Browsing the blog archives for October, 2012

A Primer on Open Access Publishing: The Grass is always Greener (When Your Publications are Freer) by Jason Colditz
Posted by atarrant

This post is the third in our series by Jason Colditz that explores the new and complicated world of Open Access Publishing. Post One provides a general primer on Open Access for the un-initiated and Post Two explores copyright issues and the “Gold Rule”.

This post discusses alternate routes to making your research publications available to the public (“OA Green” model). This model allows you to publish in a variety of journals (even journals that aren’t Open Access) and then to publicly archive the manuscript so that others are able to read and cite your work. This builds on my previous post that describes copyright transfer agreements and OA Gold, and assumes that you have some familiarity with Open Access in general.

A Fairly Common Scenario:

You want to make your results freely available for others to read, cite, and build upon. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to spend a couple thousand dollars to unlock the published version to the public, or maybe you’ve made up your mind to submit your manuscript to one of those ‘really prestigious’ journals that don’t offer such options. After two grueling rounds of revisions and some tweaks from the copy editor, you have an article in press. Congrats – your department chair (or tenure review committee, if you’re so lucky) will surely appreciate your accomplishment! Unfortunately, many of the researchers/practitioners in your field don’t have a subscription to the journal that you’ve published in and they probably won’t wager US$30 to purchase the full-text, even for an article as potentially groundbreaking as yours (note: write a good abstract so that others are interested to read the full-text).  You want others to cite your article, but the journal doesn’t allow you to post the published version on your website for the world to see. You need a work-around, preferably one that doesn’t cause the publisher to take you to court for violating your copyright agreement. Some journals are more permissive than others when you want to share your work with the world, and you might still have a trick or two up your sleeve: time to review your copyright transfer agreement!

Your copyright transfer agreement specifies what versions of your article you may share, with whom you may share them, and when. If you haven’t yet signed a copyright transfer agreement (better yet – if you haven’t yet decided on a journal), you can look into the permissiveness of various journals/publishers at SHERPA/RoMEO. “Self-archiving” your publication means that you’re uploading an electronic version of it to a publicly available Internet archive. Journals/publishers may allow you to post your final print version to an archive for various reasons.  Best case scenario: you are mandated to publicly archive your works if your research was funded through the National Institutes of Health (in the US) or Wellcome Trust (in the UK), and publishers are required to honor these mandates. Some universities also mandate that your work is added to publicly available university archives (e.g., Harvard in the US). A growing number of universities have such institutional mandates, and you may be able to find your institution in the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP). In this case, you should consult with your university librarians to determine how they can help you to archive your publication. If you don‘t have a government or institutional mandate for public access to your article, you may still be able to share your research on an institutional, topical, or other Internet archive.

Many institutions have non-mandated archives listed on the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) (search for your institution from the search bar in the top right corner), which provide an opportunity to archive your work. At this point, every institution has different methods of collecting and distributing publications, and so you will need to conform to the regulations of your institution as well as those of the journal that you publish in.  ROAR also lists topical repositories that you can search for by keyword (e.g., “education”), but be advised that topical archives are sparse for many fields.

At this stage of the game, you may want to post a pre-print in an institutional archive or on your personal website.  A “pre-print” is a version of your article that isn’t the final published version.  Many journals will allow you to archive the semi-final version of your article before editorial changes (i.e., the version that was accepted, but not the version that was published). More stringent journals will only allow you to archive the version that you submitted before the first round of peer-review. Based on the version that you are allowed to publicly archive (if you are comfortable sharing that version), it will still be helpful for other scholars to access and cite it.  If you archive a pre-print, be sure to list the full citation for the publication up-front, so that others are able to cite the published version of your work.

“OA Green” gives you the opportunity to share your scholarly publications with anyone (and everyone) who is interested in reading them, not just the scholars at institutions that subscribe to the journal. This is important because journal holdings are shrinking at university libraries and your publications are important to a broader audience than the handful of research universities that can afford it.

Stay open!

