Given ESPN’s recent headline difficulties it seems like they might want a headline editor or something…
The Fundamentals of Engineering Exam is the first licensing exam for engineers. You have to pass it on your way to becoming a professional engineer (PE). I was recently shown a problem from a review manual:
When it is operating properly, a chemical plant has a daily production rate that is normally distributed with a mean of 880 tons/day and a standard deviation of 21 tons/day. During an analysis period, the output is measured with random sampling on 50 consecutive days, and the mean output is found to be 871 tons/day. With a 95 percent confidence level, determine if the plant is operating properly.
- There is at least a 5 percent probability that the plant is operating properly.
- There is at least a 95 percent probability that the plant is operating properly.
- There is at least a 5 percent probability that the plant is not operating properly.
- There is at least a 95 percent probability that the plant is not operating properly.
Whoops…seems to be a problem there. I’m glad that engineers are expected to know some statistics; hopefully the engineering students taking the exam can spot the problem…but then how do they answer?
The review times for most journals in our field are ridiculous. Check out Figure 1 here. A careful review takes time, but not six months. Let’s be honest, those papers are sitting on desks for the great majority of those six months. But here is what really kills me: waiting six months for a review basically saying the paper is not of sufficient interest to the readership of the journal. That decision you can come to in half a day. If you don’t have time, don’t accept the responsibility to review a paper.
I like sharing my work with my statistician colleagues, but the Biology journals never do this to me. When my paper is not of sufficient interest, these journals reject me in days not months. I sometimes work on topics that are fast pace and many of my competitors are not statisticians. If I have to wait six months for each rejection, I can’t compete. By the time the top three applied statistics journals reject the paper, more than a year goes by and the paper is no longer novel. Meanwhile I can go through Nature Methods, Genome Research, and Bioinformatics in less than 3 months.
Nick Jewell once shared an idea that I really liked. It goes something like this. Journals in our field will accept every paper that is correct. The editorial board, with the help of referees, assigns each paper into one of five categories A, B, C, D, E based on novelty, importance, etc… If you don’t like the category you are assigned, you can try your luck elsewhere. But before you go, note that the paper’s category can improve after publication based on readership feedback. While we wait for this idea to get implemented, I please ask that if you get one of my papers and you don’t like it, reject it quickly. You can write this review: “This paper rubbed me the wrong way and I heard you like being rejected fast so that’s all I am going to say.” Your comments and critiques are valuable, but not worth the six month wait.
ps - I have to admit that the newer journals have not been bad to me in this regard. Unfortunately, for the sake of my students/postdocs going into the job market and my untenured jr colleagues, I feel I have to try the established top journals first as they still impress more on a CV.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with some really smart and successful people during my career. As a young person, one problem with working with really successful people is that they get a ton of email. Some only see the subject lines on their phone before deleting them.
I’ve picked up a few tricks for getting email responses from important/successful people:
The SI Rules
Anecdotally, SI emails have a 10-fold higher response probability. The rules are designed around the fact that busy people who get lots of email love checking things off their list. SI emails are easy to check off! That will make them happy and get you a response.
It takes more work on your end when writing an SI email. You often need to think more carefully about what to ask, how to phrase it succinctly, and how to minimize the number of emails you write. A surprising side effect of applying SI principles is that I often figure out answers to my questions on my own. I have to decide which questions to include in my SI emails and they have to be yes/no answers, so I end up taking care of simple questions on my own.
Here are examples of SI emails just to get you started:
Subject: Is my response to reviewer 2 ok with you?
Body: I’ve attached the paper/responses to referees.
Subject: Can you send my letter of recommendation to firstname.lastname@example.org?
Keywords = recommendation, Jeff, John Doe.
Subject: I revised the draft to include your suggestions about simulations and language
Revisions attached. Let me know if you have any problems, otherwise I’ll submit Monday at 2pm.
If you have a mac and give talks or teach, chances are you have embarrassed yourself by forgetting your dongle. Our lab meetings and classes were constantly delayed due to missing dongles. Communism solved this problem. We bought 10 dongles, sprinkled them around the department, and declared all dongles public property. All dongles, not just the 10. No longer do we have to ask to borrow dongles because they have no owner. Please join the revolution. ps -I think this should apply to pens too!