Friday, June 30, 2006

Women in Science Update

(A periodic survey of news and writing about women in science)

1. The InterAcademy Council, an international group composed of members of 90 national academies has just released a report on "women for science."
"On the whole, the disproportionately small number of women in the science and technology (S&T) enterprise, particularly in leadership positions, is a major hindrance to strengthening science capacity worldwide. Immediate action is needed to help remedy the underrepresentation of women in scientific and technical fields."
Their finding: The national academies should take steps to increase the ranks of women within their organizations. Science (subscription required) has a nice summary.

2. Janet Stemwedel over at "Adventures in Ethics and Science" has a post about Japan's efforts to use women science "angels" to inspire more girls to choose the sciences.

3. Ms. PhD over at YoungFemaleScientist had a recent post on women scientists who refuse to work for female PIs, yet want to run their own lab. A little hypocrisy anyone?

Anything else I missed?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

summer meme

I'm in need of a meme today and so I googled "summer meme." Guess which of my favorite blogger's came up first: Jo(e)! But this one is from before I discovered her, so I'll just revive it for this year.

Summer Meme

Favorite summer flower: Daisies
Flavor of ice cream or tofutti: Vanilla bean, perfect for topping with berries.
Mode of transportation: Hiking boot or raft.
Music: Songs for singing along with.
Food: Fresh tomatoes, raspberries, corn on the cob, ice cream, pies, basil ...
Favorite game to play: Croquet or frisbee
Earliest childhood summer memory: Playing on the rocks on the beach at our cabin.
Favorite Drink: Big big glasses of ice water
Favorite Snack: Real fruit popsicle or a fresh piece of fruit
Place to read: In the yard, in a lawn chair, in the shade.
Most annoying: Being too hot to go to sleep.
How I handle the heat: I hate the heat. My best strategy is to avoid it by moving to northern climes, heading to higher altitude, lounging by/in large bodies of water, or, if those aren't realistic options, finding an air-conditioned office, library, or movie theatre.
Pet Peeve: Sand in the sheets.
Mistake for which no one in my family will ever forgive you: Forget to pack the sunscreen.
All-time favorite bathing suit: A bikini bought in Australia that provided just the right amount of coverage.
Best Time of Day: Mornings before it gets hot.
Most romantic: Sundresses.
Summer movie: Action movies.
Best for sex: Early in the morning when you actually want to share each other's body heat.

"There are no rules for this meme, of course. Summer time is no time for rules!"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

what I've learned from my reviewers

Today is another day of futzing around with edits on a paper. I got my big paper submitted this morning - although I had some problems with the pdf conversion process - so at least that's off my desk. But then, simultaneously with hitting the submit button, I got comments back on another manuscript. This one is a confererence proceedings paper that I submitted in January 2005 based on a grant report written in April 2004. It's frustrating that things have been so slow and I know there's no chance of the proceedings being published this year. But, of course, they still want the edits back within a week. Fortunately this time, they are relatively cosmetic.

But over the course of these two papers, I've learned some important things about the review process.
  1. Reviews can tremendously improve the manuscript. I guess that's the whole point.
  2. An individual reviewer can have a profound effect on the final wording and content of the paper. Everybody brings their own biases to the table - in terms of what is controversial or not, what needs detailed explanation or just a reference, etc. And, in the end, your manuscript reflects not only your own views and findings, but some piece of the reviewers' as well. See #2 as a corrolary.
  3. While it is helpful to both you and the editor to make recommendations of reviewers, be very very careful who you ask for. One of my reviewers has worked in the same geographic region using some of the same techniques, yet comes from a very different scientific starting point as me. (i.e., same types of data collected, but analyzed differently for very different reasons). This caused me literally a month of headaches, as I dealt with his/her comments.
  4. Some battles are not worth fighting. If you are going to disagree with one of your reviewers' major points, you better be prepared not only to defend it completely and convincingly, but also to concede a bunch of smaller points that you may still disagree with but not as vehemently.
  5. Shameless self-promotion is acceptable behavior on the part of the reviewers. Asking that their work be cited (even though it may be redundant or not all that innovative) seemed to be par for the course from all of my reviewers.
  6. Your figures are never good enough.
  7. Don't procrastinate in dealing with the reviews and don't pick all the low-hanging fruit first. Boy, did I learn this the hard way. If your reviews are going to require you to do some re-analyses, you better get started now. Just as writing the paper took longer than you thought, so will revising it. And leave yourself some easy comments for the end, because it can get rather discouraging to just slog through one depressing and frustrating comment after another.

Monday, June 26, 2006

field assistants - why am I still doing so much work?

I'd blissfully forgotten how much time it takes to manage a field assistant. Previous summers I've been in the field with an assistant, and I had found that if the asst was working 4 10s, I was working 4 12s plus a 6 hour day on Fridays and an hour or two on Sundays. There is always equipment to be loaded, cleaned, and stored, data to be downloaded, entered, and examined, administrivia, ...

