ll tell them that I have copies for sale. That’s not the awkward part, though! The awkward part, instead, comes when I mention that they can also borrow either book from their university or public library. Folks seem to think that they shouldn’t show interest in that option – that I’d be upset if they borrowed my book rather than buying a copy. Continue reading