Veselin sent this out to the email list a few weeks ago. PlanetHunters.org is an offshoot of the Galaxy Zoo project and a fun way to spend a few minutes (or hours) looking at light curves. Check out their introductory video:
As we grow as an organization, we’re slowly starting to make use of tools like Google Docs to get business done. Here’s a post over at Astrobetter that delves into one group’s experiences with using Google Docs to write an NSF proposal.
The huge advantage of using Google Docs to write the proposal was that we could all work on the same document at the same time. There was never various versions floating around or emailing comments back and forth that would need to be laboriously incorporated. Instead, we highlighted sentences that we needed to discuss and left notes and comments directly in the text. You can even see the other people’s cursor and selected text so you can either avoid working on the same bit of text at the same time or watch another person’s edits in real time. A couple days before the deadline, we all edited and polished each other’s text. If we weren’t sure about the edit, we highlighted it and the used the sidebar chat to quickly come to a resolution. I think this simultaneous polishing by three different people got us to a high-quality final product extremely efficiently.
Here’s an excellent post about how to prepare 5-minute talks.
1. In a 5 minute talk, you can usually only teach people about one new thing. The key to framing the talk is to figure out that One New Thing, and then build the rest of the talk around it.
2. So, the very first step is to pick the absolute best single visual to show the One New Thing. This is usually an awesome plot.
3. Make this plot the first slide you prepare. Don’t start with history and motivation and data acquisition and analysis techniques — if you do, you’ll prepare way too much material, and find yourself at 4 minutes and 59 seconds without having actually gotten to your results.
Prof. Scharf leads Columbia’s astrobiology initiative and has been sharing his thoughts at this blog:
Check it out as a source for news and commentary on the field.
I just mentioned this on our email list (http://lists.jhu.edu, seach for “astrobioclub”): yesterday Greg showed me JournalFire, an online journal club website and suggested we use it for online sharing and discussion of research papers. I just set up a journal club for us. If you’re interested, register at the site and join the club. I just added a bunch of papers from the “hydrogen-eating microbes on titan” controversy.
Here’s a list of scientific writing tips from a science journalist that are good to follow regardless of whether you’re writing a journal article or an email to a friend. They dissect a famous human genome paper from Nature to address points about using jargon, long and short sentences, subjective and objective clauses, active verbs, and speculative voice. My favorite piece of advice is “you should be able to read a sentence out loud in one breath.”
Here’s a great article in the current issue of Nature about writing research papers.
One of the problems, perhaps, is that analyses of writing rarely seem to be very scientific. Advice is qualitative and descriptive; there’s no objective way to test which of two essays or two scientific papers is crafted more effectively. I’ve learned the difficulties of teaching good writing in some recent seminars I’ve given, with a colleague, to PhD students and postdocs. It’s easy to point out good and bad examples, less easy to identify the principles of effective written communication. Break your thoughts up into manageable pieces and express them in simple sentences. Ensure each paragraph expresses one coherent point. Let more complex arguments emerge by stringing simpler points together. And try to write more or less as one speaks, with ideas arriving sequentially, rather than in parallel.
What reference management software do you use and why? Off the top of my head, I know about BibDesk, EndNote, Mendeley, and Papers. I don’t know the pros and cons of each, or if there’s other solutions. I personally use Papers as my research papers library and BibDesk for adding citations and references to LaTeX documents. This is mostly because I always thought (incorrectly) that EndNote was a Windows-only Word plugin, and Mendeley wasn’t around when I started collecting papers for research. What about you?
Here are some links I pulled from astrobetter.com that weigh in on this topic: