Friday links: you say you want a (publishing) revolution…or a baby…or another postdoc…(EDITED)

From Meg:

Pleuni Pennings has a post of things you should look for in a postdoc position. And, in the comments, she links to another post that is entitled “Should you do another postdoc?” I found that one interesting, too, as it lists just two reasons why one should remain a postdoc, and a whole bunch of reasons why one should not. One of the reasons given for why you should not continue to postdoc is “You love your topic of research or research itself.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with everything, but it’s definitely good food for thought (though obviously I’m in a position now where this is not a decision I need to make for myself).

The five things Hope Jahren says to career women who say they might want to have a baby. As I’ve come to expect from her, it’s great. The bit about posting everything to Facebook may resemble me more than I care to admit. 🙂 And, on a related note, a post from Tenure, She Wrote on being a mom in science, and the importance of being able to talk about the difficulties of being a working mom.

From Jeremy:

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what happens when you submit a ms to a journal–what all the steps in the review process are and roughly how long they take–American Naturalist Managing Editor Trish Morse walks you through it.

The scientific intertubes have been buzzing this week about Nobel laureate Randy Schekman’s editorial urging scientists to stop submitting to Nature, Science, and Cell (and, er, presumably submit to his own highly-selective journal instead…). I was toying with responding. But Rich Lenski said it better than I could. And frankly, the online conversation about about where and how to publish is sufficiently dominated by zealots and revolutionaries of various stripes that I can’t really be bothered to wade in any further than I have. You say you want a revolution... EDIT: I wrote that in a bad mood, but that’s an explanation, not an excuse. I shouldn’t have used “zealots” to refer to people whose goals and strong opinions I don’t share, since after all I certainly have strong opinions that others don’t share. That’s my bad, my apologies.

Nothing in Biology has a good summary and discussion of a highly-simplified-but-thought-provoking simulation study of “herding” in peer review and what to do about it.

Philosopher Greg Gandenberger has a nice autobiographical post on how to write an unpublishable paper. Basically, he started out intending to address a big, interesting, important question. But in the course of narrowing it down into a concrete, tractable question he lost everything that made the original big question interesting and important. This happens a lot in ecology, too, I think. Often a lot gets “lost in translation” when researchers go from the big, interesting general question that’s supposed to motivate their work to the narrower specific questions that they’re actually addressing. Learning how to ask small, tractable questions that retain interest and importance because of their links to some bigger, broader question is an important skill for any researcher. And read the comments too, where it’s suggested to Greg that maybe his paper isn’t uninteresting and unpublishable after all! It’s good to be your own toughest critic–but there’s such a thing as being too hard on yourself.

Just because you’re not fast at math doesn’t mean you’re bad at math. Plenty of mathematicians are really slow at math and struggle to understand it–because they take the time to think it through. Relevant to discussions we’ve had in the past.

And finally, here’s a handy (horrible pun intended) visual dictionary of hand gestures used by participants in academic discussions. 🙂 (ht

2 thoughts on “Friday links: you say you want a (publishing) revolution…or a baby…or another postdoc…(EDITED)

  1. I thought the Schekman editorial was bizarre.
    “These luxury journals are supposed to be the epitome of quality, publishing only the best research… But the big journals’ reputations are only partly warranted. While they publish many outstanding papers, they do not publish only outstanding papers. Neither are they the only publishers of outstanding research.”
    Does anyone actually believe this? There probably is an unhealthy amount of attention given to the top journals, but that has more to do with human nature than the publishing practices of the luxury journals. If Nature and Science stopped the presses tomorrow, it would be only a short time until another filled their place.

    Schekman notes “[online journals] can accept all papers that meet quality standards, with no artificial caps.” and then in the same paragraph plugs his new journal elife, which from its website claims to publish “the most highly influential research across all of life and biomedical science.” How is “most highly influential” any less of an arbitrary cap than those used by Science and Nature? Or perhaps they keep a paper safely preserved under glass, in a locked room in Sèvres, defining the exact threshold of quality or influence required for publication in elife? The influian (I) perhaps?

    It also really bugs me that he takes this stance after publishing literally dozens of papers in the very journals he claims are damaging science. To use Randy’s own analogy, it’s kind of like if a banker cashed in the biggest bonus in banking history and then lectured you about the perils of the Wall Street bonus culture. Maybe you have a point, but I’ll start listening when you give back the money.

    • I think your reaction is widely shared, including by me.

      I think your first point is particularly important. Science, Nature, and the attention they get are symptoms, not the problem. Indeed, I don’t know that there’s even a problem of which “lots of attention being paid to Science and Nature” is a symptom…

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