This summer we've hired my faithful and capable undergrad as a half-time field technician. His mission is to revisit our field sites from the previous 3 years, download data, document their status, and help us decide which sites to maintain and abandon. So far he's had one field day and I've spent at least 2 days dealing with the planning and aftermath.

It's not that he is in any way incapable or incompetent; it's just that there is a lot of responsibility that he cannot take on because he does not have the same rights and responsbilities as a grad student or full-time, permanent technician.

So far today, I've downloaded data off the field computer, taken it to computing services to get checked out (funny things happened in the field), planned the field campaign for this week, made a backup of the field book, etc. It's now time for my lunch and I've made 0 progress on my diss. I've probably got an hour or two more of work to do before I can send him in the field again. Fortunately, when he is in the field, he is out of cell phone/internet contact and I may actually get some work done.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It's done (I pray)

My first paper is ready for resubmission (pending a third party check of my use of English). Here's how it looks now:

31 pages double-spaced without Figures, Captions, References, or Tables
8 figures (1 color)
3 tables
8 equations
63 references cited

3 very thorough reviews + comments from the editor
99 reviewer comments addressed resulting in:
1 deleted figure
1 added figure
1 deleted section
1 completely and totally revised section as the result of
2 revised chunks of analysis

All I can say now is I hope that they don't send it out for complete review again, I don't think I can take much more effort with this paper. But at least, even if it does get re-reviewed, the reviews probably won't be in time for me to have to deal with them before the defense.

So that's it: In the past 3 3/4 years, I've produced one manuscript for my thesis. And now I propose to write 2 more in the next 2 months. We must all be insane.

Question of the day

How do I politely respond to a reviewer comment that says "No, ...[your interpretation is wrong]." when the answer is "No, you're wrong"? I have some reasons, but basically they are just wrong on this one.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Easy: Posting my "Holy Pink Pagoda!" pedicure picture.
Hard: Writing accurate and descriptive directions for getting to remote field sites. (This I've done.)

Easy: Posting the picture of my quilt for NavyMom's son.
Hard: Finishing those last cantakerous edits from those last cantakerous reviewer comments. (Still to come.)

Easy: Taking the dog for a walk in the sunny 70's breeze. (Trying to resist the urge)

Hard: Getting over my blog writer's blog. Got any suggestions for topics?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

my fun to do list

I could list all the things I need to do on the diss. or all the chores around the house. But that wouldn't be any fun. And it's summer, so I want to have fun. And this is what I'm going to do.
  1. Print out some pictures from the digital camera so I can update our photo albums and send some pics to Mom.
  2. Mail CDs to Writer Chica and Mom.
  3. Mail early wedding gift to volcanogirl.
  4. Find out where to send NavyMom's baby quilt and what to include for the first-born. Send them.
  5. Post pictures of the completed quilt on blog.
  6. Work on quilts for gen(i)e. She's having twins!
  7. Pick or buy some local strawberries. (Saturday)
  8. Make strawberry jam or slice and freeze the berries. (Sunday)
  9. Get a pedicure (this afternoon with S)
  10. Finally buy wall-paper border we've been looking at for 2 years. (Sunday/Monday)
  11. Finish reading the book I am really really enjoying.
Yes, brother, I promise I am doing real work too. And now back to it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

before the parents arrive

I am always cranky. The house is never as clean as I would like. The dog is always shedding too much hair. We never have proper plans for the day. BusinessMan doesn't get up early enough to help me frantically clean, even though I wake up the night before with mini-panic attacks about the state of the house. And then Dad never has the consideration to actually call and tell me what time they're planning to arrive. Instead I have to call him at some point in the morning and find out that they are only 1 hour away, when I'd hoped for two to finish cleaning, shower, and maybe grab some breakfast.

But then once they arrive, things are actually OK. As a matter of fact, we all had a very pleasant day yesterday on the coast. Beaches were run, ice cream was eaten, tourist junk was not bought, waves were watched, dog was exhausted.

So why do I keep freaking out before the parents arrive? I know it has to do with feeling inadequate in my position as an adult. Feeling like parents will walk around our house keeping a mental scorecard of the dog hair under the bed, the piles of dirty laundry, and the stains on the kitchen countertops. Feeling like I won't measure up as responsible and mature if they see my house at anything less than its best.

But of course, identifying the issue at hand is quite a bit different from resolving the panic. Sort of like, knowing what edits I have to make on the manuscript before resubmitting is quite a bit different from actually having it done by July 1. So back to work.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday fun: ipodding

I haven't done this in a long time, so I felt like I could get away with letting my readers know what's playing on my iPod (and in my head) as of late.