Jason

Resources:

Follow Jason on Twitter: @colditzjb

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How to be a Hackademic #8 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

BE SLOW TO REACT. Remember that you’re not responsible for how someone else chooses to interpret your work, only for how you choose to react to them. It’s very easy to get all worked up when people misunderstand you and/or launch into unjustifiable criticism. Online this is sometimes the work of so-called ‘internet trolls’, people who are just hell bent on endlessly playing devil’s advocate or arguing for the sake of arguing. Sometimes you are talking at cross-purposes and though you might find common ground in a face-to-face discussion, it may utterly elude you online. In these instances it’s best not to react or at least to take a bit of time to ponder your response. If someone is trying to get your goat they’ll continue to get it no matter what, so save your energy for something more worthwhile. Similarly, the old adage about today’s news being tomorrow’s fish and chip wrap holds an even faster truth online – although there it might be tomorrow’s LOLcat. And also, quite unlike an in-person argument, if you do think of the perfect answer days later, you’ll still be able to use it.

Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

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Thinking From Dissertation to Book, and back again…A review of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book by Helen Wainwright
Posted by atarrant

Todays post is written by Helen Wainwright. Helen is a final year PhD Candidate from The Department of Art History at The University of Nottingham, researching conceptual art’s supposed demise in the early 1970s in New York, and the concurrent redefinition of the spaces and/or places of artistic practice and dissemination stemming from the period. She is particularly interested in the work three separate artists: Stephen Shore (1947-present), Gordon Matta Clark (1943-78) and Anthony McCall (1946-present), and the gap that exists between their early works and later (re)interpretations of them.

Twitter: @adxhw1

http://nottingham.academia.edu/HelenWainwright

Recently, the thoughts of what to do post-PhD have started to worm their way into my mind – a good six months ahead of schedule. Rather than ignoring my subconscious efforts to prompt me into a premature job search, I used them as a nudge in the right direction to think about what I really want to accomplish in the year leading up to my viva, and likewise what I would need to accomplish in the subsequent year (or two) after it. This is when I metaphorically stumbled, via Twitter, across William Germano’s book From Dissertation to Book, an extremely useful and accessible text first published in 2005 by University of Chicago Press. I initially approached it with caution, thinking it would ultimately lead to a flurry of self-doubt, but what I actually found was an insider’s guide to what it takes, and how to make the first moves towards publishing your thesis as a book, and what decisions and barriers will more than likely be encountered along the way.

As the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social sciences at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and a former Vice President and Publishing Director at Routledge, William Germano knows exactly what it takes to take those first steps towards publication. The message running throughout the book is clear: be willing to revise, rework and even rethink your PhD research. This advice is coupled with a hefty warning: a thesis is not a book manuscript and will more-often-than-not be rejected by a publisher without any form of editing. Germano provides his readers with a list of eight options to choose from when considering what to do with the thesis once complete: ‘do not resuscitate’; ‘send the dissertation out as is…’; ‘publish the one strong chapter’; ‘publish two or three chapters as articles’; ‘revise the dissertation lightly’; ‘revise the dissertation thoroughly’ or ‘cleave the ample dissertation in two’ (p.38). It is safe to say that readers of From Dissertation to Book are most likely seeking advice on just that topic, and are thus left with the sole prospect of gentle/hefty revision. However, reading between the lines, I think the underlying message of the book is clear: there are more routes towards writing your first book than simply turning your doctoral dissertation straight into a manuscript.

One suggestion is the transformation of chapters into publications. Not only will this allow ideas to be transmitted to a larger audience; gaining much needed publicity, but it will grant the opportunity for a moment’s pause to deliberate whether these ideas could actually form the basis of further research, and lay the foundations for an entirely different book proposal. Likewise, such reflection may aid in the dissection of the thesis as a whole; allowing it to be sliced in two, moving both parts in separate directions, and therefore furthering the possibilities of future research and publication. Alternatively, as Germano continually recommends: revision is the key. Whilst attempting to re-work the thesis, it is also highlighted that a publisher who can recognise the potential audience for a book is far more likely to accept a manuscript or proposal, because they can clearly see who the text is aimed at and who it will be sold to. In contrast to the doctoral thesis, which will only ever meet the eyes of a handful of people, despite best wishes, the book must have a definite audience, and therefore a direct and highly relevant message. If you can argue this case straight away, then perhaps you are on to a winner.

The awareness of your thesis as something far from finished, but as the stepping stone into the world of academia is a daunting prospect, given the amount of blood, sweat and tears which are poured into the work. However, this realisation is also entirely invigorating when realisation dawns that all the routes of thought that had to be closed off in order to concentrate on getting to the finish line, could one day be re-opened. As a researcher you are expected to be adaptable and full of belief in your ideas, and From Dissertation to Book echoes these basic assumptions, asking its readers to think in the same way about their doctoral research: that it is malleable and full of potential, whether published as a book on first attempt, or not.

