Category Archives: Miscellaneous

A love letter to my clients from an appreciative editor.

Lately I’ve been especially loving my job. Now that I have plenty of real world experience under my belt, I’m more confident than ever in my editing and business skills. In short, things here at Science Refinery are clicking.

I also have been really feeling the love for all my authors recently. I think it’s only fair to share my appreciation publicly. So clients, this one’s for you.

Thanks. From me and Zach Galifianakis.

Not only do you help keep a roof over my head and food on my table, but you teach me so many new things every day. How many people get to learn about factors affecting hotel efficiency one moment and what WASP-1 (2-(2,7-diethoxy-9H-fluoren-9-ylidene) hydrazinecarboximidamide) does the next? Getting to read about cutting edge discoveries (before anyone else!) as my job is a privilege for a curious mind like mine.

I have a special spot in my heart for all my authors writing in English when it’s their second (or third! or fourth! or more!) language. I am so unbelievably impressed by your ability to communicate your science to the world in a language not native to you. As a typical American, I know some Spanish, but not nearly enough to compose a piece of technical writing.

Beyond earning my admiration, you also unintentionally teach me a little about your own language along the way. I’ve gotten to the point where I can make a pretty good guess whether the authors of a manuscript are from China or Russia or Brazil, for example. So thanks for making me feel like Sherlock. And when you do get tripped up on idioms and specialized vocabulary, I get to enjoy a moment of amusement 🙂

So to all my clients, thank you for entrusting me with your baby. It truly brings me joy to help you communicate your science so you can get back to doing the science you love.

Catch-up post of recent Facebook updates

So I’ve been pretty terrible about keeping up this blog recently. I could list off some excuses like the holidays, new obligations, and prioritizing actual editing over writing about editing, but the truth is I’ve just let this slip by. I won’t promise a dramatic change (the new obligations and priorities are actually real), but I am going to recommit to posting here semi-regularly.

In the meantime, here are some updates from the Facebook and Twitter pages:

2/20/14: I ❤ Google Ngram viewer. “Should I change this author’s use of ‘indispensable for’ to ‘indispensable to’?” Rather than deciding blindly, I can check the data first! Click to see what I found then guess what I chose to do.

2/12/14: I just spontaneously shouted “I love this paper!” Good thing I work from home :). It’s a good day to be an editor.

2/11/14: Reading the methods of a paper that used HPLC is daunting and makes me glad I quit chemistry after one semester of organic. (Luckily I still know enough to be able to confidently, competently edit it after several passes.)

2/6/14: I’ve been doing mostly journal articles lately, but today I am editing a grant application. Nice change of pace! 🙂

2/5/14: My favorite error in this ESL paper so far: talking about the normally distributed “residues” (instead of residuals) 🙂

1/10/14: I’m editing a paper about altitude sickness and the author just referred to “seal level.” Made me think of the Seal as a Seal meme.

12/18/13: I’m editing a paper by authors whose native language is Korean. There were some unique errors, which led me to Googling to learn a little something about Korean syntax. Wikipedia taught me that Korean is generally considered a “language isolate” (meaning it has “no demonstrable genealogical relationship with other languages”). No wonder there were some unusual mistakes when the authors translated their ideas to English! Cool.

12/4/13: Pandora is blasting my holiday shuffle, I get to gaze out at beautiful snow, there’s tasty tea in my mug, and I’m editing a very interesting paper on IQ psychometrics. All I need is a fireplace and I’d be happy as a clam at high tide 🙂

When calling the dentist is more meaningful than just calling the dentist

I feel awesome.

Sometimes I procrastinate on tasks I’m opposed to in some way but nonetheless have to do. For example, I had to call my new dentist to sort out an insurance matter. It’s something that shouldn’t have been an issue at all, so it just ticked me off. So I kept avoiding it. So I felt stressed when I got another bogus bill for it.

Today I finally called and dealt with it. Of course, it was trivial and easy. I spent WAY more time and energy stewing about how I shouldn’t have to do it and worrying about what would happen than it took to actually just call. This is the case 99% of the time for me.

