The Sassy Scientist – Challenging Yourself

The Sassy Scientist – Challenging Yourself

Single author papers. You have seen those. Early in your career you look at them and think “Wow! This person must be really smart to publish all by themselves”. Later on, your reaction shifts to “Ahah! Look at this person, publishing the tenth paper by themselves! Nobody wants to be associated with this stuff!”. Whether in awe, in derision, or because she is actually writing one of those, Loredana asks:

How do you write a single author paper?

Dear Loredana,

You can’t. How can you possibly write a paper without that co-author constantly asking for new calculations, most of them useless and clearly the product of shower thoughts? Or without that co-author that makes you change the spelling of `characterize’ into `characterise’, only for that other co-author changing it back to `characterize’, so that the whole circus can start over again? Or without that co-author that always second-guesses your conclusions, despite the fact they actually didn’t contribute to anything in the study and ignored all of your previous emails?

It is objectively impossible to be productive in any environment other than the one I just described. So, if you still want to embark in the single-author-paper adventure, you will need to be your own co-author.

Be sure to have a mirror at your workplace and, at least twice a day, place yourself in front of it and debate with the other you about the manuscript. You have to convince yourself that the other you wants the real you to remake every single plot in the paper (Every. Single. One.). And surely that other you will want the real you to re-arrange the structure of the entire manuscript (Every. Single. Time). Just like regular co-authorship.

To fully immerse yourself in the multiple-author experience, you should also send yourself long emails about the paper, criticising the nomenclature in every single equation (Every. Single. One.) and reminding yourself that you have to define the equal sign in equation 1, as not everybody might know what that means. To add to the realism, I recommend using different email addresses for the different yous. For example, you could use your personal email address for the other you and your institutional email for the real you.

Follow the above suggestions and you can have the sparkling conversations and engaging debates that every serious paper needs.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written in co-authorship with my other self.

PPS: Let me tell you. The other Sassy is truly obnoxious!

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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