Sometimes academia is not so great, and now and then I run into periods of lots of failure. Impostor syndrome doesn’t help either and hits me straight away when things are not going my way: “Do I really belong?”
This past week I got five papers rejected in 48 hours. Gah!! This was really tough! A personal record indeed. I thought that the papers were really OK, and some of them well written – but reviewers (completely) disagreed.
So far, I haven’t really had the energy to read the reviews either so I can’t really proudly say that I failed and learned lots of things through the failures. So far I have just failed and felt like a failure.
Last week I was invited to discuss Anna Haufmann’s half-time seminar in Caring Science at Uppsala University. A half-way seminar at Uppsala University has the purpose of giving feedback and input on the work done, but more importantly on the plans forward. It is not an occasion with a formal examination. PhD education is a wildling road forward, and most of all this occasion is a possibility to get some input on possible ways forward.
Anna Haufmann did an interesting and professional presentation of her work so far. This work has included one published paper, and one paper that is in progress. The published paper describes the experiences from developing of an internet based intervention for adult cancer patients that are diagnosed with depression. The intervention was planned with patients and different health care professionals. I especially liked the fact that they had included patients in the design process, and that their team was multidisciplinary! The paper that has not been submitted yet shows great potential to be a very good journal publication, or even two journal publications. It is an interview study with rather open questions to patients related to their experiences from the intervention. I will not write more about it here due to the future review process, but the paper(s) will be worth reading 😃.
Anna Haufmann also presented the planned work ahead that includes two more journal publications. They will include studies on the effects of the intervention, and statistical methods will be used.
The seminar was very nice, and the other examiners were from very different dicsiplines. This made the discussions lively and also more interesting! Anna Haufmann acted very professionally, and I am confident that her PhD thesis will be an interesting read!
I hope that Anna Haufmann felt that she got good feedback, and that she also got the energy to write up the last parts of her PhD!
I often review scientific papers for journals and conferences in computer science. Sometimes when I am asked to do a review I ask my PhD students if they would like to read the paper and discuss reviewing it with me. If they want to join we set a date for discussing the paper, and what to write in a review. The PhD students get course credits from doing these reviews, and I also get a good chance to improve my reviewing skills.
Sometimes the papers we read are very poor, and need very much more work. Those papers are the trickiest ones to review. Often I still write quite a detailed review explaining what can be improved by the paper. In these situations I imagine that the paper is written by a colleague that I really respect, and I am careful with my phrasing of the critique so that it is clear what I mean but put in a way that it sounds polite and nice.
However, once I got such a poor paper that I simply did not write more than:
The ideas in the paper are interesting, but the paper need much more work before it can be published.
One can wonder if this was the correct thing to do???
The paper lacked most parts of a readable paper and it was not possible to understand even what they aimed at doing. A review of such a paper would have meant writing a “How to write a scientific paper for dummies” review. The advise would have been on what to include in an introduction, how to write an abstract etc.
I recommend all seniors to do reviews with their PhD students. It is an interesting way of learning more about papers, and getting a common groups of the area you are doing research in.