Working from Home, Isolation and Staying Sane

Post provided by Graziella Iossa

Since I’ve been working from home and self-isolating for health reasons since the end of last summer, I thought that a post around the strategies that have helped me during this time might be useful.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

If you cant go to work to do the science,
the science comes home with you!
©Chloe Robinson

So, first and foremost, your mental health. It’s really hard to concentrate on anything work-related if you’re not in the right mental state. Of course, these are not ordinary times, so making sure that family, friends and those we care about are doing well, would be my first step. When I feel anxious about the times ahead, the single most important thing that helps me to deal with anxiety is having those who I care for the most, close by. If that’s not possible because they’re self-isolating, keeping in touch remotely regularly is the next best thing. Developmental psychologists recognise that human motivation is linked to a hierarchy of needs: if the most basic needs are not met, more complex needs cannot be fulfilled. In a pandemic, it’s likely that our priorities will change and we need to adapt to them, this might take a while and that’s to be expected.

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Speed Review at the BES Annual Meeting: Get a Senior Editor’s Opinion on YOUR Manuscript

Coming to the BES Annual Meeting? Planning to submit a paper to a BES journal? Then you should sign up for the Speed Review Session on Thursday 12 December! (sign-up sheets will be on the BES Stand in the Exhibition Hall.) Find out more about this session below.

What is a Speed Review Session?


Essentially, Speed Review is a chance for you to get a Senior Editor’s opinion on your manuscript. All you need to do is sign-up and bring along a figure or a key finding from your research to centre the discussion on. Each session will be limited to five minutes, so try to have a succinct summary of your manuscript ready as well. The Editor you speak to will let you know what they think of your paper and try to give you some advice about any areas to highlight or any potential concerns that they might have about it.  Continue reading

aKIDemic Life: Empowering You to Navigate Life and Work

Post provided by Kirsty Nash

Most researchers I know are passionately invested in their research. Work consumes a significant amount of their focus, energy and time. But, researchers are so much more than that! Most of us have a life outside work that involves family, friends, even the odd hobby (if this isn’t the case and your life is purely about work, then read this).

Balancing or, more precisely, juggling the different parts of life can be taxing. Often academics and researchers face the competing demands of caring responsibilities, and the need to attend conferences, go on field trips or relocate for the next fixed-term contract. There are lots of resources out there to help researchers balance their home and work life, but, let’s be honest, who has the time to search for those resources?

This is where aKIDemic Life comes in. aKIDemic Life is a website built by academics for academics to empower parents and carers to navigate life and work. We curate free advice, tools and training, using the experience of researchers who have been through it. We want you to know that you’re not alone and to be able to quickly find the help you need, whatever your story. Continue reading

Ten Tips for Dealing with Work and Parental Leave

Post provided by Emily Nicholson

A version of this article was originally published on Women in Science AUSTRALIA (read the original article here) or on Emily’s blog.

As a Science Mum, I am often asked how I managed work and maternity leave, particularly by parents about to embark on a similar journey. So I thought that it might make a good topic for a blog post and start of a discussion. Here, I want to tackle things you can do as individuals for managing work and maternity/paternity leave – both for the person going on leave (e.g. mum or dad), and their colleagues – assuming that the person going on leave wants to maintain their academic career post-leave, including PhD students. There are other pieces for another day on what institutions should do to support those going on parental leave, and tips for coming back from leave (see also my previous post on accounting for career breaks in a CV or track record). I refer to maternity leave but this can equally be parental/carers/paternity leave – or any leave when you are taking a big chunk of time largely away from work to pursue other things in life. First, though, I’ll preface my tips with a little about my background.

I am writing predominantly from my own experience. Briefly, I have three children (born 2009, 2011 and 2013). I took about 8-9 months maternity leave with each, and returned to work part-time (3-4 days a week). All three were born while I was a postdoc on fellowships, the first two in the UK and the third in Australia, with good paid maternity leave provisions, and which allowed me to return to work part-time and extend my contract pro rata. For the first baby, our family was on the other side of the world, so we had little week-by-week support, and my husband was in a very demanding full-time job; while I was on maternity leave with my second we moved back to Australia, where we both work part-time and have a lot of family help and support, which makes a huge difference. I am a conservation scientist, and my work is desk based, including modelling and analysis, plus the usual academic roles of paper and grant writing, reviewing, editing and supervising students, but no teaching at the time. So the type of work I do wasn’t much affected by working part-time or being on leave. Continue reading

In Praise of Small Conferences

Post provided by NATALIE COOPER

Conferences come in many shapes and sizes, from mega-conferences like the Ecological Society of America (ESA) or Evolution with up to 5000 attendees, to small BES Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings with fewer than 100 attendees. There are pros and cons to both kinds of conference, but I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on small meetings*. Here are five reasons why I think they’re great, and why they’re particularly good for Early Career Researchers.

1. Networking is Much Easier

At a big conference networking can be really hard. Not only do you have to find the people you want to talk to, but you also have to compete with all the other people who want to talk to them! This is even worse if you’re also nervous about approaching them.

Networking more generally (i.e. without specific targets in mind), or just finding people to hang out with, can also be harder. Large meetings tend to cause groups to close ranks**. The sheer numbers of people around can make it really intimidating (there are some tips for networking at bigger meetings here). Continue reading

When Standards Go Wild: Software Review for a Manuscript


This post is published on the rOpenSci and Methods in Ecology and Evolution blogs

Stefanie Butland, rOpenSci Community Manager

Some things are just irresistible to a community manager – PhD student Hugo Gruson’s recent tweets definitely fall into that category.

