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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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:
“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 DiegoContinue reading →
Today is the first day of peer review week. One of the issues that many people bring up about the current system of peer review is that there is very little formal training. There are guidance documents available (including the BES Guide to Peer Review), workshops on peer review can be found at some conferences and some senior academics teach their PhD students or post-docs about the process. In general though, peer review training is fairly hard to come by.
This is something that people have told us (the BES publications team) at conferences and through surveys, so we’re doing something about it. From October 2017 until April 2018 Methods in Ecology and Evolution is going to be partnering with the BES Quantitative Ecology Special Interest Group to run a trial Peer Review Mentoring Scheme.
The trial scheme is going to focus on statistical ecology (as we receive a lot of statistical papers at Methods in Ecology and Evolution), but if it goes well, we’ll be looking at other areas of expertise too.
Applications for Mentor and Mentee positions are now open. If you’re an experienced statistical ecologist or evolutionary biologist or an Early Career Researcher in those fields, we’d love to receive an application from you. Continue reading →
Each Guide includes short pieces of advice provided by academics who are familiar with the topic – and this is where you come in. We’re looking for tips and tricks to help Early Career Researchers looking to make their code reproducible and we would like your help.
We’ve set up a Google form with sections that relate to the broad areas that will be covered in our Guide to Reproducible Code:
The guide is intended for people who are fairly new to coding, so please don’t be too technical. There are options to enter three pieces of advice in each section (if you’ve got more tips and tricks, feel free to fill in the form multiple times). We’ll choose the best pieces of advice and publish them in the Guide, along with the name and affiliation of the person who provided them.