Anthropomorphism or the art
of humanising nonhuman subjects

Academic writing should be clear and objective. In the pursue of objectivity, some believe that by using the first person and introducing ‘I’ or ‘we’ in their text, the outcome will not sound as rigorous or formal. But attempting to avoid the first person may confuse readers, leaving them wondering ‘who does what?’ as we discussed in our article about the passive voice. Focusing on objectivity may also lead to anthropomorphism.

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of humanising nonhuman subjects”

Passive voice in scientific writing: angel or devil?

For years, we were told that in scientific writing we needed to use passive voice to sound formal, neutral and serious. More recently, the contrary philosophy bursted in: suddenly, passive voice had to be by all means avoided as it forces hiding the agent of the sentence and creates confusion. This paradigm shift left many of us in the doubt… is using passive voice in formal, scientific writing right or wrong?

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What if your PhD didn’t need to feel as long and tiring as a marathon?

In many ways, pursuing a PhD resembles running a marathon: long distance, loneliness and fatigue are seemingly insurmountable obstacles and nobody can hope to reach the end without adequate training. [Actually, according to ancient literature and mythology, one non-professional athlete ran the first Marathon in full armor in the Greek August weather (Lucas, 1976), but he paid the effort with his life! This certainly does not set a positive example for all of us, aspiring PhD holders…].

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Not in the mood to write? Why you should still show up, even if the muse doesn’t

Let’s face it, us, scientists, are passionate about our job. We are usually delighted about carrying out our scientific tasks (experiments, simulations, reviews, etc.). But when it comes to writing our findings, the motivation goes down. We rarely feel we’re ready to write and we rarely feel in the mood to write… the consequence: when we sit down and are supposed to write, we rather start doing other things, we procrastinate. And of course procrastination comes guilt and frustration. Until the deadline dangerously approaches: then, in the last minute, creativity pops up. Well, let us break it for you: that’s not really last minute creativity, that’s stress and adrenaline doing their job.

In our Road to Bootcamp series of posts, we’ve already covered how starting writing your work early enough will let you fully benefit from the ‘magic’ of the writing process; therefore, reducing procrastination. In this post, we’ll focus on how creativity can be boosted—even when you’re convinced that you’re not in the mood to write.

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Want to procrastinate less and be an effective writer? Start writing your articles early enough

If you ask researchers about their main issues when it comes to writing, procrastination always appears on top of the list. There are several methods that can help you become an effective writer who seldom procrastinates (or who effectively procrastinates—did you know that that’s possible?), so on our Road to the Writing Bootcamp we will be dedicating a series of blog posts to this problem. 

Why do we procrastinate when it comes to writing a scientific document? For multiple reasons, but many of them are related to the fear of the blank page, also known as writer’s block.

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Succeeding at your scholarship interview:
Advice from Prof. Alessandro Parente

We had the pleasure of interviewing Alessandro Parente, Professor at the Aero-Thermo-Mechanical Department of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and frequent member of juries for the FRIA and FNRS fellowships. He talked with us about his experience as a jury member and he gave us some precious tips for students preparing for this type of scholarships.

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Advice from Prof. Alessandro Parente”

Are your documents colourblind friendly?

Did you know that one in twelve Caucasian (8%), one in 20 Asian (5%) and one in 25 African (4%) males are colourblind? For the case of women, the probability goes down to one in 200 (0.5%). Still, this means that there are always colourblind people among the readers and the audience of the reports, papers and presentations that you produce. In academia, assuming that your next journal paper is reviewed by three white males (which is rather likely given the population in science nowadays), the probability that at least one of them is colourblind is 22%.

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Is your supervisor your best opponent?

One of my favourite time of the day, aside from having quality time with my family, is when I discuss (read argue) with the PhD students I advise or train.
I am a big fan of feedback, as I believe this is the only way we can learn (aka deliberate practice). So I enjoy being challenged by the researchers as much as I like to challenge them.

This post includes a simple technique to challenge your advisor, it then explains why it is important to do so, and it finishes with how you can apply it to yourself. Continue reading “Is your supervisor your best opponent?”

Effective template to write your answer to reviewers

You have just received the reviews for your article. After a long wait, this is the most painful step. The main issue is that reviewers and authors don’t speak the same language. To speed up and ease this process, authors should address the comments so that reviewers can easily assess how their feedback has been tackled. What is then the most effective way of writing your rebuttal?

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You want to write articles that get accepted? Do reviews.

At the end of my PhD, I started receiving invitation to review articles. At that moment, I felt honoured as if I had received the membership card of a very selective club.
Later, as a postdoc and professor, the number of invitations increased while my time available for such type of tasks decreased. However, I noticed something interesting that I wanted to test with my students.

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The authorship manifesto

Getting your name on an article is becoming more and more important in the “publish or perish” era. Although I believe writing papers is an excellent objective for doing research, deciding who should be on the paper can become tricky in some cases.

Here is the result of an intense discussion during the team building (with ATM, FLOW and BURN research groups) in 2017. You can directly jump to the summary table at the end if you are in a hurry.

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The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it

  1. You have probably been in many brainstorming meetings where you encountered one of the two following scenarios:
  2. “Dear colleagues, what are your ideas on this project…”, followed by a long silence, as if there was a brainstorming switch to turn on;
  3. You suggest an idea and immediately someone is saying: “No, this is not possible, it’s not a very good idea!”.

These two scenarios gather the two main pitfalls of effective brainstormings: priming and judging. Continue reading “The evolutionary brainstorming: do it as your brain was wired to do it”

Does your article address these important issues?

I often need to review articles and give feedback on them. I find my feedback is most efficient when I can focus on the content (results, figures, etc) and the flow of the article. These aspects of the article are what interest the first author most, even if he or she is also happy to get a review of the typos or other secondary problems. Yet, more often than not, many of my comments are about things that can be more or less automatised. This post is a checklist for the common problems I encounter. Continue reading “Does your article address these important issues?”

Are you lost after the submission of your manuscript?

After submitting your manuscript, the hard wait for the review starts. You could think that everything is handled perfectly on a first-in-first-out basis. But this is unfortunately not the case. It is not an easy job to be an editor, it takes a lot of effort, time investment and organisation. So you have to do everything to facilitate their work and this requires some follow-up from your side. Here are the most important steps. Continue reading “Are you lost after the submission of your manuscript?”