Month: March 2014

A Plea

Dear colleague:

Once you are a grown-ass scientist with several years of experience past your PhD — which means that among other things you are not a graduate student of mine, for whose technical writing practices I am responsible and after whom I (grudgingly) accept that it is my job to clean up prior to manuscript submission lest we all be embarrassed — then pretty please with a cherry on top: 

— Don’t send me a manuscript draft in a state where it’s impossible to comprehend what a figure actually represents. What is the quantity you are plotting, for which system/sample?

— Be cognizant that someone is supposed to at least approximately be able to read stuff off your graphs, which means that a total of three ticks with numbers (with no ticks or numbers in between) on the whole goddamn axis is simply not enough.

— Read the goddamn draft before you send it to me. Go over it as you would when you review other people’s papers; notice that there are multiple places where you make pretty strong claims of “common knowledge” that’s not really common and where you don’t actually provide a citation. It pisses me off when there are 10-15 places where I felt a citation was really necessary but it’s missing.

— Read the goddamn draft before you send it to me. Pretty please decide on  the notation and don’t change it 5 times throughout the paper (because you cut and pasted from 5 different papers) and clean up the equations.  It’s not really all that hard. Really.

— Read the goddamn draft before you send it to me. You have to read it in order to realize that, in the part that you wrote, the flow is terrible. It is hypertension-inducing even in the under-caffeinated among us, and in my case a vein might pop. Edit the draft, for goodness sake, I know you can. You are not my student, I should not have to clean up so much after you. More importantly, I don’t want to. You are a grown-ass scientist.



Random Bits of Spring

Is it just me, or is everyone’s spring semester more difficult than the fall?

Every so often, and for some reason the spring occurrences seem more memorable, I fall into this relentless work vortex. And it’s hard to tell what it is that I do that’s so much more ominous or voluminous than usual. Just… Work.

* This year, we are having multiple searches and I am on the search committee, so that was a ton of extra work and all the meetings with candidates have started and I can’t wait for them to stop. These are all great young people, but I think I am getting seriously peopled out. Between last year’s search and the current one, I am depleting all my reserves of good spirit as well as my container of small-talk magic dust.

* In the academic blogosphere, we often write about manuscript review: how frequently we review, for which journals, how we are as referees, society-level journals versus GlamourMagz, editorial practices… I review about a paper per week and I have, as of a couple of years ago, restricted myself to the journals where I am likely to submit my own work or have done it in the past. There are a few exceptions: I am an associate editor for a specialized journal, so I review submissions as editor as well as a referee, and I review when friends who are associate editors somewhere ask me, even if I would not normally submit to their journal.

But, at least in my field, there are other things to review, and they do add up to a considerable service load. For some reason, they are all in the spring. There are proposal reviews and panels. I will receive a nice small honorarium for some recent proposal reviews I did, which will cover my eldest offspring’s unexpectedly expensive glasses. But then there are many conferences happening in the summer, which means that abstracts are being reviewed pretty much today (in my field, the so-called extended abstract format, with one page text and one page figures, is the norm). This year I am on three program committees — one is the main conference for my specialty, so that one I would not miss; the other two are very close to my specialty and people who are friends are organizing them, so I kind of felt obligated to say yes. Half the time (or more?) I am the only woman on these committees; I wonder if they all search their mental hard drives until they think of one woman (me) and are relieved when I accept, or is it the less likely scenario where my sheer awesomeness brings me to the forefront of everyone’s mind regardless of my gender. Does everyone still seem to believe “0 women — bad, 1 woman — underrepresentation problem solved”?

(I dozed off in the middle of writing this post… So much for action-packed writing.)

* On Friday of last week, within a few hours of one another, I received a revise-and-resubmit on a paper, plus two new drafts (one from a student, another from a collaborator) that needed to be turned around quickly. My first impulse was to flee, go home early and just engage in something entirely mindless. Every freakin’ Teletubbies would have worked. (I am lying, they wouldn’t have. I hate them with a passion.) But sometimes you just get overwhelmed and sticking head in the sand starts looking really, really good.

* I need to plan some equipment purchase, and next year several grants are expiring, so I need to maximize chances to do good work now but also leave some rainy-day money in case grants don’t come in or are delayed… The what-if planning is causing me a lot of anxiety these days.

* Spouse and I started watching True Detective. It’s a really great show, highly recommended.

* Here are some new and not-so-new blogs to check out, go over and say hi:

Waving and Drowning in Academia — an academic physical scientist at a primarily undergrad institution, grumpy and funny

Funny Researcher — go say hi, he’s a brand new assistant prof in a life science field

Clarissa’s Blog — a professor of Spanish language and literature, writing about academia, feminism, politics

JaneB — a British academic and an academic blogosphere veteran

Academomia — one of my all time favorite mommy blogs. I only lurk there; Becca, the author, posts pics of her beautiful family and all the fun they have. They all look so relaxed and happy

Wandering Scientist — Cloud is a manager in biotech, and a working mom in a dual-career marriage

Gasstationwithoupumps — a UC engineering prof, blogs on different aspects of STEM education

Love, Joy, Feminism — Libby Ann grew up in an evangelical family, but characterizes herself now as “a feminist, a progressive, and a nonbeliever.” This is the about page

Good Math, Bad Math — MarkCC moved to a new place. Here’s a sample. He writes about technical stuff extremely well

Feel free to drop links to interesting blogs in the comments. See you when the snow melts/work vortex lets up/I catch up on sleep or dishes/we move clocks again. Whatever comes first… Or was it last?

Double Bind

Career women face a double bind: the more competent and assertive they are, the less liked they are (these traits are positively correlated with likability for men, negatively for women), and reduced likability makes women less effective as leaders . If they are not very assertive, they may be  well-liked but they are not perceived as very competent, so their effectiveness suffers again. So damned if you do, damned if you don’t. 

For the geeky among us, here’s a handy illustrated guide to women’s careers. Comic7_DoubleBind