Moving to academia
In February 2003 I moved from a commercial company (Advanced Visual Systems)
to a more academic workplace (Swiss National Supercomputing Centre) where I continued working in the
same field: scientific visualization.
I have found the following documents useful to understand this new environment and to produce documents and talks in line with
my new job.
- You and Your Research
(1986), by Richard Hamming.
A must read for everyone entering the research field or a research institution.
In this Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar Mr. Hamming basically tried to answer the question:
“Why do so few scientists make significant contributions and so many are forgotten in the long run?”. Stimulating.
- Technology and Courage
(1996), by Ivan Sutherland.
- How to Build an Economic Model in your Spare Time
by Hal Varian.
This is an essay providing advice to graduate students in economics
about how to do economic modeling. It was written for the American
Economist, and is part of a collection titled Passion and Craft:
Economists at Work, edited by Michael Szenberg, University of
Michigan Press, 1997.
- How To Do Research In the MIT AI Lab (1988) edited by
- The ironic How to have a Bad Career in Research/Academia
(2002 revised version
or a local copy
- Doing research in the behavioral sciences:
practical advice for graduate students (2001), by Rudolph P. Darken.
- A Letter to Research Students ,
by Duane A. Bailey.
This short memo is chock full of good suggestions for researchers. Highly recommended.
- How to Succeed in Science
(local copy ),
by J.D. Watson (do you remember DNA?). Transcript of a 1993 talk.
- The Researcher’s Bible
(updated 2004), by Alan Bundy, Ben du Boulay, Jim Howe and Gordon Plotkin.
- Becoming Part of the Research Community (1994), by Marie desJardins.
This section is part of a guide aimed to graduate students, but this part has a more general focus.
The research notebook
How to write
If you try a web search, it returns a huge list of “how to write a scientific paper” documents.
Some of them are content or structure oriented and some others are style oriented. Here I list only three of them that I have found more interesting, unusual and useful. Instead for the “How to…” section I have found really helpful advice from conference and journals referees, i.e. the users of my writing.
How to present
Well, I have a long history of talks and lessons, so this list is quite short.
Adding some points from my experience:
- Beware of colors! Test them with a real projector. There are colors that cannot be distinguished in a real conference room.
- Less text, more images. I’m in the visualization business!
- Think about your audience. Why try to present program source examples in front of scientists?
- Prepare a first question to make to yourself to “break the ice” at the start of the question time.
Networking and personal marketing
Conferences and workshops
Be a referee
The peer review of scientific manuscripts is a cornerstone of modern science. So being a referee for a journal or conference is one of the jobs that sooner or later you should do in academia.
A quick search lands you on various guidelines and suggestions on how to serve the community as a referee. For example here is a 1990
by Alan Jay Smith on how to review a paper and another one on Ethics of Peer Review: A Guide for Manuscript Reviewers
written by Sara Rockwell of the Yale University School of Medicine.
Moreover every conference put out useful guidelines about the referee work. For example:
Ethics of the Technical Papers Review Process from the SIGGRAPH conference.
And my short experience as a referee:
- Ask to yourself: after reading this paper, will I be able to reproduce the research?
- Check and read every reference.
- If the names of the authors are available, try to check other works from the same people
(sometimes they try to resubmit an almost identical paper).
- Be helpful about communication: the paper should be comprehensible! And this before delving into the paper content.
But it is not only a burdensome job. When you review a paper you are in contact with the most advanced research in your field, you are “forced” to read and understand in depth new works and you become known in your field as an expert.
Late addition: I have found two interesting papers on the referee work: How NOT to Review a Paper: The tools and techniques of the adversarial reviewer and the more serious The Task of the Referee again by Alan Jay Smith.
General working habits
- Establish Your Absence. Time management suggestions for new professors.
- An interesting study
that relates scientific productivity to number of
collaborations. The paper message is: trust your peers, share and publish.