Avoid zig-zag and use parallelism

03 November 2017

Avoid zig-zag and use parallelism

This is the advice in a new ‘how to write’ paper by Mensh & Kording (2017).

Zig-zag is where you change subjects multiple times, or distract the reader by focussing on a subject that is not your central theme. This does not mean that you should not mention other subjects, just that you should not allow them to distract the reader by repeating or jumping back to unrelated ideas once you have arrived on your central theme.

Parallelism is around consistency with your topics or variables. Let’s say that you introduce three key variables in your introduction, and later want to discuss them. Parallelism requires you to use them in the same order and in the same way so that the reader can easily follow each of these concepts, even if they skip around in reading the paper.

I remember this same advice when having one of my papers edited. The editor complained that I had brought up three variables in the introduction and then used a different order in the methods, and yet another order in the discussion. Satisfying the editor meant re-writing all sections, and that never something that an author relishes. Thus, it’s a really useful tip to bear in mind in your planning. In this case, the editor had an inspiring message: I want this to be a highly cited classic paper.

We should all want our papers to be read and cited, and once accepted they can’t be easily changed (and certainly not re-written), so getting it right is important: even if you consider your work to be minor now, think of it as a future classic.

  Lab  Writing

OTS - FFP at Cape of Good Hope

28 October 2017

OTS-FFP back in the Cape of Good Hope Again!

The Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS) are back in town and we had a fantastic session marking up Xenopus gilli for three days down at the Cape of Good Hope. We last saw them in February - see blog entry here, here and here!

The FFP group was excellent, and very happy to get their hands (and occassionally feet) wet, in order to mark up as many frogs as possible. 

I was really lucky to have the help of PhD student Nitya Mohanty (above) who got stuck into the tagging work. Together with OTS, we had 282 captures of X. gilli as well as 8  X. laevis  which were removed from the reserve. 

By the end of the trip, they were all literally jumping for joy!

Really looking forward to the frog report from: Anson MacKinneyJake VoorheesBlythe Owen, 

  Frogs  News  Xenopus

Talk for SU library on Open Access

24 October 2017

Stellenbosch University Library talk for Open Access week

Today I gave a talk "I put my journal behind a paywall,so why am I talking to you about Open Access? in Stellenbosch University library based on two blogs published earlier this month: A rant for Open Access weekWhy do I like publishing with PeerJ?

It was nice to reflect on my time as editor for a society journal, but I learned a lot about the fantastic work that SU library is doing. Not only do they curate the self archived papers of staff which are then Open Access for all, but they also act as a host for 25 Open Access journals. This is a laudible and totally fantastic role for a university library as paying to host the content of a journal can be costly, especially when it comes to keeping this going in perpetuity.

You can read more about SU library's Open Access initiatives here

Thanks to Sarah D for taking some pics!

  Lab  News

Why do I like publishing with PeerJ?

23 October 2017

Why do I like to publish with the Open Access journal: PeerJ?

The academic journal PeerJ has now been going for 4 years. I learned of its existance early on in 2013, from a colleague at NMMU, and quickly started reading more about it. In addition to being Open Access and not impact focussed (the importance of which we'd learnt from PLoS-ONE), I was initially attracted by their policy of publishing reviewer and editorial comments. This was the transparancy that I'd craved for a long time. Credit and accountability for reviewers and editors, allowing them to take their game to the next level. All reviews can be cited as each carrys a doi. This is a great way for students to learn about the peer review process, and demystify it for interested members of the public.

Next, I was drawn by the novel idea of membership for authors. You can buy three levels of life-time membership entitling you to publish one, two or as many articles as you like for the rest of your life. The inital rates have changed somewhat (see here), and there are some extra requirements, but the spirit of PeerJ as a community continues. PeerJ has now added an Article Processing Charge (APC) which makes it look more similar to other Open Access journals (currently standing at US$ 1 095). This doesn't make the old memberships invalid, but allows for easier fiscal understanding of univeristy finance departments; not many of them understood the membership system. The PeerJ APC is also much more reasonable than that of most other APCs, but it continues to be out of my reach. Sadly, I can really only afford to publish on my existing membership (and with other members).

There is real care in the copy-editing process. The PeerJ staff are a pleasure to interact with, and they really do care about what is published under their banner. They will follow through with the last wishes of the handling editor and make sure that all of your permissions are what they claim to be. There is the real feeling that it's a quality product, and this draws community loyaly: it's certainly got mine.

Lastly, there are a bunch of extras that make PeerJ a pleasure to work with:

  • The aesthetically pleasing clean look to both their articles and website as a whole. 
  • The clear instructions and community guidelines 
  • The up to date policies and procedures
    • Copyright to authors
    • Clear requirements for who gets to be an author
  • Publication ethics
  • Data sharing

I've now published 7 papers with another already in review. I've edited a further 12 and you can see my current record here. The journal has published 4 041 papers, and there are a few spin-off publications in the same stable: PeerJ Computer Science and PeerJ Preprints. 

  Lab  Writing

Urban frog invasivions

23 October 2017

Does restricted access limit management of invasive urban frogs?

In a paper published today, we ask whether restricting access to properties could limit the success of management interventions when controlling or erradicating three different invasive frogs. And it does!

We chose the scenario of Constantia in Cape Town as our peri-urban environment where Gio did his PhD study on invasive Guttural Toads.

We then used life history information from each of these three species to build models for their invasions. 

The results show just have different invasions can be with different amphibian ecotypes.

This paper came about due to our participation in the Urban Invasions Workshop in November 2016. Read my blog post about it here.

Read the paper here:

Vimercati, G., Davies, S.J., Hui, C. & Measey, J. (in press) Does restricted access limit management of invasive urban frogs? Biological Invasions  doi:10.1007/s10530-017-1599-6  doi:10.1007/s10530-017-1599-6

  Frogs  Xenopus