Teachign Scientists To Write

September 11, 2008

Female Science Professor posted today about a wackaloon experience she had going back and forth with an inexperienced trainee on revisions of a conference abstract submission. She and the trainee went back and forth about FSP’s revisions and the trainee’s expectations concerning the nature of guidance and feedback on the writing that was being provided. FSP discussed this with a colleagues:

In discussing this with colleagues, opinions are divided as to whether I should have been more helpful with respect to the student’s desire to be independent, even if it meant repeating the same editorial suggestions and going through even more than the 4 drafts I eventually read vs. whether I was too accommodating of the student’s lack of organization, initiative, and demonstrated ability to work independently.

Are you fucking kidding me? Mark the motherfucker up with a red pen, give it back, receive another draft, mark that motherfucker up, the student implements the final edits, and you move the fuck on. Four drafts for a fucking conference abstract!? FSP is the senior author on this abstract, and FSP has final authority over its content.
As far as pedagogical style for teaching trainees how to write, they learn by having their work edited by people who already know how to write, and by implementing those fucking edits without a fuckload of hand-wringing and meta-discussion.

No Responses Yet to “Teachign Scientists To Write”

  1. blep Says:

    True, plus the PI’s name is on it. If it doesn’t read well, it’s really on the PI too.


  2. So what do you suggest we do about NIH-funded, basic scientist bloggers who can’t spell? Particularly in post headings 🙂


  3. River Tam Says:

    So what do you suggest we do about NIH-funded, basic scientist bloggers who can’t spell? Particularly in post headings 🙂
    We mark that shitty title up in motherfucking red ink, hand it back to PP, and wait for a new fucking draft.
    Actually, I assumed it was something witty about needing to teach scientists how to write appropriately or some such…


  4. Becca Says:

    Hey, I know you want to, but all the red ink in the world isn’t going to allow you to go back and smack GL’s advisor upside the head to get him to be clear in his writing.


  5. I can’t decide if that typo was deliberate or an example of Muphry’s law.


  6. NM Says:

    Dip it in a can of red paint if necessary.


  7. NM Says:

    Red paint. But constructive red paint. Most science students never get taught/absorb how to write in undergrad so it’s no wonder they don’t know how once they get to grad school.


  8. Jim Thomerson Says:

    Back in the mid-50’s my curriculum called for two freshman English composition courses, a sophmore course in English literature and another in technical writing. I realize that a grad student or technical assistant today probably has not had much education in writing, but that is just part of the ongoing downward spiral of Western Civilization.
    Anyone have any experience with an early 90’s fad, “writing across the curriculum”? An effort to slow the downward spiral.


  9. I love my red pen. With it, I make my undergrad interns cry.


  10. Personally, I abhor the red pen. I think it is hurting the self-esteem and self-respect of our trainees and teaching them that people are critical for the sake of being overly critical asses. I much prefer to sit down quitely, offer a cup of camomile tea, and discuss edits I have marked in purple pen. It’s much less threatening. And then, afterwards, I always offer a hug.


  11. Scott Says:



  12. Jim Thomerson Says:

    Many years ago, I read a study which said that use of red to mark errors did not give results as good as other colors. I don’t remember the details; however, I was impressed enough I quit using red markers. Why do editors blue-pencil rather than red-pencil?


  13. joolya Says:

    Is my PI the only TrackChanges addict in the room? That shit is all about the red underlines and the balloons.


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