Some feedback would be nice…

I just got two research grant applications rejected this week.

Nothing wrong with that, really, the success rate where I applied is less than 10% so I couldn’t really expect to get the grants.  Still, it annoys me a little bit that the letter I got back is just boiler plate.  “We receive more applications than we can fund, and unfortunately we could not fund yours.”

That doesn’t tell me if I was close to getting funded or lightyears from it.  It certainly doesn’t help me improve on the application if I want to try again.

Some feedback on the applications would really be nice.  If not a full reviewer report, then at least a score or something…

Oh well, I still have one grant application under review, this one for the EU Research Council, and here at least I’ve already gotten a review report back, with scores and everything, and it looks really nice, so I have my fingers crossed…


Not exactly an impressive success rate…

From my own experience I know that it can be hard to get access to data that you would really love to analyse, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this bad, even for data that is required to be available by the journals where the papers describing the data are published:

Empirical study of data sharing by authors publishing in PLoS journals

Savage and Vickers, PLoS ONE 2009


Many journals now require authors share their data with other investigators, either by depositing the data in a public repository or making it freely available upon request. These policies are explicit, but remain largely untested. We sought to determine how well authors comply with such policies by requesting data from authors who had published in one of two journals with clear data sharing policies.

Methods and Findings

We requested data from ten investigators who had published in either PLoS Medicine or PLoS Clinical Trials. All responses were carefully documented. In the event that we were refused data, we reminded authors of the journal’s data sharing guidelines. If we did not receive a response to our initial request, a second request was made. Following the ten requests for raw data, three investigators did not respond, four authors responded and refused to share their data, two email addresses were no longer valid, and one author requested further details. A reminder of PLoS’s explicit requirement that authors share data did not change the reply from the four authors who initially refused. Only one author sent an original data set.


We received only one of ten raw data sets requested. This suggests that journal policies requiring data sharing do not lead to authors making their data sets available to independent investigators.

Getting a 10% success rate, when it should be 100% is pretty bad…


How to schedule your writing like a professional writer

Just read this post at Study Hacks: How to schedule your writing like a professional writer. (hat tip Michael Nielsen).

The most striking observations from this study:

  1. The writers work in the morning. They often start very early in the morning.
  2. Five out of ten of the writers described a little ritual before starting their morning writing. A surprising number of these rituals focused on The New York Times.
  3. The writers drink coffee. Lots of coffee.
  4. The writers write in isolation. If they didn’t have families they would push this even farther. Many discussed having no e-mail or phone in their workspace. One purposefully used a “shitty old laptop” to avoid temptations like solitaire. Gay Talese rigged his home office so it could only be entered through a separate outside door.

This sounds familiar, actually.

Though I don’t really write that much, I do tend to get some writing done in the morning while having lots of coffee.  Usually when I’m working on a paper, for blogs it is not that essential for me when I write a post, but still the vast majority of my posts are written in the morning.

When it comes to reading on the other hand, there it is really important to me what time of the day I do it.  Some papers are just impossible for me to read after lunch.  That goes for tricky mathy papers and particularly dull papers.  I can read them with no problem in the morning, but once we are past noon I just cannot read more than a line or two before I have to have a break.

Anyway, back to the post above.  It concludes with:

How to Apply this Advice

If you are a student — or an amateur writer or blogger — here are some simple rules for emulating the habits of the professionals:

  1. Spread out work on an assignment over several days. Coming at it fresh increases its quality.
  2. During these days, get up early. Probably earlier than you are used to. Say, around 7 or 8 am. (This means these days will be weekdays, probably early in the week so you can avoid temptations to party the night before).
  3. Have a mini-ritual to jump start the day. It should probably involve coffee. Breakfast. Maybe the morning paper. Don’t take too long.
  4. Go to the most isolated place possible.
  5. To get your mind ready to think, review the last pages you wrote.
  6. Work for two or three hours. Then stop.
  7. Follow this habit regularly. Don’t write during other times. Don’t write in public places. Don’t start writing the day before.

I’m not sure I agree completely with the last point, but the others make a lot of sense to me.


Last week in the blogs

The last two weeks I’ve been busy with writing a grant proposal, so I haven’t had much time to read (much less write) blogs, but here’s a list of the posts that I did have time to read and enjoy…


Human ancestry

Research Life


Space exploration


Last two weeks in the blogs

Due to exams and such, I didn’t put up my list last week, so here you have it for the last two…

Astronomy and cosmology




Intellectual Property


Research Life