Friday, March 30, 2012

paper writing worries

During the last year I was working on a paper about stuff still from my PhD thesis. It's a large bunch of data and I found it difficult to really get my head around it and to make a readable story out of it.  The Post-Doc, who's on the author list, is of the kind who needs a pretty well written draft already before he feels motivated enough to give decent comments. And as he's still in my PhD-university far away, communication (means: motivating and pushing) over several time zones wasn't easy. So I asked two other colleagues, who work on related projects, if they were interested in getting on board. They both liked the topic and gave really helpful comments, sent me realted papers and even made some additional measurements. By now the paper had been grown enough to attract the interest of the Post-Doc, so we were four motivated authors by now. Then we decided, that so really pimp the publication we should include one more experiment, so we could show in our own graphs, what we had so far just based on literature. As neither of us was capable of doing these experiments we asked Specialist Colleague, if she could help us out with that. She said, that she'll be really busy for the next 2-3 month but after that she could spare some time. So we continued writing on our paper, re-formatting the graphs, improving the style,... while we were waiting for Specialist Colleague to have spare time. 
Last week - which is 5 month after she agreed to do the experiments - she announced that she's nearly done and she'll send the graphs within the next days.
And all out of a sudden I started worrying about, that her experiments might not show what we were expecting. What would we do with the nearly finished paper? Would we really sit down again and re-think the concept or would the motivation not be enough to do another round of email discussions? The first round had already taken so long and was sometimes so tedious, that I wasn't even sure, if I had the motivation right away to start it all over again. I really wanted to have it off my table.
Today her email with all the graphs came - and they look fantastic, supporting our concept very well! Very long breathing out! Very big smile on my face!
Now there will be 1-3 graph-shifting emails and then the babe is ready to go.
Hope the journal will love you! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

proposal stuff

Just got the notification that I was "identified as a suitable Assessor for Proposal(s) within this current (ARC proposal) round". I got my first grant just a few month ago and now I'm already on the list of people assessing other peoples proposals. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Possible emotional states are:
  • honored - because the ARC seems to thing I'm capable of doing a good job
  • scared - because of the responsibility
  • freaked out - because of the unknown amount of work
  • proud - because I'm SO AWESOME
  • relaxed - because that's part of the job
  • happy - because of the interesting new aspect of my job
 I guess, I'll run through different stages of all of the above possibilities (and a few more, that'll surprise me), esp. after I have checked which proposals are assigned to me.
Any good advice about how to avoid the 10 most likely pitfalls that there are in proposal assessing (whatever they may be) are very welcome!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I was always pretty lucky with having supervisors and colleagues who were mostly polite and friendly and even if there was need for some clear words, they kept a high level of professionalism. I just know a lot of stories from colleagues in other groups about their not-so-controlled co-workers or supervisors.
Maybe this is why the following incident got me started thinking about the topic, even though it was not an obviously bad situation. I'm not sure if I'm in favor of any of the two people involved or if I just dislike the whole incident:
The professor wrote an abstract for an upcoming conference and circled it to all the co-authors on the list and asked for comments. The topic includes parts of a PhD students work (but not solely), so the student is on the authors list as well. However, the student didn't like the context in which his work was put and the whole abstract wasn't specific enough for him. He found strong words to express his criticism, but that was still ok. But at the end of his email he added a re-written version of the professors abstract. I thought that was odd and out of line. The professor addressed the students criticism very objective in an email, but no changes were made to the abstract.
In their next meeting, the student apologized and explained that he didn't want to appear rude and he had thought, that re-writing the abstract would speed up / assist in the finalization of it. So he had realized that his email was somewhat out of line and had the guts to apologize for it. The process seemed to head towards a happy ending.
But then the professor pulled out some old story, where the student had reacted in a rude way against him a few years back. And concluded that he was not surprised but had nearly expected some kind of not appropriate behavior of the student.
Again, I thought that was odd and out of line. Maybe the professor thought it was necessary to re-install the hierarchy and he certainly was more crossed about the situation than he wanted to be. But if measured in rudeness, I'd say they are even now.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

what your student wants

Recently, I sat in a very good talk about supervision and what students expect from their supervisors. It was a long list - lets see what I remember of it...

You students want you to ...
... be a respected and successful researcher
... be approachable
... respect the differences in each others characters
... give them freedom in their work
... guide them
... be a friend
... respect their work
... respond quickly, when they gave you something to do
... be in interested in and to push their career
... manage their projects
... tell them what's the next step
... take care of them

They want you to be a bit teacher, a bit friend, a bit role model, a bit manager, a bit parent, a bit boss, a bit psychiatrist - each of them in a different weighting. Seems as if one could only fail their expectations - always a good reason to relax a little bit...