The story behind my first opinion piece

I recently had my first opinion piece appear. I learned a lot during the process – which, in addition to writing it, included getting feedback on it, pitching it, and working to get it ready for publication. My goal here is to share what the experience was like. I still have a ton to learn, but my hope is that talking about what it was like for me will be useful for others who are just starting their scicomm journeys (or who are considered starting one). And, for people who are more experienced, I’d love to hear more about what it was like for you when you started and what some of the key things are that you’ve learned along the way. (Warning: this ended up getting kind of long!)

 

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Friday links: computer-animated Cuban Daphnia (yes, really), Darwin’s work-life balance, and more (UPDATEDx2)

Also this week: don’t save your R workspace, tell me again why the peer review system is in crisis, what economists (and ecologists?) don’t know, thought leaders vs. public intellectuals, William Carlos Williams vs. email, Jeremy channels his inner early-90s self, and more. Including an extra-large helping of silliness!

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Case studies in coauthorship: what would you do and why?

Note from Jeremy: this is a guest post by Greg Crowther.

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We academics sure love to discuss authorship, don’t we?  Previous posts on this blog have addressed authorship issues such as author order and criteria for authorship.  The latter post dove deeply into the issue of defining what sorts of contributions are substantial enough to merit authorship.  I thought this post and the corresponding comments were great . . . but too focused on one side of authorship at the expense of the other side.

Before I explain what I mean by that, consider the following mini-case studies:

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I just got my first papers accepted in almost two years. Which is ok. (UPDATED)

If you look at my publications list, you’ll see that it doesn’t look up to date. The most recent paper on it came out in 2015. And it’s true that it’s not up to date–but only because I’m a co-author on a couple of papers that got accepted in the past week.

Which means that in terms of publishing papers, I went 0-for-2016. I went almost two years between acceptance letters.

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Friday links: nobody wants portable peer review (apparently), $10M worth of bugs, and more

We read All The Things this week, and you should too. 🙂 Such as: tell me again what “biodiversity” is and why it’s “good”, grad student mental health, real life bird-rabbit illusion, the most motivating grade ever given, meta-analysis of meta-analyses, does recruiting girls into STEM solve the wrong problem, stats vs. calculus, #thanksfortyping, and more!

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How far can the logic of shrinkage estimators be pushed? (Or, when should you compare apples and oranges?)

Scientists—and indeed scholars in any field—often have to choose how wide a net to cast when attempting to define a concept, estimate some quantity of interest, or evaluate some hypothesis. Is it useful to define “ecosystem engineering” broadly so as to include any and all effects of living organisms on their physical environments, or does that amount to comparing apples and oranges?* Should your meta-analysis of [ecological topic] include or exclude studies of human-impacted sites? Can microcosms and mesocosms be compared to natural systems (e.g., Smith et al. 2005), or are they too artificial? As a non-ecological example that I and probably many of you are worrying about these days, are there any good historical precedents for Donald Trump outside the US or in US history, or is he sui generis? In all these cases and others, there’s no clear-cut, obvious division between relevent information and irrelevant information, things that should be lumped together and things that shouldn’t be. Rather, there’s a fuzzy line, or a continuum. What do you do about that? Are there any general rules of thumb?

I have some scattered thoughts on this, inspired by the concept of “shrinkage” estimates in statistics:

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Most people want their figures in line. Almost everyone wants legends on the same page as figures.

Here are the results of the quick poll I did last week related to whether figures should be placed in line or at the end of a manuscript. I prefer having the figures at the end of a manuscript (because this way I know where to find figures that are referred to multiple times), but I suspected I was in the minority. That suspicion was correct. Below, I also give results of where people want their figure legends placed: almost everyone wants the legend on the same page as the figure itself.

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Does gender influence when people first apply for faculty jobs?

A couple of months ago, a reader of the blog sent me an email containing a figure she’d made from this year’s ecology job wiki, using data from the “anonymous qualifications” sheet. That figure suggested that women might be waiting longer than men to start applying for tenure track jobs — or, more specifically, that men might be more likely that women to apply for faculty positions while still in grad school or within the first year after getting their PhD. After recreating the figure myself and also looking at the 2015-2016 job wiki and finding a similar pattern, I decided to do a poll to see whether this pattern held up with more data. Results are below, but the quick summary is that women do not seem to be waiting longer to apply for faculty positions (at least based on the poll data).

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Should figures go at the end of a manuscript or appear in line? And where should figure legends go?

We’ve been thinking a lot about publishing lately here at Dynamic Ecology, including issues such as whether to sign reviews (I generally don’t), changes in authorship practices, whether all reviewers should be satisfied before a paper is accepted (Jeremy says reviewers advise, the editor decides), and whether reviewers are gate-keepers or editors (Brian thinks that, unfortunately, it’s increasingly the latter). But now I want to tackle two truly weighty topics related to the publication process: whether figures should go at the end of a manuscript and whether figure legends should appear on the same page as the figure. Two polls are below, along with some of my thoughts.

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