Tag Archives: criticism

The best Acknowledgements section ever

Some people ignore the Acknowledgements sections of papers, but they’re one of my favourite bits. Not because they have much to do with telling the paper’s story – they don’t – but because they can reward a reader with the kind of writing style, personality, and humour that’s otherwise in short supply in our scientific writing. My favourite Acknowledgements section of all time, though, isn’t one that’s particularly funny or beautiful. Instead, it’s one that makes a very profound point about the value of criticism. Here it is, in its entirety: Continue reading


Two things caught my eye last week that got me thinking about praise. First, I realized I’d been on Twitter for exactly a year; and second, I saw (HT Friday Links at Dynamic Ecology) this commentary on the rarity of “negative” citations in immunology*.

I can draw a connection**. Scientists are encouraged to be skeptical and critical, but in each case I see evidence that we’re often very (surprisingly?) nice to each other. One of my greatest fears joining Twitter was that it would turn out to be one of those cesspools of internet trash-talk. And that does happen (of course), but overall my impression is that science users of Twitter, at least, are phenomenally positive and supportive. People are “excited” to visit each other and “honoured” to give talks, blog posts are “thoughtful”, and collaborators and students are “fantastic” – which can even seem a little cringe-worthily mushy and sycophantic until you get used to it. And the rarity of negative citations? Because we’re told science makes progress by overturning previous results, and because we’re trained to be critical of published papers, and because everyone has a Reviewer #3 story they love to tell, you’d think we’d be tearing each other to shreds at every opportunity. Apparently we don’t. Continue reading