Science first, scientists later

In the biological sciences, authorship of scientific, peer-reviewed articles is perhaps the single biggest determinant of career success, recognition and grant funding. However, merely being one author out of, say 5, on an article is not enough, where you are on that list matters too.

Steven Burgess has proposed a radical idea on how to do away with this problem:

Want to know how? Read about it here!

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Publishers go after ResearchGate for illicit sharing of journal papers

“The unasked question that this all comes down to is: Do publisher-owned rights matter more than the sharing of research for whatever benefit?” says Jon Tennant, communications director of professional research network ScienceOpen (also an STM member) in Berlin. “There’s a chance that ResearchGate will fail to recover from this, unless they fight back, and crumble as a business.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Are preprints the future of biology? A survival guide for scientists

Although physicists have been posting preprints for nearly 3 decades, many biologists have only just begun to widely share their unreviewed papers. The shift has been catalyzed, in part, by endorsements of preprint publishing from high-profile scientists, as well as the 2013 launch of the nonprofit bioRxiv by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York; bioRxiv now holds more than 15,000 papers. But in contrast to physics, where preprints took off without much fanfare or controversy, the leap into preprints is stirring strong passions in the hyper-competitive world of the life sciences.

Pros:

  1. accelerate the pace of science—and improve its quality—by publicizing findings long before they reach journals,
  2. helping researchers get rapid feedback on their work
  3. giving a leg up to young researchers who don’t yet have many publications
  4. little difference between posting a preprint and presenting unpublished findings at a meeting, except that the preprint audience can be far larger

Cons:

  1. competitors may steal their data or ideas, and rush to publish similar work.
  2. preprint servers will become a time sink, as scientists spend hours trying to sift through an immense mishmash of papers of various quality
  3. easy, rapid publication could foster preprint wars—in which the findings in one preprint are quickly attacked in another, sometimes within hours. Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists.

Read about it here!

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On the fine balance between crafting new ideas and fighting writers’ block

My biggest problem as an academic? I’m not enough of a finisher. I get excited and distracted by new shiny things and start pursuing them instead of sitting down and finishing the paper from the last thing I’m already done with. I sometimes call this writers block… but that’s just an excuse and I know it.

So to combat this idea, and the ideas put forth in this post, Raul Pachecco-Vega wrote about how he teaches his students to write every day. It’s both a nice rebuttal and food for thought on how to approach the mountain of writing required to publish or perish. I especially like Meghan Duffy’s response.

Do you have writer’s block? Is there a way you combat it? Does it involve moving the refrigerator to clean behind it as a means of avoiding writing your thesis (Mom, I’m looking at you here)?

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Write drunk, edit sober

The title of this post is one of my favorite Hemmingway quotes. While I think Ernie might have taken it too far (I’m not encouraging alcoholism here), I definitely approve of this kind of mentality. Just ask my editors, my first draft is usually words vomited onto the page that I then spend MONTHS beating into submission.

But as was recently pointed out in an article making the rounds of the twitterverse: this isn’t the only way to do it, and being open about the struggles we all go through (I still hate staring at a blank page) and our process.

Check out: How academics survive the writing grind: some anecdotal advice, and let me know more about your process!

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It’s good to have lots of bad ideas

Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel prizewinner, also gave us another important, if less well-known, dictum: that if you want to have good ideas, you must have lots of ideas and learn to throw away the bad ones.

But how do we quantify if that’s true? One academic of emeritus status (John Kirwanlooked back on his career to do just that.

Read about it here.

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Losing a major grant funding PhD scientists

As I’m sure everyone has heard by now, the NSF is cutting the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (also known as the DDIG). This is a huge loss for scientific research in the United States.

Dollar per person, of all the NSF grants the DDIG was the biggest bang for the buck. It helped launch innumerable careers, and started many a scientist on the path to full adulthood.

The internet and twittersphere are full of stories about how DDIGs helped careers, but I want to highlight one from Jeremy Yoder. As usual, it’s well written and gets to the heart of the concept.

Also, call your members of congress to object to the continued reduction in funding for scientific research.

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