Monthly Archives: February 2013

Online Collaborative Writing using LaTeX

LaTex / TeX has been a favourite of scientists for a long time. For many, TeX typesetting is considered to be producing the most beautiful and elegant documents, in particular when equations are involved. On OSX, I used over the years tetex and TeXLive in the past. Nowadays, MacTeX appears to be a popular package.

Beside the beautiful and elegant documents it produces, LaTeX uses only ACSII characters. It is thus highly portable and fully compatible across platforms. Therefore, documents can be written in any text editor (from the lowest common denominator such as vi to more elaborate one such as Emacs. On OSX, you will find the beautiful Aquamacs version of Emacs.

However, collaborative writing in LaTeX might not be the most intuitive function of LaTeX/TeX packages. And while I do hate WORD, its visual change tracking system makes document sharing and collaborative writing quite easy (compared to performing a “diff” command on two files and so on…If you do not know what is the “diff” command, it further proves the point).

Welcome to the free WriteLaTeX online collaborative environment. This new service was pointed out to me recently by a colleague at my institution. It is a web-based service and thus cross-platform and fully compatible with tablets (either iOS, Android or Blackberry) and no need to install a standalone distribution. Your working space is 100 Mb with the possibility to increase to 1 Gb (in steps of 50 Mb per referral…). Figures in JPG, PNG and PDF are supported as well as bibTeX bibliography style. Furthermore, writeLaTeX let you do Beamer presentations as well!


This image was taken from the writeLaTeX website and shown as a example of the feature sets available.

If LaTex is still in your arsenal of writing tools, have a look at writeLaTeX.

The gift of doctoral study is…

“The gift of doctoral study is that you get the time and space to obsess about something you’re (hopefully) interested in…”

-Jeannie Holstein

The above is taken from the following link about returning to graduate school to tackle a PhD project and finding it fun. A very interesting read: ‘Academia is a very well kept secret’.

Exit impact factor and h-index, welcome real-time reputation metrics?

An interesting reads at TechCrunch on new forms of dissemination and measurements of scientific impact: Reputation Metrics Startups Aim To Disrupt The Scientific Journal Industry.

In a similar vein, you might want to read the excellent editorial by John R. Alder from Stanford entitled “A New Age of Peer Reviewed Scientific Journals” published in the open access journal Surgical Neurology International. The manuscript is available on Cureus blog.


Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.

Open-access publications

In an era when most research efforts are publicly funded through federal, provincial and other government programs, open-access journals seem a natural “public” return on the initial investments. However, the existence of various levels of “open”  (which also dictate how the results can be re-used) appears to blur the issue. Concerned researchers or simply interested science followers, here is an interesting read in Nature: Researchers opt to limit uses of open-access publications : Nature News & Comment.

Questions you should be asking your future thesis advisor

A part from the obvious discussion on salary, TA or other forms of support, here is a list of relevant questions you should be asking your future thesis advisor:

Read the rest of this entry

Supporting research: essential for our knowledge society

This post is slightly different than others on this blog in that it target professors, researchers, current graduate students and alumni who have graduated from universities located in the province of Quebec. Our provincial government recently announce deep cuts, from 13% to 30% for a total of 10M$. This is on top of serious under-investments in our University system (infrastructure maintenance, professor salaries, undergraduate teaching and general student services).

The major hospital-based research centres of the province have launch a joint effort to raise public awareness on this issue. Please visit and share the link below (yes it is in French only):

Couper en recherche , c’est tuer l’espoir



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