Final throes of 28 days of #sciwrite

A post by Anne JeffersonA post by Chris Rowan
Sciwrite logo, by Chris Rowan Last week we intrepid #sciwriters seemed to be feeling a bit discouraged by lack of progress, but hopefully this week is looking a bit better. It could be that, come Saturday, we decided to put off writing this check-in post until we had something positive to report, or we could just be that far behind in our to-do lists. In any case, here’s our next-to-last update on February writing progress.

In the hydrology realm, Anne is pleased to report that the two extended abstracts were submitted on Monday the 17th and they look great. Two posters arising from these abstracts have also been created and submitted. The posters are for the virtual workshop on laser spectrometers for field hydrology and biogeochemistry and will be available on Scribd by mid-week. The posters will be presented on Friday live on the internet, capping off what has been an informative and interesting experience in web-enabled science sharing. Anne says:

“Even though these abstracts and posters aren’t publications per se, I’m really happy to have worked so hard on them. One is about an educational grant that I’m leading, and making the poster has caused my team to pull together information about the project that will be useful later. It has also given me ideas for a possible publication this summer. Fortunately, I wouldn’t be the lead author on it. The other poster is work I’m doing with an undergraduate, which has been tremendously rewarding and is turning out to be a neat little dataset that we are excited to keep exploring. A paper will probably come out of this sooner or later too, depending on how ambitious we want to be in additional analyses. Fun stuff!”

All of Anne’s enthusing about the abstracts and posters is not meant to completely hide the very slow progress on the actual papers she was meant to be drafting this month. Those will be coming to the forefront this week and for the #sciwrite epilogue in March and beyond. At least this week Anne managed to sort out some of her figure woes.

Chris can report a week of steady progress:

Since it is the thing with an actual deadline, most of my writing time this week was spent working on an internal grant that will support a substantial rewrite of the Geophysics course I teach, before the next time it is offered. I want to develop some exercises that give my students opportunities to analyse real datasets, and code up a set of animations and interactive visualisation tools that show more intuitively how changes in subsurface structures affect the geophysical signals you see at the surface. I’m still relatively new to grant writing, but I think its coming together nicely – I’ll at least have something to report as finished at the end of February!

As for the New Zealand paper – there was some progress there, too, although I have a couple of niggling data processing issues to sort out before I can wrap up my results section and move onto the discussion in earnest. But just like with the grant, it is coming together, just more slowly.

Chris is currently vacillating between being disappointed that he is not going to finish February with a completed paper draft, and pleased that he’s got a long-shelved project moving in the right direction again. More on that next week.

In the meantime, let us know how you’re getting on. All progress is good progress!

Categories: geology

GeoKid shows us Antarctica

A post by GeoKidMy parents seem to be too busy to blog about our trip to Antarctica, so today I’m sharing two videos I made on our adventure.

In this video, I’m in Ushuaia, Argentina, waiting to head farther south.

In this video, I’m in Antarctica itself talking about penguins, skuas, and zodiac rides and life aboard the ship.

Hope you enjoyed my videos!

Categories: Antarctica, by Geokid

28 days of #sciwrite: Half way there?

A post by Anne JeffersonA post by Chris Rowan
Sciwrite logo, by Chris RowanAs we check in with our heroes half way through their monthlong writing adventure, we ask them whether the half-way mark for the month means they are half-way through their writing goals.

Anne says:

Ha! Ha ha ha hahahahaha‚Ķ No, I’m not even close to half way through my ambitious goals for the month. I have two extended abstracts due tomorrow. One is submitted, thanks to the hard work of my fearless undergraduate co-author. The other is out with my coauthors for final review before submission. This was the main thing I knew I needed to work on this week, so I’m happy they’ve come together, but now I need to hurry up and get them turned into posters by Monday the 24th. No rest on that front. Unfortunately, I haven’t made as much progress on the papers as I would like. I put some time in on a figure for one paper, but now that I’ve opened it up on a different computer something appears to have gone wrong with the formatting, so it might not be as much progress as I thought I had made, and that wasn’t much. My goal for this week is 3 figures, so fingers crossed that such formatting issues don’t continue to affect me. I’m feeling a bit depressed by the lack of progress on the papers, and I know it’s my own fault. But I’m also still hoping for a breakthrough moment when things come together, either on the time front or in the feeling-like-progress-has-been-made front. I know that those breakthroughs don’t just happen though, so I need to keep slogging away as much as I can. Here’s to a better week this week.

Chris says:

Well kids, the last two weeks have been an object lesson in why you should never put an uncompleted writing project totally on the shelf if you can help it, since I seem to be spending quite a lot of my writing time for my New Zealand paper re-treading old ground: re-re-re-confirming my data is in good shape, restarting half-done analyses that I didn’t properly document, rediscovering wrinkles that I know I sorted out last time but can’t remember how. All this means that a goal I acknowledged two weeks ago was challenging – getting a complete first draft off my desk and to my co-author, is looking even more challenging at the half-way mark.

That said, I am making significant progress – my methods and results sections, complete with nifty figures, are coming together nicely, and my introduction is looking a bit more like a continuous piece of prose than a mess of disconnected sentences. All this is largely due to the sciwrite challenge pushing me to make time to do so.

My challenge this week is to keep making progress on the paper, and get going on the teaching grant I need to get written by the end of the month.

How about you? Were you better at setting reasonable goals than we were? Or have you been better at making enough time to write every day? If so, what tips and tricks can you share?

Categories: geology

1 week down, 3 to go on 28 days of #sciwrite

A post by Anne JeffersonA post by Chris Rowan
Sciwrite logo, by Chris RowanA week ago, we invited our readers to join in our challenge of making the short month of February into a productive writing month, but sharing our goals and progress. Our invitation was enthusiastically accepted, and we had 21 people share their own goals in the comments section.

Unbelievably, we’re now 1/4 of the way through our month-long writing challenge, so it’s time to check in and see where we are. We’ll go first, and then you can share your successes and challenges in the comments.

For Anne, this week brought both fire and ice to her professional life, so she didn’t quite as much done as she had hoped, but some progress was made. She says:

“My student and I have made a lot of progress on one extended abstract, and I’ve just gotten a draft going on the one I’m leading. Both are due on the 17th, and the posters themselves are due shortly thereafter, so they will be the major focus this week. I got a figure and its text section finalized on one paper, but was reminded how many figures there are still to go. This week’s I need to get at least one more figure completed, along with its associated text. On the other paper, my co-authors and I had a great discussion, and we agreed that we just need to get it done! So, I need to buckle down and work on the introduction that I’ve been avoiding. I don’t feel like I’m 25% along on my goals, but something is better than nothing.”

Chris’s progress on his New Zealand tectonics paper was also slower than he might have liked, but knows that this is par for the course when it comes to paper production. He says:

“My paper writing always seems to start with a lot of work that doesn’t really increase the word count but sets a good foundation for later writing, namely making sure the data is correctly processed and working out the best ways to present it. Good figures are an important part of telling your scientific story, and getting them started early ensures they are central to the narrative, rather than an afterthought. On that score, I’ve had a few wrinkles on the data processing side that took longer than I would have liked, but I’ve made progress, and I’ve also made some encouraging intellectual strides in how my discussion section is going to be structured. It’s actually quite stimulating to come back to this problem again with a bit more knowledge and perspective – not that that’s an excuse for putting off writing this paper for so long! Hopefully the foundations have been laid for getting a lot more writing done by the time I check in next week.”

How has everyone else been doing this week? Let us know about your progress in the comments.

Categories: academic life, publication

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