Thursday, March 31, 2011

Skipping that hard middle part

The part of science I like best is the coming up with questions part. The part where I ask something someone else has never asked before (or at least I don't yet know that they did) and brainstorm together a plan about how the question could be answered. But my second favorite part is writing rough drafts. I like the rough drafts in particular because I can let the ideas flow, without getting hung up on making sure I have exactly the right reference or my font is just the one the journal prefers. In other words, it is writing without the impeding mechanical details.

I can do lab work, I can program a simulation, I can edit bibliography formats in citation management software, and all those other jobs that require extensive attention to details beyond the scientific concepts. But by preference I'm really a concept guy. If I had collaborators who wanted to do every part of the process between the planning and writing the rough draft, I'd be thrilled.

This is why I'm writing a Forum piece, to submit to a journal that responded positively to my pre-submission inquiry. (A positive response means they are willing to look at it, not that they promise to publish it.) Their Forum section is designed for short papers of about a 1000 words, in which the author makes a relatively simple point or poses a question without a lot of new data. I've finished a rough draft of 1100 words in the last two days. Now comes the less fun part of editing it for clarity, making sure all the papers I cite actually say what I claim they say, getting feedback from colleagues and editing it again. A more adulterated and repetitive form of creativity. Still, I think I would be inclined to write more papers in this format, as it makes a nice compact project.

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