I was surprised and intrigued to see an example of our software peer review guidelines being used in a manuscript review, independent of our formal collaboration with the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MEE). This is exactly the kind of thing rOpenSci is working to enable by developing a good set of practices that broadly apply to research software.

But who was this reviewer and what was their motivation? What role did the editors handling the manuscript play? I contacted the authors and then the journal and, in less than a week we had everyone on board to talk about their perspectives on the process. Continue reading

Managing Stress in Academia: Tools and Suggestions

Post provided by Holly Langridge

Stress in academia is increasingly recognised, but knowing about an issue and solving it are very different things. ©Christopher Sweeney

Stress in academia is increasingly recognised, but knowing about an issue and solving it are very different things. ©Christopher Sweeney

Sometimes stress can be anticipated, avoided or mitigated. Other times, it sneaks up on you and sucker punches you in the face. A quick google search turns up loads of articles and op-eds on the topic – this, this and this are just three of the first examples I found. Stats abound on the negative effect it can have on students, staff and productivity. Mental health problems and stress in academia are increasingly recognised, but knowing about an issue and solving it are very different things.

My lab at the University of Manchester is fairly big and busy. Headed by the current BES president, and with over 30 people, and many millions of pounds in funding, it can be a stressful place. I am by no means an expert in stress, but I can tell you about my personal experiences and some of the ways that the University of Manchester helps staff and students deal with stress here. Continue reading

Balance: Time for Your Life and Your Career

Post Provided by Stacy De Ruiter

There’s an Impostor Behind this Post

The premise of this post is that it might provide some useful advice on how to achieve a tenable work-life balance and find a satisfying, successful career in science.

©Paul VanDerWerf

I’m writing this post, but there is no way that I would hold myself up as an example of success. I have a job that’s a great fit for me, but there was probably no-one else who wanted it, and there are so many others with more prestigious and high-profile jobs. I sometimes manage to divide my time well between my family and my work goals, but I actually feel like I am shortchanging both of them, basically all the time. And how long ago was the last time I got enough sleep, enough exercise, enough personal time? I often feel like someday very soon everyone is going to realise that I really don’t have it all together.

But here’s the thing: almost all the successful, self-aware people I know feel this way, at least some of the time. Impostor syndrome seems to be incredibly common, and I think at least partly it grows out of a genuine awareness of the privilege and luck that helped pave the way to your achievements. Impostor syndrome that interferes with your mental health or limits your potential is clearly unhealthy, and the part where you refuse to believe in your own competence must go immediately. But if it can peacefully coexist with confidence in your own abilities and healthy ambition, it might even be a good thing (or at least, an honest thing). Continue reading

Ten Top Tips for Reviewing in a Language You Aren’t Fluent In

Science is global, which means that peer review is a global activity. When Editors look for people to review manuscripts, they want to find the best people to comment on the topic – regardless of their background or primary language. While science and peer review are conducted in different languages all around the world, English has become the international language of science (for reasons we won’t go into in this post). English doesn’t just belong to people from English-speaking countries, it belongs to all scientists. For some people though, language can feel like a barrier to reviewing scientific papers.

That’s not to say that all non-native English speakers struggle with the language. Many reviewers for whom English is a second language have only ever reviewed in English and will only ever review in English and are comfortable, confident and experienced in the task. For some, reviewing in a second language is not all that different to reviewing in their native tongue. Many people who did not grow up speaking English are great English speakers, but for those who didn’t get much of their scientific training in English, language can impose an unwanted and unnecessary disadvantage.

The theme of this year’s Peer Review Week is Diversity in Peer Review, so we’ve asked the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors for some advice on reviewing in a second language. We hope that these tips will help people who aren’t fluent in their second (or third, fourth, etc.) language to feel more confident reviewing in it. Our journal is published in English, so we’ve focused on English as a second language in this post. However, the advice should be helpful regardless of what language your reviewing in or whether you’re a native speaker. Continue reading

Making YOUR Code Reproducible: Tips and Tricks

When we were putting together the British Ecological Society’s Guide to Reproducible Code we asked the community to send us their advice on how to make code reproducible. We got a lot of excellent responses and we tried to fit as many as we could into the Guide. Unfortunately, we ran out of space and there were a few that we couldn’t include.

Luckily, we have a blog where we can post all of those tips and tricks so that you don’t miss out. A massive thanks to everyone who contributed their tips and tricks for making code reproducible – we really appreciate it. Without further ado, here’s the advice that we were sent about making code reproducible that we couldn’t squeeze into the Guide:

Organising Code

©Leejiah Dorward

“Don’t overwrite data files. If data files change, create a new file. At the top of an analysis file define paths to all data files (even if they are not read in until later in the script).” – Tim Lucas, University of Oxford

“Keep one copy of all code files, and keep this copy under revision management.” – April Wright, Iowa State University

“Learn how to write simple functions – they save your ctrl c & v keys from getting worn out.” – Bob O’Hara, NTNU

For complex figures, it can make sense to pre-compute the items to be plotted as its own intermediate output data structure. The code to do the calculation then only needs to be adjusted if an analysis changes, while the things to be plotted can be reused any number of times while you tweak how the figure looks.” – Hao Ye, UC San Diego Continue reading