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How to be a Hackademic #7 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

SLEEP. Things always look worse when you haven’t had enough sleep. It’s often the best medicine you can give yourself. Getting a good night’s sleep can completely transform both your general outlook and a specific piece of work. Remember that as you sleep your brain is working away to solve all sorts of problems and people often report waking up with the answer to a life or work issue. So remember that it has its place and can even be a bit magical when you’re most in need.

Also, this tips can help your hackademic life!

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A primer on preparing to publish by Prof. Jan Draper
Posted by atarrant

Today’s post by Prof. Jan Draper reflects on her own experiences of carving up her PhD thesis into publications and provides excellent advice for post PhD-ers about what to consider and how to do it. Jan is a Professor and Director of Nursing at the Open University, UK, in the Faculty of Health and Social Care.

I don’t have an academic book (unfortunately!) but when I completed my PhD (2000) I did approach a number of publishers to see if they were interested. I think my recollection from this (very dated now of course) was that the publishers could ‘spot’ a PhD ‘conversion’ a mile off, so you have to be very careful in this regard. Some publishers are very happy to consider conversions from PhDs, others are not. So in order to maximise chances, I think one needs to be very well informed about which publishers do what.

With that in mind here are my Top 5 Tips for getting published:

  1. Write a good PhD in the first place! Sounds obvious but you would be surprised at the range! Include in this writing a very solid theoretical foundation. Theory can really liberate and help make connections that otherwise might not be made.
  2. Make sure that you have a good publication strategy arising from your PhD. You may need to seek some help in gauging this – either supervisors or other colleagues, depending on the nature of your work. If you are located in a practice-based discipline for example, in addition to conventional academic papers arising from your thesis, there will also be professional/practice-related papers that you could write. So think very carefully about how you ‘cut’ your thesis.
  3. Think creatively about the above. Don’t just think the obvious i.e. the description of the project and the findings. Is there something about the method that was innovative, that I can write about? Was there something about the theory I used? How helpful was this theory? Did my work advance the theory in any way? Was there something about ethical considerations that was more unusual in my study that could be of benefit to the wider community in some way? Think also about conference presentations – not just papers.
  4. Think very carefully about where to publish. This may sound very obvious. But, I was very fortunate that I ‘stumbled’ across this important factor. Don’t settle for low impact journals but think about your academic career – if of course, that is something you wish to develop and enhance. Go for high impact journals that will get your work noticed. Not only will it get your work noticed, but it is likely that the feedback you get from reviewers will be of excellent quality. I learned so much from the feedback from reviewers working for The Sociology of Health and Illness not only about the papers but also about the process of reviewing. Their contributions to me as a writer have influenced by ongoing, longer-term work as a reviewer. Strange!
  5. Don’t underestimate the time it will involve! Cutting up a thesis is a traumatic and bloody affair! It has taken so long to write the thesis to get it to its current format, so to think about carving it up in a different way can actually be quite difficult. This is where wise counsel from either supervisors or other colleagues can be helpful. But my advice would be that no matter how hard it feels – just do it! To get to this stage and not publish would be a travesty so I would always encourage students that no matter how hard it feels, you must do it! From my own personal experience, I know that getting 5 good papers out of my PhD created a solid platform for my ongoing academic career. So it is worth it – honest!

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Announcing AcWriMo!
Posted by Charlotte Frost

Remember AcBoWriMo, last year’s experiment in a month-long writing productivity drive? Well, it’s back, bigger and better than ever – but without the ‘Bo’!

The idea hails from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) an initiative designed to turn the whole of November into a month-long write-fest for current or would-be novelists. The idea is that you set yourself the task of writing 50 thousand words in November alone and bingo, you’ve got yourself a whole big chunk of novel!  In 2011 I decided academics should give something similar a go and, I can happily report, it went brilliantly!

For AcBoWriMo, I invited people to join me in wearing comfy clothes, drinking a lot of coffee, napping at strange times and seeing how close we could each get to writing 50 thousand words. I admitted at the time that it was an insane target, but that it wasn’t the word count that was the point. Rather, it was a bid to gather people together for mutual support in the, at times, painfully difficult and soul-crushingly lonely task of academic writing. In the last year alone, I’ve watched with awe and excitement as so many academic communities have grown and expanded on social media platforms like Twitter (examples include #phdchat, #ecrbook, #digped, #fycchat with plenty more to be found here). Not to mention that our own AcBoWriMo off-shoot (and collaboration with Jeremy Segrott), the regular live Twitter chat on academic writing, #AcWri, has co-ordinated a huge amount of valuable discussion. Nice work Anna and Jeremy!

