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  1. Writing is an important part of any scientist’s career, and it’s particularly critical for academic scientists whose promotion depends on solid writing. Writing and publishing papers is “currency” of scholarship – peer-reviewed papers demonstrate our productivity, expertise, and contributions to our field. No one gets promoted without publications. Moreover, for those of us who write grants to get funding for our research – guess what? No one gets grants without the track record of publications. If writing is so critical, why do so many scientists spend more time on teaching and service than on writing and scholarship? Why do we put it off, waiting for a big chunk of time that we can devote to writing (that may never arrive)? Why do we complain about it so much? Moreover, when I poll groups of graduate students, postdocs and faculty, a sizeable portion claim to dislike writing – it’s tough to dislike something that is so vital to our success! So let’s learn to love writing, especially since we have to do so much of it. This open thread is a place where we can discuss the ins and outs of writing – sharing tips, encouragement and hard-won lessons. Ask questions, post writing hacks. And happy writing!
  2. Published papers are the currency of success in neuroscience, yet the process of publishing a paper can be mysterious, especially to trainees. Here are four of the most surprising things I learned about the publishing process as a first-time author. Link back to full article
  3. Hello everyone! I am in the process of writing up my first manuscript for publication. I wanted to see if you have any tips or resources that you found helpful in writing a strong publication. Thank you!
  4. I’ve been interested in science, literature, and writing — creative writing especially — since I was young. I ended up studying science (biochemistry), literature, and creative writing in college and faced a tough career decision when I graduated. I chose science and thought my writing career had ended. But later, when I started considering careers away from the bench I realized that I could combine my writing and literature interests with my science interests. That inspired me to move to the journal editing field where I evaluated papers and manuscripts in many fields of science. Now, I serve as the Director of Research Administration at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, where I focus on science communication and writing in the context of research development and global engagement. While I’ve come full circle, switching from bench research to science writing wasn’t an easy transition, and, in fact, I struggled with the decision for many years. As a researcher, it was a challenge for me to focus on a narrow question because I was continually drawn to the bird’s eye view. I also felt a stronger need to express myself intellectually through writing than I did through working at the bench. When those two realizations clicked for me, I knew that I needed to explore other career paths. I was inspired to become a journal editor where I could incorporate my writing skills and learn to read and evaluate manuscripts from many areas of science. Eventually, I became a Senior Editor at Neuron. In this role, I gained valuable insights into the peer review and publishing processes. When I started working at the journal, all I knew about peer review was what authors see on the other side of the manuscript submission portal: You submit your paper, get three reviews, try to address them the best you can, and then receive a rejection or acceptance letter. Managing peer review, however, showed me that the process is a deeply human enterprise. It’s all done voluntarily by reviewers who agree to adhere to an ethical system while they evaluate other people’s work. As a journal editor, creating a fair peer review process through carefully selecting reviewers with diverse expertise, balancing competing interests between authors and reviewers, and managing differences between reviewers was the core of what I did every day. Peer review is not a perfect process, but it’s the best one we have so far to evaluate quality and priority in research. Now, I apply my knowledge of science evaluation, peer review and publishing at RIKEN, where I help to oversee research development and output, global communication, collaboration, and outreach. My job is fluid, diverse, and dynamic. Every day is different, which is fun. I help to facilitate the institute’s research output, but I also serve as a consultant to researchers at all stages of their projects and careers, guiding them on how to productively move their research forward to publication. Research is hard. You could spend years on a project collecting data but not be skilled at writing a paper that accurately and positively represents your discovery. I try to fill that gap by working one-on-one with researchers to shape solid paper narratives and by teaching writing and publishing workshops. My path has led me to a place where I’m able to bring unique value to the scientific community by drawing on my experiences as a researcher, writer and journal editor. If you’re a trainee who also has diverse interests or skills, my advice is to spend as much time as you can learning how to conduct research while in parallel exploring the way you most enjoy doing science. We tend to want to be like our role models and mentors — and there’s value to that — but we each have our own path. Constantly self-evaluate and think about what type of research you’d like to conduct and whether or not you want to pursue research at the bench. Careers involving science writing and communication, advocacy, policy, administration, or other fields should be kept on the table. Science is a huge enterprise and not everyone needs to be specialized for research in a particular field. There’s a lot you can do within science that’s interesting, valuable, and worthwhile. Link back to full article Charles Yokoyama, PhD Charles Yokoyama is the director of research administration at RIKEN Brain Science Institute.
  5. While a successful career in academia can be a very set path, a career in science writing has the breadth of options to fit a wider range of lifestyles. Whether it’s more structured work at an office or the more fluid life of a freelance position, a scientist can find a writing career that suits them. Link back to full article
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