Category Archives: writing

Do you apply for a grant with 3% funding rate?

Recently I wrote about prioritizing: when do you choose to do experiments and when do you write papers and/or grants? Over the past year I’ve invested a lot of time in writing grants, with so far not the best results. And in my mind, that is the difference between investing time in papers vs grants. Papers will always end up somewhere, even if it’s in the Scandinavian journal of a Very Specific Sub-Subfield. But grants can get rejected, and then rejected again, and then go to die somewhere. Of course grants are just ideas (+ some preliminary data), whereas papers contain results, so it makes sense that it is this way.

But it does feel like a waste of time and energy when you have a grant rejected. And with the current funding lines of 10-20% (at least for most of the things that I have recently applied for) this will likely happen more often than not. But at which funding rate do you stop trying? I’m asking this because yesterday I found out that a fellowship  I applied for had a funding rate of only around 3%. They did not mention this anywhere, so I had for some optimistic reason assumed it would be higher. It was not. And I didn’t get this fellowship. Had I known that it was only 3%, would I still have applied? In this case, most likely I would have because I basically recycled an older application so it didn’t cost me that much time. But in case I needed to start writing from scratch I’m not sure.

So, where do you draw the line? Or do you always apply regardless of funding percentage?



Filed under academia, decisions, grant writing, ideas, life in the lab, publishing papers, review, writing

So how many papers does having a baby cost?

I think we’ve all read the correspondence piece in Nature yesterday on how we don’t need to worry about gender bias, because it really all comes down to women having babies and therefore publishing less papers. Lukas Koube, the author, already wrote this as a comment last year, but apparently Nature still thought this piece was worthy of being put in the journal. I don’t think I need to add anything to what Melissa WilsonSayres wrote about it yesterday. She already says that it really is possible to be a scientist AND a parent, and that babies are often made by more than one person, and that the other parent (often, but not always a man) can also pitch in. And as we established last week, science is about generating ideas (or not?) and I might as well generate a scientific idea while nursing, or while changing a diaper.

Okay maybe I do want to add something: Really, Nature? Did you think someone who has published zero scientific papers knows whether you can publish papers while pregnant or taking care of a baby? And Lukas Koube, do you really think that that is the only thing holding women in science back?!

But it is something that is on my mind often: how many papers would I have had during this post-doc if I wouldn’t have had children? Would I have worked harder and/or longer? I can say that I’ve become a lot more efficient since having BlueEyes. Perhaps I’m not in the lab as long, but I am very productive while I’m there (and so is my husband I have to add). But let’s be scientific and calculate this: When I leave here in two months I will have been a post-doc for four years, in which I have had 2 children. I have taken 3 and 4 months of leave*, so that adds up to 7 months of not doing experiments (although currently a tech is doing some of my experiments). Also, during my pregnancies I was less productive than during non-pregnant periods because of being nauseous and tired and foggy (although working also helped to keep my mind off of feeling crappy)**. And the 1+ year of sleep deprivation also didn’t add to productivity (but that was divided mostly equal between my husband and me). So say that I missed somewhere between 6 months to a year in productivity out of four years. That’s 12.5-25% of my post-doc. I think that’s an overestimation, but that would mean that instead of 4 papers I would have 3. Or instead of one or more high impact factor papers I would have medium impact factor papers.

BUT there are so many more factors to this: could better mentoring have led to more productivity (YES!), are publications in high impact factor journals dependent on which field you work in (yes), whether your data are negative (yes), whether stuff works like it’s supposed to (yes), etc etc.

So to conclude: assuming I make it through the “post-doc to faculty bottle neck”, in the bigger scheme of my scientific career this is going to be peanuts. If I am a scientist for the next 35 years (until I’m 65), then that 6 months to a year is only 1-2% of the time. And not every woman has children. So any disproportion of female to male authors more than 1% is due to something else than having babies. There, Lukas Koube. I just used some science to calculate this WHILE AT HOME WITH A BABY!

The biggest problem right now: using my precious nap time to blog about this instead of work on a paper…

* I know that some people (are able to) take more leave, and I also realize that many female scientists (at least me) won’t be able to sit at home for 3 months without thinking or doing any science.
** Here I should add that my pregnancies were pretty smooth sailing, and I know that for some it can be 9 months of total agony. And for some people the process of becoming pregnant takes a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy.


Filed under academia, attachment parenting, baby, publishing papers, women in science, writing

A little slice of heaven

You know when you’re writing something in Word and all of a sudden there’s this weird formatting going on? And you have no clue how to fix it, because even copying-and-pasting text that is formatted correctly somewhere else jumps into weird format when you put it in that specific spot? Today I accidentally moused over the button that changed all of this. Word has a “Clear Formatting” button!! This may literally save years of my life from frustration and time to fix weird formatting. The picture on the right shows where it is in my version (Word 2007). Like @TellDrTell called it: “A little slice of heaven”.

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Filed under word, writing

Reading a paper fast

This morning, I overheard someone in the lab say:”We’ll put that somewhere deep in the discussion; I never read the discussion anyway”. This person said that if ze reads a papers fast, ze’ll read the results section to figure out what the paper is about. To me that was kind of weird, because if I read a paper fast I’ll read the abstract, look at the figures and then read the discussion. Because there the authors will summarize their findings but also put them in perspective and hint at future directions.

What do you read when you quickly scan through a paper?


Filed under life in the lab, publishing papers, writing

Staring at other people’s grants

So I’m writing this grant that (or which???) is kind of important because if I get it I have a job back in the home country. I have papers that I need to read, I thought about the aims, hypotheses and experiments and I have a bunch of successful and unsuccessful examplesof this particular grant. But instead of reading and writing I am staring at these example grants, wondering if I need a better CV or a different topic to work on. “Oh hey, this person got a travel award in 2005 to go to meeting such and such”. I’m thinking this is NOT why you need those example grants…
The way I work best is by reading background papers first, then thinking about what I am going to write, and then sit down and in a short amount of time write the background. However, at the moment I haven’t read enough to do that. So I think instead of marveling at other people’s grants, I should read papers, do a boring task in the lab and think about how I am going to write MY background. Alright, I’m off to do some histology or aliquoting or something. Also, what are your sekrits to successful writing??


Filed under grant writing, procrastination, writing

Data and expectations

Today at Scientopia, I’m writing about how the experiments that I’m currently doing should fit previous data in order to go into a paper. Is this ethical and how can we prevent bias in such cases?

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Filed under ethics, publishing papers, writing

On patience and honesty

Today, at Scientopia I write about how sometimes my interests aren’t necessarily someone else’s interests and how to deal with that.

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Filed under academia, publishing papers, science, writing