All-time most played songs:

  1. Benedictus - Simon & Garfunkel
  2. Turn Turn - The Byrds
  3. Bach: 6 Suites for Unac. Cello (Cello Suite No.4, 5. Bourree) - Yo-Yo Ma
  4. Halcyon & On & On - Orbital
  5. May it Be - Enya
  6. Cornflake Girl - Tori Amos
  7. And So It Goes - Billy Joel
  8. Throwing Stones - Paula Cole
  9. The World Has Turned and Left me Here - Weezer
  10. The Circle Game - Joni Mitchell
To be fair - I usually have the ipod on some sort of shuffle mode or my work playlist (see #1,3,4,5). But at least these are songs that I don't skip over.

Played in the last 48 hours:

  1. Walk On - U2
  2. Goodbye Earl - Dixie Chicks
  3. Halcyon & On & On - Orbital
  4. What a Good Boy - Baren*ked Ladies
  5. Today - Smashing Pumpkins
  6. Don't give that girl a gun - Indigo Girls
  7. Howlin' at midnight - Lucinda Williams
  8. Your Daddy's Car - The Whitlams

Most Recently Added: Dixie Chicks - Long Way Home (album)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

letting things slide

I didn't get the outrageously impossible amount of work done on my trip that I had planned to do. I did get my poster done in time for the conference, but my revisions weren't done in time for the resubmittal deadline, and the next manuscript is not going to be submitted by tomorrow's deadline. So I've had to send a couple of emails along these lines:
Dear Editor,
When I submitted an abstract for the -Ology Conference, I indicated an intent to submit a manuscript for inclusion in the special issue of Journal of -Ology. It now appears that the manuscript will not be done by the deadline. In fact, the manuscript will probably be not ready for submission until mid-July. I apologize for any inconvenience.
I hate sending emails like that. I hate missing deadlines. I take a lot of pride when my advisor says things like "You always seem to manage to get everything done." And right now I feel like I am not living up to my reputation. I know that over the years of my career, I will miss deadlines any number of times. It happens. But it sucks that it seems to be happening to me over and over again right now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

more on breast feeding

Janet Stemwedel (at Adventures in Ethics and Science) has got 2 great posts that explore the issue further. As usual, she has been far more articulate than I. And thanks for the thoughtful comments on my last post. When I have kids, I plan to breast-feed (exclusively) for at least the first year. But I hadn't really thought about how I would feel if I couldn't (pain, milk production). Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Breast Feed or Else - How about some support?

The New York Times has an article today on the new U.S. push to encourage breastfeeding.

"Warning: Public health officials have determined that not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby's health."

That's the first sentence of the article, and it goes on to describe the health benefits for mother and baby of exclusively breast-feeding for at least the first six months. The article also talks about the governmental media campaign to encourage the behavior.

Given considerable weight in the article are stories from moms who breast or bottle-fed and the voices of critics of the new campaign. Those critics point out that women who don't or can't breast feed are made to feel inadequate And they point to the societal obstacles to breast feeding.

"Moreover, urging women to breast-feed exclusively is a tall order in a country where more than 60 percent of mothers of very young children work, federal law requires large companies to provide only 12 weeks' unpaid maternity leave and lactation leave is unheard of. Only a third of large companies provide a private, secure area where women can express breast milk during the workday, and only 7 percent offer on-site or near-site child care, according to a 2005 national study of employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute.

"I'm concerned about the guilt that mothers will feel," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the center. "It's hard enough going back to work."

Public health leaders say the weight of the scientific evidence for breast-feeding has grown so overwhelming that it is appropriate to recast their message to make clear that it is risky not to breast-feed."

So, fine. It's important to breast feed (if you can). So important that the government is spending millions(?) on a PR campaign and Tom Harkin is proposing legislation to put warning labels on formula.

But what seems to be missing from this discussion are ways not to lay all the burden on new mothers. How about requiring companies to allow lactating mothers pumping breaks (and private places-not bathroom stalls)? How about a PR campaign to destigmatize breastfeeding in public? How about incentives for on-site daycares? How about longer maternity leaves?

This seems to be one of those all words, no action things that blow out of Washington on a regular basis. Sure, it's great to provide education and lipservice support. But don't expect to see a significant increase in breast-feeding women without something more than that.

Still, it's a decently written article, with a nice summary of the health benis of BF. If you don't already know, it's worth a read.

Good to be home

After 6 states in 16 days, it is unimaginably wonderful to be home again in Utopia, sleeping in my own bed, cuddling with BusinessMan, playing with Princess Pup. The trip was rewarding and exhausting, but the old saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" has never seemed more true. I've still got a huge pile of work in front of me; I didn't manage to get nearly as much done while traveling as I had hoped. But one deadline have been granted an extension while I've conceded defeat on another. I've finally accepted that is impossible for me to have a submission-ready manuscript by Friday. I know that all I am doing now is postponing the stress but hopefully when it comes back I will be in a better place mentally, physically, and geographically.

Confidential to the bloggers I read: I decided that the smartest strategy was to cut my losses and clean out my bloglines backlog. Please forgive me.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


With all the work and travel I have in the month ahead, I've decided to go on a bit of a vacation from blogging. I'll be back in the third week of June.

Take Care,