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Manuscripts of doom

Wouldn't it be nice if demanding a revised draft of a manuscript NOW resulted in such a thing?


Instead it seems to just push me over the edge of the stress-performance inverted U-function.

To some degree, this has to do with how I process feedback from other people. It's an instinct to drag my heels and fight because I *know* that I know the literature way better than coauthors and am trying to think it through on a deeper level than they are. I refuse to turn in embarrassing and shoddy work. And I know this is to my detriment at a certain point, but I've also observed firsthand that turning in stuff that's half-baked is seriously embarrassing and an even larger waste of everyone's time.


Feb. 3rd, 2016 11:29 pm (UTC)
my advice is to appease shallowly and move on if they're wrong, which they may very well be but doesn't pay to fume about it; if they could be right then sit on it for a few days and maybe talk it out or brainstorm and then after you're totally calm and not panicky see if you can address their concerns.

one goal could be making your deep thoughts accessible to people functioning on a shallow level. maybe if you think about it like writing for a newspaper--yes you have to communicate on a fourth grade level but that doesn't mean you're not going to try to express X complex thought because your fourth-grade readers deserve it--that might help? for me writing more simply often helps me write more.

is this the same manuscript where you need a longer discussion? maybe actually engaging on a more superficial level in part might help you lengthen the discussion and ease your readers into more complex analysis?

Feb. 3rd, 2016 11:34 pm (UTC)
This seems like excellent advice, since I'm also bad about the "making [my] deep thoughts accessible to people" part.
Feb. 5th, 2016 06:14 pm (UTC)
In this case, the Discussion needs some re-framing, which is going to feed back into revisions of the Introduction. My coauthor wants me to write this as an Ecology-focused manuscript, even though she isn't an Ecologist and therefore doesn't have a great idea of how to position it within the ecological literature. My general experience has been that ecologists don't really care about the kind of work I do, so obviously I have some work to do to pitch things from an angle that will convince them to care. I do think she's correct about how to situate it, even though I suspect it's going to get reviewed by people who have the impulsive reaction of "Leafcutter ants are just inherently cool" (which is an approach that she won't let me use for selling the work, for understandable reasons).

I had to take a step back and work my way through more of the recent/relevant ecological literature, and now I have to go through and restructure the Discussion based around the major findings in the paper, while also situating it in the appropriate context. This is complicated by the fact that insect physiologists and ecologists use related approaches/terminology that are similar but not the same due to some distinctions in what counts as a nutrient in each framework.

So basically, I have dragged my heels. I'm probably making progress over the long term, it's just that she has unrealistic expectations sometimes about what's involved in reframing a paper. Maybe it's easier for other people or they are more willing to be superficial about it, but as noted I've seen the more superficial treatment backfire in embarrassing ways.
Feb. 7th, 2016 06:50 pm (UTC)
Ah, makes sense. Total reframing sounds challenging no matter how you approach it. Still, good luck! At least it sounds more like a grind than a need-an-insight-now kind of problem?
Feb. 8th, 2016 09:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, definitely more of a grind, but it doesn't help when someone is demanding it on a "need-an-insight-now!!" timescale.

I guess if that were possible, we'd have world peace, an end to biodiversity loss, and great livelihoods, eh?

One of the things I have appreciated about all of the cricket work has been that I don't have to deal with this extra category of "social insects are special" that gets layered onto everything that has anything to do with ants. Someone on Twitter pulled out some good E.O. Wilson comments that are related to the thing I am struggling the most with:

EO Wilson on 2 ways to do ecology: 1. For every problem, there exists a species or entity ideal for its solution.
2. For every species/entity/phenomenon there exist important problems for which they are ideally suited.

I read this great story about an ecologist who studies a strange and seemingly esoteric system, where he pointed out that we need to study such things because they provide us with perspective on what constitutes "normal."

It's still challenging to rework the framing for the leafcutter stuff because my coauthor wants to throw in "self-organized complex social system" all over the place while we also need to talk about things like coevolution and nutritional mutualisms and nutrient flow, AND put things into proper perspective (some of the leafcutter ant people are territorial and we have to cite their work). A many-headed hydra.

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