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Memory of my first major peer-reviewed paper 

My very first manuscript published in Physical Review Letters (major physics journal!) came about by drawing figures on piece of papers (basically mocked-up figures) with a colleague of mine!

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Writing Your First Scientific Paper, Part I: The “Data/Story Flow”

You’ve been working hard, around the clock to get all the data out. You might even have submitted an abstract about your current to the great scientific meeting of your field (and maybe got to travel and present it). Now is time to plant the flag, leave your mark i.e. publish!

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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!

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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.

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.

Authorship of Scientific Articles | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY

This topic probably happen between you (the thesis advisor) and the first author (your grad student) for almost every paper: what is the author list and order?

Daniel Wessel at Organizing Creativity has a short and very interesting post on this subject: Authorship of Scientific Articles | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY.

A worthy read and numerous useful links.

PhD project or PhD projects?

Two of my PhD students have successfully defended their thesis in the past three weeks. For both of them, they have accomplished what constituted the biggest project (in term of scope and time) of their life yet.

However, is it really one project or a collection of multiple projects forming a whole, called a PhD thesis?

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PhD Comics’ What is Open Access?

Have a look at this post over at Organizing Creativity: PhD Comics’ What is Open Access?

Zotero on the go!

In the previous post I was describing the free Zotero scientific manuscript management software. Through a comment via this blog and others, I was pointed out that there are some solutions for access to your PDFs on the go.

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Invest in a good manuscript (PDF) management system

If, as starting graduate students, you are following my first key advice of reading on a regular basis scientific manuscripts related to your field of research in general and your project in particular, you’ve probably reach an obvious observation:  you are collecting a large number of PDF files very quickly.

There are, of course, a few more observations to be made:

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A single advice about publishing your first scientific paper…

I always wondered what would be the single, most important advice I could give a new graduate student who is looking forward to have his or her work published at some point.

Sure the usual work hard, pick cutting edge topics, chose your advisor carefully and so on are the obvious suspects. But what about a single advice that would put in motions the necessary behavior to essentially “groom” the graduate student in being ready to publish?

After many years of mentoring, mine is read! Read published scientific papers in your field as much as you can and from day 1 on the “job”. Read for journals you are expected to publish in, from journals at the periphery, from more difficult journals to publish in (higher impact factor). Read also outside your field.

Make an habit to scan the usually suspects (for your field at least) once a month and read.

Not only will you know what is state-of-the-art but this will provide you the structure of a scientific manuscript, the language, what is accepted or expected. Note the good to excellent manuscripts, those that are easy to read i.e. that flows and tell you a story. What make them better than others you’ve read?

By the time, you are ready to talk to your advisor about publishing your results, you should have read hundreds of previously published articles.

As theory is not practice, you will also need to write as often as possible. The more you write, the easier it gets. But that’s my second advice 😉

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