28 days of #sciwrite

A post by Anne JeffersonA post by Chris Rowan
Sciwrite logo, by Chris RowanBack in November 2011, Anne performed an experiment. Anne wanted to see if being publicly accountable for my writing progress would get me to my goal of a paper submission before AGU. She didn’t quite make it, but that month of weekly check-ins and progress reports on the blog did get her a lot closer to that paper being drafted than she would have been without the #sciwrite challenge. More than 40 other blog readers also participated in the challenge, and at least a few actually got manuscripts and theses submitted in that month. Ever since #sciwrite, we’ve been thinking that we need to do it again.

If we’ve learned anything in our careers as academic scientists, it’s been the following:

  1. Writing is the major metric of professional success and is the only way of making neat results in the field and lab into something useful for others.
  2. All that academic advice about how writing every day is the only sustainable path to getting things done turns out to be true. Darn it.
  3. Yet writing tasks can easily and repeatedly slip to the bottom of the to-do list because they don’t have the same urgency of deadlines imposed on them like teaching, review assignments, and the crush of email.
  4. Loop back to #1.

With the idea that a little public accountability never hurt anyone, and that maybe having a community of people all going through the same writing process at the same time could actually help make life better, we’d like to introduce February 2014 as #sciwrite v 2.0. For the next four weeks, we’ll be committing to writing every day and sharing our goals and progress here on the blog on a weekly basis. We’d love it if other people joined us.

Anne’s goals:

  • Two extended abstracts, shortly followed by two posters for the CUAHSI/USGS workshop on laser specs in hydrology. Abstracts are due February 17th, posters are due the 24th, and a virtual poster session will be held on February 28th. I’m the lead on one poster, and an undergraduate student is the lead on the other.
  • For a paper in which the setting, methods, and results are already written, I’m going to make publication-ready figures, and write the introduction, discussion, and conclusions, with the help of a co-author.
  • For a paper in which my co-authors and I endlessly tinker and improve, I’m going to finalize my piece of the results and get the introduction written. More if possible.

Chris’s goals:

  • My big goal is finally finishing the big New Zealand tectonics paper that I have started, tinkered with, restarted, and then let lapse again for rather longer than I care to admit. Let’s just say that if I achieve my target of getting a completed first draft to my co-author by the end of the month, they’ll probably die of shock. It’s a challenging goal, so I’d be happy with ‘substantially completed’.
  • I also want to write an internal grant application, due in the first week in March, for funding to substantially improve my Geophysics course before I have to teach it next.

If you are interested in participating in #sciwrite this month, leave a comment below with your goals, and if you’re on twitter, use the #sciwrite hashtag to share your progress. Then check in on the blog every Saturday for more encouragement.

Categories: academic life, by Anne, publication

Comments (37)

  1. Titia Praamsma says:

    Hi! I’d love to join you on this adventure. I’m in the process of finishing my dissertation in hydrogeology (and have been ‘finishing’ for too long). To finish I need to write up one paper, edit two papers and write the intro and conclusions chapters. Editing aside, I can likely finish the writing in 28 days and this could be the boost I need to do it! I’m off work until I finish. It’s time to get out of limbo land and into pay cheque land.

  2. Dawn says:

    Overarching goal: to have a draft of my whole dissertation completed by the end of February.

    What I have finished so far: chapter 4 — It pays to publish before dissertating.

    What is in progress:
    Chapter 2: drafted and in to my committee for feedback. I have heard back from 2 of 4 members.

    Chapter 3: drafted and in revision before I send off to my committee. I hope to start that tomorrow, pre Super Bowl.

    Introduction: started today, with some progress.

    Conclusions: some words on a page, not really any progress.

    • Another dissertation finisher! You can do it! And yes, publishing before dissertating is excellent. It’s one chapter your committee really shouldn’t find room to pick on.

  3. perfect timing! I’m in.
    Goal #1 is easy – hit submit by Feb. 3 to submit paper revisions

    Goal #2 Re-tweak model and then generate near-publication ready graphics (3/4 done) so I can then write short sexy paper (putting the ‘a’ before biotic – frost cracking across the Oregon Coast Range during the last glacial – tis true!) goal is to hand over a draft to co-authors by Feb 28 (detailed outline and intro mainly all done – just need to turn bullet points into sentences).

    Goal #3 start working on NSF post doc proposal (due in July) – introduction and at least 2 draft plots/graphics

  4. Caitlin MacKenzie (@CaitlinInMaine) says:

    Great idea! I’d love to finish a manuscript that is currently in rough draft form and get it to collaborators by the end of the month. It would be nice to put together the Introduction, Methods, and Results of another paper — I’ve had the data for a long time and most of the analysis is done, but this project always seems to end up on the back burner. Big goals for my first two papers of grad school!

  5. This looks like it’ll be useful and help me jump start my writing for the year!

    I’d like to get 2 papers that have been hanging over my head off to my co-authors, and potentially submitted (1 is almost ready, the other needs significant polishing), as well as getting the introduction of my thesis started. I’ll also be studying for my qualifying exam, so I’d like to try and write detailed notes or perhaps blog posts to help keep track of what I’ve accomplished & learned.

  6. John Van Hoesen says:

    I’m hesitant but in… I have an article on estimating the surface area of mummies leading to an estimate of total volume of paint needed to, well paint them. And, a second on the socioeconomic privilege behind a recent petition affecting our college (all GIS-based). This is going to be rough. Ha

  7. Collette Sosnowy says:

    I’m in! I’m a social scientist but the goals/responsibilities are the same. I am beginning work (as in, starting today) on a manuscript that is due March 30th. It is so relevant to my research that I couldn’t have written the CFP better myself, so I would really kick myself if I missed it! I want to get it to a reviewer by March 1. My goal is to ease into is at 15 minutes/day and ramp up from there. Transparency and accountability….what a great idea!

