Academic Rejection Training

Following on my previous post about methods to deal with the inevitable, frequent, and necessary instances of academic rejection you’ll face in your career I drew this comic to provide some helpful advice on ways to train for proposal writing. Since the review process generally takes months (well, the delay from the time of submission to the time that you find out is months- not the actual review itself) it’s good to work yourself up to this level slowly. You don’t want to sprain anything in the long haul getting to the proposal rejection stage.


Top Posts of 2013

Although I started blogging in 2012, 2013 has been my first year of blogging. It’s been fun so far if a bit sporadic. I’ve posted approximately once a week, which is a bit less than I’d like. And I’ve had some fun. My top posts for the year are listed in order below. Looking forward to continuing to blog, and improve, in the coming year and beyond. My blog resolution for 2014 is to post more frequently but to also work on a few posts that are more like mini-papers, studies of actual data that’s interesting to the scientific community similar to my analysis of review times in journals. (Caveat: this ranking is based on absolute numbers so short-changes more recent posts that haven’t had as much time to be viewed.  But really I think it’s pretty reasonable)

I had some failures in 2013 too. Some posts that I was sure would knock it out of the park, but didn’t garner much interest. Also, I started a series (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that was supposed to chronicle my progress on a computational biology project in real time. That series has stalled because it was a bit harder to put together the project than I thought it would be (this is not surprising in the least BTW) and I ran into other more pressing things I needed to do. I’m still planning on finishing this- it seems like a perfect project for the Jan-Feb lull that sometimes occurs.

Top Posts of 2013 for The Mad Scientist Confectioner’s Club

  1. Scientific paper easter eggs: Far and away my most viewed post. A list of funny things that authors have hidden in scientific papers, but also of just funny (intentionally or not) scientific papers. And these keep coming too- so much so that I started a Tumblr to add new ones.
  2. How long is long: Time in review for scientific publications/Time to review for scientific publications revisited: These two posts have analysis I’ve done of the time my papers spent in review. After some Twitter discussions I posted the second one that looked at how long the papers took to get their first review returned, which is more fair to the journals (my first post looked at overall time, including the time that I spent revising the papers). Look for a continuation of this in 2014, hopefully including contribution of data from other people.
  3. Eight red flags in bioinformatics analyses: I’m still working on revising this post into a full paper since I think there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Unfortunately on the back burner right now. However, I did get my first Nature publication (in the form of a Comment) out of the deal. Not bad.
  4. Reviewer 3, I presume?: This post was to recap the (moderate) success of a Tweet I made, and the turning of that Tweet into a sweet T-shirt!
  5. Gaming the system: How to get an astronomical h-index with little scientific impact: One of my favorite posts (though I think I wrote it in 2012) does a bit of impact analysis on a Japanese bioinformatic group that published (and still publishes) a whole bunch of boilerplate papers- and got an h-index close to 50!
  6. How can two be worse than one? Replicates in high-throughput experiments: I’m including this one so that this list isn’t 5 long, and also because I like this post. This is essentially a complaint about the differences between the way that statisticians and data analysts (computational biologists, e.g.) see replicates in high-throughput data and how wet-lab biologists see them. It has yielded one of my new favorite quotes (from myself) that’s not actually in the post: “The only reason to do an experiment with two replicates because you know replicates are important, but you don’t know why.”

Have a great New Year and see everyone in 2014!

To my friends, loved and unloved

My friends of Facebook, Twitter, and beyond (and those that just happened upon this post by searching for “red kitchen manga fruit”)- I’ve now been blogging for just over a year. Woohoo! I think I’ve started to find my voice- though I’m not really sure that my posts have gotten measurably better. It’s been fun and I’ve managed to post about once a week, on average.

Anyway, today’s post is a response to a Huffington Post piece titled “7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook“. The author starts with an example of a self-serving post from a friend of a friend and then elaborates a basic premise:

A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.

I actually agree with all the points listed and have been annoyed at one point or another by some variant of those points (it’s worth a read, really). The author lists two ways that a post can be unannoying– if it’s either A) interesting or informative or, B) funny, amusing or entertaining.

So roughly translated the author states that the way posts can be annoying is if they’re all about ME (the poster) and the way they can be unannoying is if they’re all about YOU (i.e. the reader.) My problem with the post is that the author is ignoring something very important about Facebook and other forms of social interaction on the internet: the interactions are social. That is, they don’t go just one way- they are an interaction between two invested parties.

The key here is moderation. Of course, if you always post attention-getting posts I may get annoyed. But here’s the thing- I am interacting with you on social media because I want to be social with you. If I didn’t want that I wouldn’t be your friend/follower/blog reader/etc. It’s easy.

It boils down to two easy rules of my own: A) How would I interact with a friend if I were talking to them? and B) It is my choice to read your post so and I can easily ignore things that you post should I choose.

So here’s my take. If I’m your friend/follower/blog reader then:

  1. If you have something great in your life happen and want to BRAG about it. Go ahead! I would love to know what you feel proud about and what’s great in your life. Really I do. If you do it repeatedly, I may tune you out. If I’m threatened by your success and happiness then that’s just my problem, isn’t it?
  2. If you’re in a new relationship and loving it. I want to know! Really. Young love is the stuff of famous plays, pop music, and personal mythology. It’s great! Why would I not want to know that you’re in a new relationship? If you post pictures or change your relationship status without an accompanying post, I’ll feel left out.
  3. Likewise- if you’re sad I want to know. Why haven’t you been posting your normal humorous anecdotes? Oh- your dog ran away and your grandma died. Makes sense and I feel for you. Maybe it makes a difference to me to know these things. If you’re always sad it might be depressing to be your friend.
  4. Cryptic cliffhangers? OK, there I’m at a loss. But everyone needs a little mystery in their life right? Once in awhile it’s OK to leave me hanging.
  5. The literal post: Do I want to know mundane details of your life? Sure I do. In moderation. I don’t need to know that you’re sitting on the toilet or putting on your jacket. But it can be comforting and familiar to know that you’re eating at your favorite lunch spot, reading to the kids, or cooking something wonderful. It gives me insight into your actual life.
  6. Oscar-acceptance speeches? Why not. Imagine that you’re reading someone’s Xeroxed (yes, that’s a word) yearly family Christmas letter (the distant predecessor to Facebook)- this is something you would expect to find there. Everyone likes a little appreciation. Just not too much.
  7. An incredibly obvious opinion? Now that’s pretty much a judgement call isn’t it? I agree that there are some posts that are just as obvious as “the sky is blue today”- but there’s a whole lot of gray area and someone’s obvious post may be somebody else’s revelation into the mysteries of life. OK- maybe not that far, but at least interesting.
  8. A step toward enlightenment is described in the post as “an unsolicited nugget of wisdom”. So, when, except in Kung-Fu movies, is wisdom sought out exactly? These are easy to ignore and can be pretty interesting sometimes. Unless of course, you’re one of those people who happen to already know all the wisdoms. Then it’s just annoying.

The post finishes with the (probably accurate- depending on your definitions) statement:

That means that between 96 and 99 percent of your Facebook friends DO NOT LOVE YOU.

So- I’m not friends with you on Facebook because I love you (well, except YOU- I mean I DO love YOU, obviously- that’s why we’re having this heart-to-heart). But I am friends with you, or follow you, or read your blog, or follow your Tumblr because you give me something- a connection, some interest, some part of a social interaction. So post away! In moderation.