Category: Writing

In praise of incremental science; down with heroic science

Count me among the weak of science.

Here I am again, feeling defensive, irate at reviewer critiques of our recent sub-Nobel prize work. Only in this case, the reviews are in my mind, yet to arrive. In fact, we haven’t even drafted the paper yet! But I can foresee what will happen. After all, if I’m honest, our contribution is clearly incremental.

Is it a failure? Were my expectations way off, again?
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Write early and often – when, how, why, and what to write

Many scientists say they dislike writing, but I want to persuade you not to be one of them. Writing not only is the way to convince folks how important your work is, but it can be a key part of doing good science in the first place. Your work must be explainable in a concise and logical way … or else it may not be logical!

And writing can be fun, once you realize it’s another more-or-less scientific puzzle to solve: how to explain what you’re doing to a target audience (or audiences). What’s the one-sentence version of your work? The three-sentence version? How would these change for more general or more technical audiences?
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Should we believe your abstract?

How many times has our community solved the sampling problem? I think it’s a fair question. You know I’m talking about claims rather than actual solutions. And many if not most of those claims are made in the abstracts of papers, even when the data paints a more limited story. I think our abstracts are the problem.

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