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October 29, 2011 / jpschimel

Writing Science

Writing Science: How to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded

Most developing scientists—graduate students, postdocs, and junior professionals—focus on getting their work published. Seeing a paper in print feels like you’ve successfully crossed the finish line of science. But publication isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. Your success in science ultimately depends on your papers’ success—not just their existence.

A newborn paper needs to make its way in the world; it needs to be recognized and appreciated for its insights and contributions. If it influences how other scientists think and work, if it moves the field, it will succeed. There is nothing sadder than an orphan paper—sitting out there in the literature, abandoned, unloved, unappreciated, and uncited.

Citation shows that a paper has had an impact. We respect and honor scientists whose work influences us and our fields. Thus, you don’t succeed by getting papers published; but by getting them cited. You succeed by writing good papers.

A good paper doesn’t just present the results of an experiment—a good paper interprets those results to develop new knowledge and understanding. It tells a story about nature and how it works. The papers that get cited the most and the proposals that get funded are those that tell the most compelling stories.

Writing Science is about how to tell the story. Its about how to make it clear what what questions our work answers and what new knowledge and and insights it creates. Its about how to succeed professionally. It’s based on my years of experience writing, reviewing, and editing papers and proposals.

This blog will provide a more interactive venue to expand on the ideas I developed in Writing Science and to open a discussion of how to write (and communicate) science effectively, something many of us care about.

We’ll see how it goes.

Josh Schimel

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