January 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m currently wrapping up a long review paper (>10k words) that should hopefully be published this September. As usual, as a non-native speaker, I ran into many common grammar and style mistakes. Luckily, I have next door a native speaker, and he’s patient enough to correct most of my mistake. He’s my first secret weapon. The second one is this little gem, called The Elements of Style (4th Edition), by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. This book is probably the best money I’ve ever spend on a book.
So without further ado, here are my top ten mistakes, that I’ve learned to correct thanks to my two secret weapons:
- You should place a comma after abbreviations like i.e., e.g., etc.
- If you enumerate several terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term. Example: “… bla bla bla in materials science, chemistry, and life science”. Same if you enumerate with “or”.
- Put statements in positive forms. It is much stronger.
- Omit needless words. For some reason, we french people seem to be using a lot of these. So here you go, go and mercilessly chase expressions like “the reason why is that”, “the question as to whether”, etc.
- “Due to” is synonym to “attributable to”. Avoid using it for “owing to” or “because of”.
- “Interesting”. It might be interesting to you, but not to everyone else. Remove it. Just remove it.
- “Type” is not a synonym for “kind of”. So get it straight.
- “While”. Just stick to it if you can replace it with “during the time that”.
- Don’t say “very unique”. “unique” is good enough.
- Split infinitive: when you put an adverb between “to” and the verb. I used this form a lot and thought it was cool. Apparently it’s not. Don’t say: “to thoroughly investigate”, say: “to investigate thoroughly”.
This is just the top ten. The entire book is full of stuff like this. Go and get it. And don’t lend it to anyone, you’d never get it back. Do you have another one? Share it in the comments.
April 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I am gradually becoming more and more interested in open access, and have followed the PLoS One evolution for a while. Working in materials science, PLoS One is not quite our common avenue for publishing our research. Although it is theoretically open to any domain of science, it is still strongly dominated by biology, for historical reasons.
Last year, though, we had cool and intriguing results about a compound exhibiting ice shaping properties, similar to that of antifreeze protein. I was very interested in having these results reaching biologists instead of ceramists. My first paper in PLoS One, thus.
One of the benefit of publishing there is the availability of usage metrics, updated daily. Curious to see how the paper would be perceived, or at least accessed, I tried to follow the usage over time. I did not manage to do it everyday, but maybe at least twice a week or so. So here are the results, with the total views and daily views for the past 5 months or so.
What we see is a very strong first increase of the views, which then decreases very fast. The window to catch attention of readers is very short, less than a week, with readers coming either from the front page when the paper is still in the recently published papers list, or through RSS or other feed. After that, there is a long tail, with 4 or 5 daily views in average.
A second peak is also visible, shortly after the first one. It corresponds to the publication of the press release by the CNRS, which was tweeted and retweeted a couple of time, and caught the attention of a number of new readers.
The other, less visible observation is the absence of a peak in the last month. I went to a conference in Germany to present these results, and apparently people did not rush to PLoS One to download the paper. Oh well.
Although these data are limited to a single paper, I suspect the general behaviour for all journals is very similar. I would be curious to see such data averaged for a journal. I wish all the journals would make such data available. I guess this is just a matter of time before they do so.
February 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This is insane when you read it and think about it. We (authors) shouldn’t have to deal, at least not too much, with that. Just finished submitting a revised version of a manuscript. And I went crazy with the online submission system, that just keep crashing and forcing me to start over and over again. As usual. Not exactly a user-friendly experience.
January 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
October 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
aka table of contents, rolling on the floor laughing. This one is probably my favourite. Some outstanding graphical art out there. More seriously, check out the Nature Chemistry article here. Checking my RSS feed in the browser, or most of the time on the iPad with Reeder, graphical abstracts definitely helps identifying papers of interest (for me).
October 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Check out the Nature paper on Shechtman’s nobel prize for his work on quasicrystals. I dig the idea in the commentaries:
we should have a separate section in journals for “too strange to be true” or something like that. That way, those who are experts and interested can evaluate it for themselves.
August 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I just submitted my first paper to PLoS One. I’m curious to see how it goes. It turns out that we have some very intriguing results, which could be of interest for many and disparate scientific communities. Combined with my rising interest for open access journals, PLoS One seems to be a perfect fit. There are extremely few (I could not find one, actually) materials science papers in PLoS One, although they are open to any domains of science. This could be the first one, that might be fun. Let’s see.
June 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A confirmation that authors are tired of paying to publishers. The whole article is nevertheless about the increase of open access journals, which I am not sure is a good sign. My personal experience is that I received maybe 15 invitations to publish in new, open access journals, during the past year only. The publishing fee is always the same, in the 500-1000$ range. And curiously, half of these new journals are published by the same publisher. So I tend to agree with one of the comments at the end of the article:
Unfortunately now too many open access journals are mushrooming & publishing low standard papers just by taking money
Because nearly all the must-have journals still charge subscription fees, the rise of the author-pays model actually imposes an extra expense on research funders
If you publish 5 to 10 papers a year in such journals, you clearly need to allocate some funding for it.
May 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
April 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Only 6 actually. But I enjoyed the read.
That’s why my first rule for writers is that, as an aspiring writer, you should write every day
Also applies of course to science papers. You will find yourself writing much more papers if you take the habit of writing 20 min or 1h a day. Every day. Every. Day. Really.
[...] you should never send stuff straight to air while it’s still hot. Good writing is a dish best served cold
So true, again. I usually write a quick draft, and then let it rest a few days or weeks, and eventually iterate, correct, improve, iterate and iterate again.