So I decided it was worth giving it all another go – with some revisions…

This year’s event will focus on ALL aspects of academic writing, and will encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals. As a result of that, and the strength of the AcWri community, it will be called AcWriMo. Just like Craig David, I copped some flack for the ‘Bo!’ part. Although I never intended to promote the idea that an entire academic book could be written in a month, by calling the event Academic Book Writing Month, it seems I over-emphasised that part. But we still want you to join in on setting yourself some unrealistic targets and fighting alongside us to achieve them.

So, here are the rules for #AcWriMo 2012

1. Set yourself some crazy goals. Try and come up with some outcomes that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible. I always said 50,000 words is a bit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month (it works out at something like 2,500 words a day and that’s just bonkers) but if you’re bonkers, go ahead and set that target. Otherwise, think about how much you are comfortably able to write a day and set yourself the task of regularly exceeding that amount. If you can manage 300 words a day then we want 400, if you can do 1000, then we want 1500 – something like that. Last year, a lot of people preferred setting themselves a time-based goal. They would try to write for so many hours a day or week and often used the Pomodoro technique to count units of productive time. If that’s your thing, go for it! How about sneaking in an extra Pomodoro a day? Or, look at all the writing tasks you’ve got to achieve over the next few months and decide to get a set amount of them done in November. In the US it’s job season, so how about you count your job-letter-writing-time. Or article drafts maybe?

2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. You can do this by adding to the comments of this very blog post, by tweeting using the hashtag #AcWriMo, or by writing on our PhD2Published Facebook page. Being accountable is key to this working for you as a way to push yourself, but if you want to silently take part, at least tell a friend who is likely to hold you to it. [edit: you can now also add your goals to and keep track of your progress with Jenn's AcWriMo Accountability Spreadsheet - thanks Jenn!]

3. Draft a strategy. This is essential if you’re going to make a success of this. Sitting down to write without preparation is the first step towards being struck down with writer’s block. We’ll be blogging and tweeting lots of ideas to help you, so before you start, work out a strategy for how you’ll tackle your set tasks. For example, establish how much you’ll need to write a day, and on which days you can definitely do this. Offload as much other work as you can, and get in some supplies (we recommend stocking up on decent coffee of course). Think about how you work best and adopt that approach from the start – this means planning everything from comfy clothes to reading sessions.

4. Discuss what you’re doing. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is imperative! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? We want you to tell us all if you need help with something but also to celebrate your successes with us too. And nothing is TMI when it’s AcWriMo because that’s the point: sharing!

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of AcBoWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ But guess what? If you work super hard now, there’s going to be more December to go round. Remember how December usually creeps up on you and suddenly its Christmas Eve and you’ve failed to buy gifts or take time out for yourself. Well, if you put the work in now, there’ll be so much December you won’t know what to do with it all!

6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! As a writing community, we’ll all benefit from sharing in your achievements, but it is also good to see what works and what doesn’t. And if you don’t make your targets, you’ll still be achieving the selfless goal of making the rest of us feel more normal – so it’s a community win/win really.

We’re raring to go, we hope you are too?! :-)

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How to be a Hackademic #6 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

GO SHOPPING. For some people, buying clothes is a powerful way to de-stress and release endorphins. That’s great, but not true for everyone. For some, buying clothes is stressful. But here’s the problem, you’re going to need some clothes and, in fact, if you’re going to be a success, you’re probably going to need some new clothes. There are two main times academics need to look smart, one is at conferences and the other is at job interviews. What we’re suggesting here is that you buy these sorts of clothes well in advance of either of these events and have them ready and waiting. When you’re writing your job talk for your campus interview the last thing you need is to have to rush around finding a couple of suitable outfits. But if you go out shopping with a clear head – and perhaps a good friend – it can be one less thing to think about when you should be writing. Perhaps you should  go shopping with your team ?

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Sending a journal article for peer review – what not to send, by Anna Tarrant
Posted by atarrant

Running the peer review gauntlet (from GenomicEnterprise.com)

I have learnt a lot about academic publishing in the past year, particularly about publishing journal articles. This is partly because I have been writing up my PhD thesis into journal articles and in part because of my work for PhD2Published as Managing Editor. In todays post I share some of my recent experiences of peer reviewing to provide advice about what not to send to reviewers.

