Saturday, January 19, 2013

dress up

New Year - new conferences! 
Great excuse to update my professional-me wardrobe. So far I was always wearing stuff that blended in very much with the guy-dominated crowd (simple blouse with either jeans for Australian/European conferences and black pants for American/Asian conferences and for presentation day) but I really like to change that. I have a few skirts which are conference-suitable and now I've got pretty neat navy pinstripe dress pants and some lovely shirts with it. Only with shoes I wasn't lucky - but that's always the difficult bit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

open access

Open access to research articles of publicly funded projects is one of the big topics in the age of electronic publishing. Many universities in Australia have set up repositories to store the publications of their researchers and make at least the meta-data accessible to the public. The ANU went even a bit further by making files of a large amount of journal articles available for whoever is interested in them. 
Already last year the National Medical Health and Research Council (NHMRC) implemented an open access clause in their funding rules and now the second big funding body in Australia - the Australian Research Council (ARC) - dared doing the same. From now on all  published research funded by the ARC has to be made publicly available within 12 month after the publication (with a bunch of exception of course, like: when the journal forbids it *sigh*). This is a great statement, catching up a bit with the big open access projects like PubMed, Narcis or ArXiv. 
Big step in the right direction!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Climbing the literature mountain

or maybe better "drowning in the literature ocean".
When I commenced my position here in Australia I had a lot of time to read and I really enjoyed it. I had no fixed project and with this no equipment to do experiments on the non-existing samples together with my non-existing students paid by my non-existing money. So I used my time for reading, applied for some money with a project based on my literature research (and experience and collaborations and awesomeness, of course) and now I have money, students, samples and equipment. And by now even results! This is all awesome and I don't want it to change. Only the time that I can spend on reading the relevant literature becomes less and less. And my folder which is named "literature to read" has an obesity problem by now.
Many of my colleagues say, they only read for specific projects or publications in progress or sometimes in preparation for a class. But not to keep up with the science in their field in general. My supervisor seems to read only articles from one specific journal ( but he is involved in several other research topics, so maybe he has one preferred journal per topic). I get journal alerts from about 10 different journals covering the whole range from "superstar journal I want to publish in in the far future" and "mmhhhjiiaaa journal which I wouldn't want to publish in but sometimes they have good papers". The amount of stuff that is published every day is just overwhelming. And it's not only the scanning through the alerts which is already time consuming but then the actual reading and digesting and sorting and knowing where it is and that it is somewhere when I need it is what gives me headaches. But I really want to know where we are standing in the big picture, not only in the picture of 1-2 journals.
When talking to more senior researchers about my prospective career path one advice that I often hear is to have one bread-and-butter project, which constantly produces publishable data. And to have a second high-risk-high-return project, exploring a new field, pushing the edges of knowledge. Sounds like great advice and I hope I'll manage to open up such a project soon, but at the moment I'm already struggling to find out where the edges of knowledge are in my bread-and-butter project, 'caus I'm just drowning in the literature. To master the literature of something out my comfort zone seems not feasible at all.
Can I apply for a post-doctoral sabbatical, please? And just read for let say... 3 month? Preferably somewhere at a nice beach?

Monday, January 7, 2013


Why is it sometimes so hard to have a well structured working day? I have gazillion things to do, the uni is still pretty quiet and nobody really distracts me, but still there are some days where I can't finish one thing before I start another. Today I did data analysis for two paper drafts and some literature reading for a third one, just because while working on one I got some ideas about the others and directly had to check it. Then I had to check some more stuff and seconds later I already had forgotten why I actually changed the topic I was working on. This is an ongoing issue for me and I'm not very happy that I have not improved much since I wrote about it last time.
I know that having a plan for each day and each week works very good for me. When I was still commuting to work I was using the time on the train to note down daily plans. Ticking each point off was very motivating. I still have a general to-do list, not really a weekly plan though. But I never made it to having a plan for the whole year or even just a month, with well defined goals and stuff, even though that's supposed to be fantastic as well. Setting up a plan for the whole year scares me even a bit. When I'm really honest I think it would show me merciless that I'll never ever be able to do all the work that I think / wish /dream I could. So it even would be very helpful to become more realistic... *sigh*. Things like this seem to need a lot of fresh attempts to maybe / hopefully / finally master them.