Do you know why academics work through the festive season?

It’s that time of the year again. Academics around Australia are wrapping up loose ends, and lamenting over the papers that didn’t quite get published during the year. And many will be frantically finishing off work to make way for the grant-writing season.

For the record, I had four papers as a first author during 2011 and around ten rejections. Not such a great ratio. I also went on one overseas conference, won a small prize, helped supervise an exchange student, reviewed around 15 papers and submitted one grant, which was ultimately rejected.

Early next year, I will be applying for two grants – one will be submitted to the NHMRC, which is a for health and medicine-based projects, and the other will be for the ARC, which covers pretty much everything else. The first of my grants will be centred on my current favourite topic, which is all about the provenance of decisions made by policy-makers and practitioners across a wide range of disciplines. The second will be a practical attempt to measure where doctors get their evidence from when making decisions about patients, which will involve recruiting doctors and a fairly large chunk of social network modelling. While the grants are essentially unrelated, the aim of both is to improve the efficiency with which good research gets turned into changes in practice (by doctors, restoration ecologists, politicians, and even self-proclaimed climate change experts). And that should benefit everybody.

And that is why Australian academics tend to work straight through the festive season. While we start preparing for the grants we intend to write up to 12 months or more before the due dates (around March), the “business end” of the grant-writing season tends to start before the end of the year. So when you see your local academic floating around looking tired and wearing dark eye patches, you can give them your sympathy and wish them the best of luck for 2012.

Oh, and the thumbnails above come from my instagram feed for 2011. It’s mostly food but also has the occasional picture taken on or near campus, so I’ve added them here. A mini-retrospective of the year.

From the NY Times, Patricia Cohen looks at the push towards open reviewing for academic publishing. Yes, we all suffer at the hands of peer review, where even the most hardened of mathematical modellers will cross their fingers hoping to bring some luck to a process that seems to be more noise than signal.

The problem is, of course, that open review is subject to the same sort of trolling and luck-of-the-draw that pervades other forums – and one is much less likely to hear from the world’s experts when they are a single voice amongst a litany of others.

A very interesting way to find journals, authors and related publications

This tool allows you to insert either a whole abstract or some keywords, to find related journals, their influence and other benefits (like being available for free after a certain amount of time). It also allows you to find relevant authors and the relevant articles they write.

I tried this tool on two recent drafts I finished and immediately came up with new ideas on where to submit them, confirmed my choice of a high-impact journal for another, and found a whole new stream of publications related specifically to the topic. I would not have found these articles otherwise, so I can certainly vouch for the ability of the tool.

This one is going straight in the bookmarks and will be accessed often.

A very interesting way to find journals, authors and related publications

Be careful who you criticise

Lancet editors discuss the case of a science writer, Simon Singh, and what happened when he wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian (UK) about claims by chiropractors, who promptly sued him.

The original article can be found on an external site after being pulled from the Guardian’s website after the original complaint from the BCA.

More on the BCA dropping their pursuit of Simon Singh has just been published in BMJ

Be careful who you criticise