Fed Up / Confession

Jill Anderson! And chances are that despite what I’m about to say, we would have ended up with the same result. However, in retrospect what I did wrong was do what everybody has ever done before: pay attention to the “impact” of where papers were published on applicant CVs. I know that is bullshit. You know that is bullshit. There is terrible science in Evolution, there is excellent science in Journal of Crustacean Biology (and vice-versa). We can move beyond the static CV in academia, for which I’ve been told multiple times that my colleagues “can’t read, but they can count.” The important thing is not where you publish, but what impact does it make on the scientific (and larger) community? Once upon a time, you only reached a large audience if you put your work in a “good” journal. Now, however, for most of us our favorite research tool is Google, and it will find the paper you are looking for if it exists! So then the question is, are people finding it and putting your data, results, information, ideas to work? If they are, you are an effective scientist!

The “Fed UP” part of this post is about the traditions of manuscript writing and submission. I had Microsoft Word crash on me yesterday. Again. As it does about once a week, despite the fact that pretty much nothing else crashes on my computer (other than Excel) even though I leave it running for months at a time. I lost writing, I lost ideas, I lost time. I lost my patience. I’ve used Pages as well - but coauthors always want a Word version. I’ve used wikis - but coauthors prefer a Word version. We all know that Word is terrible, it crashes, it has no collaborative function other than emailing a document around so that it can get messy and then somebody has to clean it up. But we use it ostensibly because everybody else is, no reason other than that.

So I snooped around and found
WriteLatex.com. I’ve always been fearful of Latex. Another language to learn, and compile my manuscript? Well, this is a website where you log in, write LaTex write there in your browser, see your document in real-time, dump in your figures, and you are done. I used a pre-formatted template for PeerJ - see how this comes full-circle? and so now I have (in less than 24 hours) gone from tapping around with Word and wondering about final formatting for a paper that I’m not sure is all that valuable, but it is complete.... to submitting a beautiful, formatted document to the PeerJ pre-print system, so that colleagues can offer advice on improving the paper, so that the work is out there to establish precedence, so that I can be done in the office for today and go watch the USA play Belgium in the World Cup! Win-win-win!

I don’t know what the impact of this little paper will be. I suspect quite minor. But that is for the community to decide, and use it where it is helpful. It wouldn’t matter if I’d submitted it to any of 10 different journals. Maybe some of you would see it sooner, maybe not. But the time for science to move on from EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION being an overarching coda of everything one knows that pertains to what is important - the data, the analysis, the result, the context it belongs in - is here.

I’ll start with the confession. I could have done a better job running a job search this past year. We ended up hiring a spectacular new colleague,