I am learning and getting better. With help from kicks in the butt from my mom and husband, I don’t fall into this trap nearly as often as I used to. I just need to remember how good it feels to finally get over myself and do it. When the weight is lifted off my shoulders, I feel like this:


So what are you putting off these days? Is there anything you’re building up in your head that’s actually simple? Could you tackle it right now to join me in feeling free and accomplished today?

PS– The above picture was taken at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, WI. I just found out it was voted one of the Top 10 Most Inspiring Gardens in North America by Horticulture Magazine!

My fair college on the hill

Yesterday was a very Denison day for me. It’s really a testament to my undergrad alma mater that I’m still so connected to it 3.5 years later. If you know anyone deciding about colleges to apply to, I could easily bend their ear for an hour singing Denison’s praises. Including that it rightfully made the top of Buzzfeed’s list of “college campus pics that will make you never want fall to end.”

First I got an email about planning After Work with Denison…Everywhere! I previously volunteered to host the event since there are other Denisonians in Missoula but no gathering in our area. I had a fun time schmoozing with alumni at the previous Madison events, so I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity this year. Now I have to find a good place to reserve a small room for us. I’m thinking maybe Jaker’s? If you have any other ideas, let me know.

Then I conducted a Denison Alumni Recruitment Team interview. It’s a great way for Denison and its prospective students to get to know one another when an on-campus interview is unfeasible. I’ve done a few of these now, and it’s always a pleasure to meet with bright, engaged, passionate young people. It also just feels cool to be a part of shaping the next Denison class.

Of course I did it all while wearing my Denison sweatshirt. Like I said, it was a very Denison day.

PS: The post title is a reference to a line from the school song, “To Denison.”

“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Today I was commissioned to make a quote “pretty” so it could be hung up in an office. I ended up liking it so much that I ordered a poster print for myself too. The quote is from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech and the picture is my own.

Jobs commencement speech

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

I’m so glad I trusted myself enough to leave grad school and start Science Refinery (learn more about me here) so I could continue doing what I love–helping people improve their writing, posters, talks, job applications, and more.

Are you settling right now? If so, Steve Jobs and I agree: keep looking.

“Science Journal Publication”: Don’t fall for this OA scam

In checking my Spam folder today (I always make sure something legitimate didn’t slip through the cracks before deleting them all), I found a suspicious message. It was soliciting submissions for an open-access journal. There were many red flags, from the numerous spelling mistakes to only using the acronym SJP for their name.

So I Googled SJP. This gave me endless information about the actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Oops. So I Googled SJP open access. The first hit was their site, but the second was this article. It describes the evidence that Science Journal Publication [sic] is a scam. They’re even based in infamously spam-heavy Nigeria (“Many publishers lie about or hide their headquarters location, but I’ve found that when a publisher claims to be from Warri State, they are generally telling the truth.”).

If a publisher has been on Beall’s List of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” for almost two years, it’s pretty safe to assume you shouldn’t submit to them. Avoid Science Journal Publication and, as always, be on the lookout for other open-access publishing scams.

A supremely important article: “Why Malcolm Gladwell Matters (And Why That’s Unfortunate)”

Malcom Gladwell, author of such popular science books as Blink, The Tipping Point, and now David and Goliath, is culturally influential. And that’s unfortunate. The super short explanation is that he makes strong, causal claims unwarranted by data.

For the more elaborated version, I can’t recommend highly enough this article by psychology professor Christopher Chabris. It’s long, but definitely worth the read.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts (though it was hard to choose):

But consider what Gladwell’s quote means. He is saying that if you understand his topics enough to see what he is doing wrong, then you are not the reader he wants. At a stroke he has said that anyone equipped to properly review his work should not be reading it. How convenient! Those who are left are only those who do not think the material is oversimplified.

Who are those people? They are the readers who will take Gladwell’s laws, rules, and causal theories seriously; they will tweet them to the world, preach them to their underlings and colleagues, write them up in their own books and articles (David Brooks relied on Gladwell’s claims more than once in his last book), and let them infiltrate their own decision-making processes… It doesn’t matter if these are misreadings or imprecise readings of what Gladwell is saying in these books—they are common readings, and I think they are more common among exactly those readers Gladwell says are his audience.

Please read Chabris’ piece and help give it the signal boost it deserves.