  8. Count me in! I have a few projects I want to move forward, detailed at my Teaching with Technology blog.

  9. Erik says:

    I think I’ll give it a shot … I’ve got a paper on my Okataina work that needs to get finished along with edits on my first Lassen paper (when I get them back from my coauthor.) Does that count?

  10. @TheMooreLab says:

    I’m in; feel I have created mental hurdle over experimental manuscripts in contrast to grant/abstract/poster writing. Have been aiming for the perfect “final” experiment for a paper for too long, and its just time to get it out. Goals:
    1. Complete draft of paper from my first PhD student who has finished (!) to co-authors by end of month (like Chris they may die of shock)
    2. When I find out what editors verdict is on review paper that has received no less than 5 sets of referee comments (covering spectrum from reject to accept) either a) rework submit or b) rework submit to separate journal
    3. Should I have any free time start drafting paper from MSc. student

  11. Titia Praamsma says:

    My research was completed in eastern Ontario. It’s quite relevant to Newfoundland as I focused on fractured rock aquifers. I moved to Newfoundland to live and work with the rocks :).

  12. John Leeman says:

    I’m in! My goals are the following:
    1) Re-submit by manuscript with the minor revisions
    2) Write an abstract for our grad colloquium
    3) Complete the text for a nearly ready to go manuscript.

  13. I’m in! Have 2 draft manuscripts I’d like to get out the door and one new one I need to draft.

  14. I need to finish my book and a edit a special issue of a journal. i’ld like to attempt for the first time to do meet this big deadline without gaining the usual 5-10 pounds, so I’m going to try 20-30 min intervals throughout the day punctuated by exercise. This should take 6 days a week, and evenings too.

  15. Megan Kelly says:

    I’m a first-year prof at a teaching university, so this is a very useful exercise for me to push myself and see what is reasonable to fit in the teaching mix. My goals for February are to do the revisions for the last paper from my dissertation, which was just accepted, write the intro for my first paper “on my own,” and outline at least one of the three grants I intend to write with summer deadlines.

  16. Starting a post-doc with the bulk of my dissertation unpublished means I have to work on those manuscripts outside of regular working hours. But it would be best to get them out the door before I start working on post-doc papers.
    – Make editor-suggested corrections to a submitted manuscript before it gets sent out for peer-review.
    – Write an abstract and conclusion section (my two least-favorite parts) for an Apollo 16 paper.
    – Sort out a beast of a geochemistry manuscript that kept growing with each revision and discussion with my PI. This one needs the most work and so I’ve been putting it off for last.
    – Have to make a talk and a poster for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in mid-March. Fortunately these are based on the two “submission-ready” manuscripts, and shouldn’t be too much of a burden.

    Let’s go #sciwrite!

  17. Yes. I have three writing projects this month.

    1. I need to finish my dissertation proposal in the next two weeks (A couple of sections need major reorganization this week, then on to the nit-picky editing before circulating to my committee).

    2. I need to revisit the draft manuscript from my MS research (which I completed two years ago). The manuscript got set aside in the shuffle of moving for my PhD, and I haven’t revisited it, but I really want to get it published – need to get the next iteration off to my former advisor by the end of the month.

    3. Related to goal number two (but not necessarily part of that manuscript), I need to write-up the “how to use my spreadsheet” document to accompany a spreadsheet I developed as part of my MS research. It needs to be finished soon.

  18. Does this only apply to professional papers? At this stage in my life I’m more a popularizer, and my goal for February is to create a blog post and podcast each day (and actually for the rest of the year) in the History of the Earth series. January taught me that doing anything on a daily basis is…. challenging. 🙂

  19. Erika A says:

    I’m totally in! I need to have a draft of my MS thesis to my advisor by the end of the month.

    My writing goals (in order of importance):

    1) Finishing running my models and write my results section

    2) Edits to the already written sections (methods, background)

    3) Write Intro and Conclusions

    4) Edit manuscript sent along by my co-author of our collaborative work from the Death Valley area

    This is gonna be nights and weekends only – I have a day job in consulting!

  20. Catherine Russell says:

    I’m in! I need to finish my 6 month report which is very detailed so that is can form a basis for my transfer report. I aim to have that done by the end of this month and I also want to aim to get the first draft of my book done! Seems a little ambitious but I’m going to so my best!

  21. Anne Senter says:

    Ok, I’m in too. A friend posted this link in FB, and additional community support is an awesome idea. I’ve just started a lit review for paper 2 — quantification of streamwood transport using video monitoring — of my dissertation in hydrology/geomorphology at UCD. I work full time, so it is often hard for me to find time for my research on a daily basis. So, my goals are to work on/”touch” my paper everyday, and to complete a rough draft of paper 2 by the end of February!!

  22. This is a fantastic idea!

    I’m a bit late but I’ve posted my goals on my blog: http://www.leouieda.com/posts/2014-02-05-joining-the-sciwrite-party.html

    1. Finish writing the corrections for the review I just got back.
    2. Finish the article about my software Tesseroids for the Journal of Open Research Software (JORS). This will be written in the open at https://github.com/pinga-lab/paper-software-tesseroids
    3. Write another article for JORS about my Python library for geophysical modeling and inversion Fatiando a Terra.

    Lets see how it goes. Thanks for the motivation!

  23. EarthSciProf says:

    Hopefully my writing will go better than my list submission….

    3 major goals for February
    1) Write and submit Goldschmidt abstract for Feb. 8 (now done).
    2) Revise and submit proposal that I’m a co-PI on
    3) Complete a manuscript on urban CO2/d13C measurements and send to co-author

    Links (3)
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