Tag Archives: research

May 24, 2012, 5:15 pm

A change of scenery

At the end of every summer, I tell my husband, “I don’t think I’m going to do fieldwork next summer. I think I’ll stay home and travel less.” He knows well enough by now to nod quietly and say, “Sure, that will be nice,” but not to get his hopes up.

Because every year, sometime around the middle of January, I start getting restless and annoyed by my comfortable, nicely appointed office. I get tired of sitting at a desk all day, writing emails and updating websites and spreadsheets and start daydreaming about being in the woods and catching birds. And then I tell my husband, “I’m thinking about going to the field in May,” and he responds, “I know.”

I pack up the car with all of my field gear and about 30 pairs of socks (you can never have too many socks in the field), a couple of laptops and grand plans to work on a couple of manuscripts during my downtime. Since I’m not at home and…

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December 14, 2011, 3:49 pm

I finally have some free time… what do I do now?

Cat surrounded by Christmas wrapping paper

I can do whatever I want? Wow, it's just like Christmas!

Ah, the day I’ve been waiting for has arrived at long last. The huge annual undertakings related to our funding agency are now completed, two of my latest manuscripts are in press, and three papers that I’m a co-author on are finally (finally!) in review. Finally, I can start to focus on some new research projects…

…and I have absolutely no idea where to start.

Does this happen to you too? It’s not that I don’t have any projects planned or any data waiting to be analyzed. I’ve got a pile of data from last summer’s field season just sitting there, and two collaborative projects with people who haven’t been answering my emails lately, and vague ideas for a new grant proposal. It’s just… I don’t have any revisions to do, no feedback to…

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October 18, 2011, 12:53 pm

The pain of revising manuscripts

Kitten sleeping by a laptop

A well-deserved rest after submitting a manuscript.

My favorite moment of research is right after I hit the “submit” button on a journal’s article submission website. I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I don’t have to worry about that project for a few weeks or months. I move the folder with all of the paper’s files out of my “active research” folder on my computer and into my “in review” folder. I can take the whole category off of my to-do list. Sure, having a paper accepted is a lovely moment too, but for some reason that first moment after submission is extra-special to me.

But the manuscripts always come back to you, which is my least favorite moment in research. Whenever I see that email in my inbox with the words “Decision on manuscript…” in the title, my chest…

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August 30, 2011, 7:10 am


So, my horrible paper that I have submitted to four journals finally got a revise and resubmit this time, hooray! The trouble is, it is a very big revision that they have requested. Fine, fine, I’ll do it, even though it is extremely painful.

The journal has given me two months to revise and resubmit, and I spent most of that first month traveling and attending or running conferences. Now I’ve got just under one month and I’m not confident in my ability to do all that work in that short period of time. I did get started on it a week ago but, well, it’s a lot of work.

So I’m considering asking for an extension for the first time in my life. Anybody have any experience doing that? Should I ask now? Or would it be better to wait until closer to the deadline? Will they give me an extension, or should I just work harder to try to make the deadline?

August 5, 2011, 8:44 am

I'm back!

My Epic Summer of Epicness (and Epic Exhaustion) is pretty much over now – and not a moment too soon. I am tired, people. I spent a month in the field, which was great and all, but tiring, then drove back across the country, went to work for four days, then flew to another place for a friend’s wedding, came home for less than 24 hours – 4 of which I spent at work – and then drove five hours away for a big conference. All of this was wonderful and time well spent, but there wasn’t much time for sleep in there.

Now my life is somewhat normal again, although still very busy. Next week is our center’s annual conference, so it’s a bit crazy around here as we try to get it all organized.

Some updates on my productivity:

  • of the three papers that were in review already, one was accepted (which I already wrote about), one was favorably reviewed but rejected as not being right for the journal,…

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April 7, 2011, 9:12 am

Productivity peaks

The reviewers wanted to see a new analysis, so I ran it yesterday. To my surprise and glee, the results were significant and they strengthened my conclusion. Hooray! I plan to go ahead and resubmit tomorrow, once my co-authors look it over today. They’ve been surprisingly speedy lately, so I’m not worried. I also got comments back from co-authors on my newest manuscript, and I plan to submit that by the end of the month. Finally, I plan to revise the manuscript that won’t die and submit it to its fourth journal in May. This means that, for the first time in my life, I will have THREE manuscripts in review at once. [Possibly FOUR, if Ambitious Grad Student actually submits the 'omics paper, on which I'm second author, next month!]

What the hell is up with all this productivity? Why on earth couldn’t I do this while I was a postdoc? I’ve been giving this question some thought lately. One …

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March 29, 2011, 7:06 am

Revise and resubmit

This manuscript just got a revise-and-resubmit decision, with generally quite positive comments. Hooray! And wow, that was fast. I’ve published in this journal before and I like it quite a lot – and on top of all its other positive qualities, it has a double blind review process.

Also, the manuscript that I worked on during Research Week is nearly finished, and I am planning to send it to co-authors by the end of this week. I have more to say about my writing process on that one, but it will have to wait – it’s time to get ready for work. I’m absurdly pleased with myself at this moment…

March 11, 2011, 3:47 pm

Research Week: the conclusion

It’s Friday! I am back in the office today and therefore making more progress. I played with my data this morning, and after ln-transforming the data (why, oh why, do I always forget about that), they finally make some sense. Hooray!

Today’s progress:

Minutes spent writing: 120 (I skipped the 30 minutes of crap writing today)

Words written: 484 (more time playing with data than actually writing)

Papers read: 2

And here are the final statistics of my progress during Research Week:

Minutes spent writing: 690

Words written: 12,405

Papers read: 10

Not too shabby. Can I keep this up during a regular week? Probably not. But I don’t see any reason why I can’t try to incorporate more of this into my daily work routine. Maybe reading one paper and spending 60 minutes of research writing a day (even if it’s broken into smaller chunks of time) is not unreasonable.

As spring break comes to…

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March 10, 2011, 2:22 pm

Research Week, Day 4 Report

I don’t know if any of you out there have ever tried to work productively at home, with 8 territorial and emotionally needy pets (ok, only 7 – the tortoise doesn’t really give a shit about anything except his heat lamp and food) – which is bad enough, but just wait ’til you get to the end of the sentence — while having a new furnace installed. If you haven’t tried it but are considering it, let me give you a word of advice: don’t.

I did my 30 minutes of crap writing this morning, and then sort of fumbled through 90 minutes of researchy writing cutting and pasting. It was too difficult to concentrate with the banging coming from the basement, the dog barking and whining, the cat growling at the noise in the heating vent, the other cat insisting on climbing into my lab because he’s cold and there’s no heat, and the parrot squawking. I haven’t even bothered trying to read any scientific…

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March 9, 2011, 1:55 pm

Research Week, Day 3 Report

Still going well! I don’t think I’d be able to keep up this level of productivity any time other than spring break or summer, though – it’s awfully quiet around here right now.

Minutes spent writing: 150

Words written: 2863 (but most of those were not new words – I did a lot of editing today)

Papers read: 2

Progress on manuscript: Looking good! I edited the Introduction and Methods sections and I’m pretty pleased with them. I think I’m going to have to go back and run more statistics before I get much further with Results and Discussion, though.

Weather: gray and rainy. I guess I should be glad that it’s above freezing, though, right?