Monthly Archives: January 2011
A couple of months ago we took a poll to see what the attitudes of ecologists were towards the concept of senior authorship. Twenty-seven folks (including the two of us) weighed in (thanks everyone!) and here are the results:
Of those who where confident that the field was in one state or the other, twice as many thought that the concept of senior authorship did not apply in ecology. However, when including the not sure results it became a tie between those who thought senior authorship applied and those who didn’t. This is unfortunately the worst possible situation that the field could be in since it leads to inconsistent perceptions regarding the meaning of author lines and therefore inconsistent evaluation of scientific contributions.
So, what should we do? One thing that we could do to help clarify things is to follow the advice of Tscharntke et al. 2007 to include (in the Acknowledgements section of the paper) a description of which of the methods of author ordering where used for each paper. This won’t change the impression of someone giving a CV a quick skim, but it provides a clear record of contribution that can be looked at in cases where a more precise understanding of contributions is warranted (e.g., tenure decisions, evaluating job packets once the committee has narrowed things down to a short list, etc.). Beyond that I’m not sure what can be done. I’d love to here suggestions if you have them.
I’d also like to take one more poll to help understand our reaction as a field to Wiley-Blackwell’s recent decision to include the last author as the only named author in their RSS feeds.
Thanks again to everyone who filled out the first poll and commented on the previous post. It’s great that we are starting to be able to have conversations like this with folks outside of our own labs and departments.
I’ve read two great posts in the last couple of days that highlight what the recent debate over the the possibility of ‘arsenic based life’ has shown about how scientists are leveraging the modern web to quickly evaluate, discuss and improve science.
Marc Cadotte, Nicholas Mirotchnick and Caroline Tucker have a great post over at EEB & flow that will fill in the background for you. They use this example as a rallying cry to encourage the use of this new technology to improve the scientific process:
Academics should be the first, not the last, to adopt new communication tools. We are no longer limited by the postal service, email or PDFs; the web has gone 2.0 and we should follow suite. So go forth, young researchers, and blog, edit and share. And then go tweet about it all so your eight year-old kid knows how hip you are.
RealClimate’s piece is more focused on what this recent debate proves about the self-correcting nature of science and thus the inherent lack of vast scientific conspiracies related to things like climate change:
The arseno-DNA episode has displayed this process in full public view. If anything, this incident has demonstrated the credibility of scientists, and should promote public confidence in the scientific establishment.
It ends with a pleasantly sophisticated take* on the complexities of doing science in a world of immediate responses that can occur from across all corners of the web.
They are both definitely worth the read and may well inspire you to run out and join the online dialog.
*In stark contrast to this piece in Nature.
A while ago there was a bit of discussion around the academic blogosphere recently regarding the importance of developing a digital presence and what the best form of that presence might be. Recently as I’ve been looking around at academics’ websites as part of faculty, postdoc and graduate student searchers going on in my department/lab I’ve been reminded of the importance of having a digital presence.
It seems pretty clear to me that the web is the primary source of information acquisition for most academics, at least up through the young associate professors. There are no doubt some senior folk who would still rather have a paper copy of a journal sent to them via snail mail and who rarely open their currently installed copy of Internet Explorer 6, but I would be very surprised if most folks who are evaluating graduate student, postdoctoral and faculty job candidates aren’t dropping the name of the applicant into their favorite search engines and seeing what comes up. They aren’t looking around for dirt like all those scary news stories that were meant to stop college students from posting drunken photos of themselves on social networking sites. They’re just
procrastinating looking for more information to get a clearer picture of you as a scientist/academic. I also do a quick web search when I meet someone interesting at a conference, get a paper/grant to review with authors I haven’t heard of before, read an interesting study by someone I don’t know, etc. Many folks who apply to join my lab for graduate school find me through the web.
When folks go looking around for you on the web you want them to find something (not finding anything is the digital equivalent of “being a nobody”), and better yet you want them to find something that puts your best foot forward. But what should this be? Should you Tweet, Buzz, be LinkedIn, start a Blog, have a Wiki*, or maybe just get freaked out by all of this technology and move to the wilderness somewhere and never speak to anyone ever again.
I think the answer here is simple: start with a website. This is the simplest way to present yourself to the outside world and you can (and should) start one as soon as you begin graduate school. The website can be very simple. All you need is a homepage of some kind, a page providing more detailed descriptions of your research interests, a CV, a page listing your publications†, and a page with your contact information. Keep this updated and looking decent and you’ll have as good an online presence as most academics.
While putting together your own website might seem a little intimidating it’s actually very easy these days. The simplest approach is to use one of the really easy hosted solutions out there. These include things like Google Sites, which are specifically designed to let you make websites; or you can easily turn a hosted blogging system into a website (WordPress.com is often used for this). There are lots of other good options out there (let us know about your favorites in the comments). In addition many universities have some sort of system set up for letting you easily make websites, just ask around. Alternatively, you can get a static .html based template and then add your own content to it. Open Source Web Design is the best place I’ve found for templates. You can either open up the actual html files or you can use a WYSIWYG editor to replace the sample text with your own content. SeaMonkey is a good option for a WYSIWYG editor. Just ask your IT folks how to get these files up on the web when you’re done.
So, setting up a website is easy, but should you be doing other things as well and if so what. At the moment I would say that if you’re interested in trying out a new mode of academic communication then you should pick one that sounds like fun to you and give it a try; but this is by no means a necessity as an academic at the moment. If you do try to do some of these other things, then do them in moderation. It’s easy to get caught up in the rapid rewards of finishing a blog post or posting a tweet on Twitter, not to mention keeping up with others blogs and tweets, but this stuff can rapidly eat up your day and for the foreseeable future you won’t be getting a job based on your awesome stream of 140 character or less insights.*Yep, that’s right, it’s a link to the Wikipedia page on Wiki’s. †And links to copies of them if you are comfortable flaunting the absurd copyright/licensing policies of many of the academic publishers (or if you only published in open access journals).