I’m writing, writing, writing. Last week I managed to send out a paper for review!! My goal this week is to send out a second one, the one we discussed so hotly in a few previous posts. The text has been adjusted to address what was in the previous set of reviews, and a couple of figures have been cleaned up, now I just need to do the last once over and it is out the door! A third paper will follow shortly, with any luck- I’ve been hounding my student to get her part written and she has done quite a bit. I find that I am moving a bit from doing everything myself, to editing and re-editing what students write.
Naively I thought that having the student write the first draft would make my life a little easier and take the weight of putting everything together initially off my shoulders a little bit. WRONG. Oh, so wrong. The editing I have to do of the first draft of a student-written paper is almost like writing the first draft myself- but harder. My two students are perfectly competent to put the data down on paper, but the learning curve is steep for putting together a cohesive story, learning how to arrange the data so they are logically presented, and of course the most important aspect of interpreting what the data means in the bigger picture. One of my students had difficulty learning that the discussion is not simply a re-statment of the results…but I think we finally got that cleared up. Also, when they are writing the results section, they tend to want to jump right to the conclusion- instead of logically writing out a one sentence description of the experiment, why they did the experiment, then what they observed in the experiment and what figure that data is in.
Figures are generally well done, with standard error and appropriate statistics- something that I’ve been harping on since the first day. Gels sometimes need improvement- seeing the band in the right place does not alone a publication quality figure make… so nice you can see it- now do it a couple more times (show me three times you can repeat a given result) and get me a figure with minimal background. Figure out what you need to do, if it is affinity purifying your antibody, or blocking more stringently… to show a nice clean blot (I somehow always make a typo on the word blot in favor of the word blog!). They do surprise me from time to time though- one student came up with a table all her own that showed some interesting things after doing some bioinformatic analysis that she never even mentioned to me up front. I make sure to cheer these small displays of initiative, because it is that curiosity, and follow up on that curiosity that is part of what makes a great scientist. I think, anyway.
Ok, manuscripts are calling me (not to mention the two papers I have to review and a bunch of other stuff). When I finish these I’m going to Disneyland (with the kids). Seriously.