In the past four months I have gained experience of peer reviewing journal articles. I have reviewed 3 in total; two I was asked to do by a known colleague and mentor who also happens to be a journal editor, and one came out of the blue but related well to my research interests (suggesting I am getting known for my research interests –yay!). I have found peer reviewing a really interesting and fruitful experience. Seeing less than perfect academic writing has been a real eye-opener and has given me a new, more confident perspective on my own writing.

Today’s post is based on my experience of peer reviewing one of these journal articles. Of the three I have reviewed, I have awarded two ‘major revisions’ and one I actually rejected. I found it very difficult to reject the article because as an early career researcher sending out my own work for review, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to put your writing out there. I also thought that the paper had real potential but unfortunately the more I read, the more disappointing it became. I was very careful to give constructive feedback and to fully explain my decision so as not to discourage the author or to offend them. As it turned out, it appeared my decision was justified. The other two reviewers also rejected the paper (which shows I know what I’m doing. Double yay! ;)).

If I’m being honest, I was quite surprised that the paper was sent for review in the state it is was in. Perhaps the looming REF meant it was sent under pressure, or perhaps the author just wanted some feedback at an earlier stage? Perhaps there is a genuine issue in academia that not all of us know how to write a strong first draft of a journal article, an issue that PhD2Published at least has tried to remedy (e.g. Inger Mewburn’s series on Writing Journal Articles). Either way, there were some significant problems identified by all three reviewers. And having gained this insight, I wanted to write this post to share some of these significant issues (without revealing the author of course) so that others who are new to publishing journal articles or asking for early feedback know what to avoid. While some of these examples may seem far-fetched, they are based on my experience. There are other things to be aware of, of course, but for me, these are key and are what I look out for when reviewing.

So here are my tips about what not to send if you want to be accepted:

  1. If your paper is based on empirical findings don’t send a paper that doesn’t explain what methods were conducted, who the sample was or how the data was analysed. The readers need to know that your findings and conclusions are based on a well-designed research project.
  2. Don’t make grand claims that cannot be substantiated with evidence from data or literature. Your points and claims need to be believable and convince the readers that your arguments are well-grounded throughout.
  3. Don’t write a conclusion that does not explicitly state the take-away point from your article. Likewise don’t send a paper that does not explicitly state its aim and purpose in the introduction. Tell the reader what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them.
  4. Avoid making assumptions about the prior knowledge of the readers, particularly if you discuss an event or situation that is only well known in your own context. Make use of foot or endnotes for explaining things that aren’t pertinent to the text but need explanation.
  5. Avoid over-using jargon and complex academic language that you haven’t explained or referenced, especially if this affects the clarity of the paper.

And here’s a bonus tip from a review of one of my own papers:

Don’t send a paper that hasn’t been edited thoroughly before submission. Irritating grammar errors annoy reviewers and may detract from the quality of your paper.

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How to be a Hackademic #5 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

STAY FOCUSED. Don’t have too many hobbies. And to be clear, an “academic project” that is not leading to fruitful production (in the classroom or as a publication) is actually a hobby. Cut the majority of those out of your life. And, if necessary, stamp them out violently, because the longer you let them linger, the more energy they will take from your real academic work…Does the idea of ditching all your hobbies and pastimes fill you with horror and make academia sound like a mountain you just don’t want to climb? Try this tip on for size instead.

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Collaborative Writing by Peter Tennant
Posted by atarrant

(C) http://www.flickr.com/photos/bshephard/Today’s post reflects on the commonly encountered in academic life; collaborative writing.  The author, Peter Tennant is a junior epidemiologist working at Newcastle University. His research predominantly concerns adverse pregnancy outcomes, but his interests include Social Medicine in its widest sense and the general challenges of an academic career. He can be found regularly tweeting and blogging about both of these.

I once showed my brother one of my papers.

‘Why is it written in such a dull and lifeless style?’

‘Oh, that’s the editor’s fault. It read much better when I submitted it’.

Neither of us was convinced.

There’s no shame in being a scientist who can’t write. Science is fairly well populated by people with exceptional skills in the most extraordinary areas, but who can’t write for toffee. Then again, even the best communicator would struggle writing a scientific paper. Because scientific papers are almost always written in teams.

