Friday, April 27, 2012

The End?

I had a surreal moment yesterday afternoon. I suddenly became aware that the semester was ending, and I was caught off guard. It sounds dumb, but it hadn't actually registered in my head that the reason my big-ass class project was due this week was because we only have a week left of class, and then finals week is after, and then nothing. I recall a couple weeks ago being kind of annoyed because it felt like it was due "too soon" in the semester. No. It is due exactly when it should be.

I don't know if it's because I don't really have exams anymore, or I'm not teaching, but at the end of both this past fall and this spring I have had almost zero concept of time and the calendar. A week goes by, a month goes by, and it's all the same to me. I recall I was having anxiety over something back in February, and I felt like I been dealing with it for several weeks. Turns out I was way off, it had only been one week.

Maybe I'm impatient, and that is screwing with my concept of time. I'm simultaneously tired of waiting for certain things, and other things can take their sweet time for all I care. I've also been very distracted lately, which means I'm not really paying attention to many things around me, like time.

This hasn't had any permanent or detrimental consequences, yet, so I'm not worried.
I'm living in the moment, for now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Peer Review Take Three: Done!

So it was down to the due date, but I managed to submit my review to the editor before 10pm tonight. Comments to the editor: check. Comments to the author: check. Annotated PDF: check. I feel relatively good about this, seeing as how this was my first time. I probably spent more time on this than I should have, but from what I hear that is typical. I probably missed some details on some things and didn't give enough feed back on another thing. But it is done and off my desk.

At the very least I can hope that one of the other reviewers was more experienced than me and will pick up on stuff I missed. I was reviewer #2, so I know that at the very least one other person besides me and the editor looked at this thing.

The one thing I really appreciated about the manuscript was that it was really well written, despite any complaints I did end up making about clarity. I've read published papers before where I have absolutely no idea what is going on. At the very least that didn't happen this time around.

I get to add this to my CV right? This was a submission for a pretty big journal. I feel like I should be able to brag about it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Peer Review Take Two and Spring Fever

I've been staring at my screen all afternoon, knowing full well that I'm not getting anything done, and that the review for this paper is due. Tomorrow.

I remember times when I was productive. Like a couple weeks ago, I was sitting at home feeling blue so I went to my friend Natalie's apartment and magically spat out my presentation for lab group in no time. Or last semester, when I worked furiously for two weeks on a grant submission for the EPA. Or back when I was an undergrad and I would get my second wind at around 11pm, and then spend 3+ hours in the computer lab working on my senior thesis.

No such luck this week.

It's not that I don't want to do this peer review. I do. I believe strongly in the peer review process, and it is actually a really interesting paper I'm going over. Its just been an emotionally exhausting couple of months, and I never really fully checked back in (mentally) after winter break. You read that correctly... winter break... as in January. It's April. And I have a million other things on my mind other than school/work.

I have a really hard time working when my mind is other places. My brain doesn't shut off, and I am one of those people that will ruminate over the same thing over and over and over again until it is resolved either in reality or in my head. I've never been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, but lately I sure have been feeling like I'm afflicted.

At any rate, I've read the paper that I'm reviewing in excruciating detail, and I've made lots of annotations to the PDF directly. Now it's a matter of writing out my comments for the editor and the author. That is going to be the thing that will require a lot of activation energy on my part. The Word document is open on my desktop. The major bullet points for the things I want to address are typed. I just need to do it.

But all I really want to do right now is go lay on some grass somewhere, watch clouds float by, and think about what I'm doing with my life.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Peer Review Process

I apologize for the hiatus, I've had some personal stuff going on and an existential crisis that is still looming over me. But I'll leave that for another post once I have time to process what I've been going through. For now I want to talk about my first experience as a reviewer.

Over spring break I received an email from a fairly big name journal in which I was asked to peer review a submission. How I came to get this email became clear once I saw the name of the editor that selected me as a reviewer: it was my adviser. Advisers often have their graduate students review papers they themselves are selected for, mostly to give the student experience doing something that is important to the scientific publication process, but also in part (I suspect) to clear things off their own desks. This request from Felisa was slightly different since I was directly asked as a primary reviewer.

The most amusing part of the email was that it was addressed to "Dr. Pardi". Cart before the horse.

For those who didn't know this already, the peer review process involves sending out manuscripts to other people in the scientific community for critique before publication. Reviewers identify weaknesses in the science or analyses of a paper, and the authors receive these comments. Reviewers can request that additional analyses be made, or if a paper is really bad they can indicate that they feel the paper shouldn't be published at all. In summary, it is quality control that the scientific community has embraced as a whole. It can, unfortunately, be a painful process for many involved.

I can't go into details about the paper I received, but I'm kind of nervous about being the person who is judging someone else's work. Almost everyone I know has gotten nasty reviews back on a grant or a paper before. Reviewers can be brutal, unnecessarily so. They can also give away their own ignorance by making irrelevant or stupid criticisms when they aren't necessarily an expert in the topic they are reviewing. I don't want to be either of these kinds of reviewers, and it is that second category that I am particularly wary of falling into.

Having said all this, I'm going to try to do this one on my own, at least initially. It turns out that I do know a bit about the subject matter, enough to refer Felisa to other people who would also make good reviewers if she needed anyone else. I have until April 10th the get this done, and my goal is to get it done early and do it right without being a jerk or sounding like a moron.