This is fairly sensible, given most scientific studies are performed in teams, but there are also some serious advantages. For a start it allows contribution from people with a range of skills. Having medical co-authors means my papers can discuss the clinical significance without risking a life-threatening blunder. It also means you’ve got plenty of people to celebrate with when the paper gets accepted. And, it gives you someone else to blame if anyone ever calls your paper, ‘dull and lifeless’.

But, did I mention, it’s also very challenging? As the lead author (most commonly the first name on the authorship list, though not for all disciplines), the main challenge is to your sanity. As long as it might take crafting the first draft, this is nothing compared with the time spent sending it back and forth to your co-authors for more and more comments. It’s this process that I think produces that instantly recognisable multi-author style (the one my brother kindly referred to as ‘dull and lifeless’). Like washing a colourful shirt a hundred times. This is why (against the advice of senior authors like Martin White and Jean Adams, see bullet point 3) I rarely waste time overcooking my first drafts. There’s simply no point spending days writing a stunning introductory paragraph, only for it to be completely mauled by your co-authors.

Broadly speaking, co-authors come in one of three factory settings; the Rampant Re-writers, the Sweeping Suggestion-Makers, and the Utterly Useless.

The Rampant Re-writers get the most flack. These are the people who so heavily drench your draft in tracked-changes that, by the end, it stops feeling like your paper. Draining as this can be, these co-authors are actually the nice ones, generously spending their time to improve the paper. Until they start changing bits that everyone’s already agreed on. That’s when they get really annoying. And when it’s especially important to remember the Golden Rule of Rampant Re-writers: edits are only suggestions – as the lead author, you should always have the final say.

Next there are the Sweeping Suggestion-Makers. Wielding the deadly comment box, they add things like, ‘this bit needs shortening’ or ‘I think you should add something about X’. Sometimes I’m tempted to send it back and say, ‘I think YOU should add something about X if YOU think it’s so important!’ But they’re usually too busy. And they’re usually right. Damn them with their helpful comments.

By far the most harmful authors are the Utterly Useless. The ones who don’t reply to emails, or who get back saying vague things like, ‘looks great’. In the absence of praise from your other authors (sadly the academic for, ‘this is amazing, fantastic work’ is often simply, ‘no further comments’), these people can seem like your friends, but they’re not. They’re useless. That’s why I call them Utterly Useless. In fact, these authors are the ones that can cause genuine ethical dilemmas. Do they even satisfy the conditions of authorship? Occasionally a senior academic will insist on being an author due to some historical connection with the study, even if they then add nothing to the paper. This is unethical. But not something that the average PhD student is in a position to do anything about. More pertinent is the risk of being pushed down the author order, despite doing the most work. It’s common throughout the history of science. It’s also morally repugnant. Always try to discuss the authorship list and the author-order before starting writing a paper and this risk can be reduced (though, sadly, not eliminated).

If being the lead/first author is most difficult, it’s not necessarily easy being a support author, where the big challenge is in getting the right balance of comments. Despite years of therapy, I still fall firmly into the Rampant Re-writer category. On more than one occasion, I’ve made the first author cry by overdoing the edits. Some support authors try to soften the blow by spreading their edits over several revisions, e.g. making the ‘essential’ changes first, then the less major changes later. But I’ve experienced this as a first author and actually found it more depressing! It’s like getting to the end of a marathon, only to be told to run another five miles. Short of making them cry, over-editing might still annoy your co-authors, especially if they are senior. For some reason, Professors don’t always react very well to having their words rewritten by a PhD student. So here’s my advice, try and get all your comments in first time, but make sure they are all essential. If in doubt, leave it out. Unless you’re happy making your colleagues cry.

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How to be a Hackademic #4 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY. We’re principled beings us academics and biting your tongue every time you feel something is wrong or unjust is going to get painful. We don’t want you to shy away from a fight that is important to you. Actually, we’re hugely in favor of fighting for what you believe in. We just want you to recognise which battles are the most important. If you argue over everything, you’re going to get a reputation for being difficult. If you pick a fight carefully, your colleagues will be more likely to listen (and respond well) because it’ll be clear to them that this really is an important issue for you. Besides, a lot is built on bright “hellos” and coffee runs. Very little is gained by making enemies. If you fall out with someone, even if you don’t agree with them or are having an all-out personality clash, try your hardest to create a convivial working relationship. If you make an enemy, not only can it jeopardize your career growth (they might sit on a panel deciding your fate some day) but you’ll make your work day a lot less pleasant.

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