Swinging for the Fences – Part 2

Long time no update.  I was a bit surprised to look back and see that it’s been over 2 months since we decided to try pushing our latest work to Science, and it’s almost maybe ready for submission.  Just to give you an idea of how long the process can take.

It doesn’t always take this long to turn results into a full fledged report, but an interesting snag in our analysis popped up.  The summer movie tagline: “What do you do when the peer-reviewed papers and rogue experts disagree?! – Starring Emma Stone and Idris Elba”.  Hey, a guy can dream.

Here’s a sample of the script, based on True Events:

[Protagonist emails preliminary copy of results and interpretations to a research group whose expertise is in transistor theory] 

Me: “Hey, we’ve got these interesting results, and are trying to match them up to the expected XYZ Effect in transistors.  What do you think?”

Them: “Nope, can’t help.  Because that effect doesn’t happen in polymers.”

Me: “Okaaayy…well I’ve got this pile of papers here on my desk that all say it happens.  All of them are kinda short on the details, but they all at least mention the effect.  Can you point me to some explanation for why it doesn’t exist in polymers?” 

Them: “Which papers do you have?”

Me: “Well there’s this review paper by Jane Scientist.”

Them: “Oh yeah!  We know that one.  Not gonna help you.  What else you got?”

Me: “Well there’s this set of articles by Joe Betherson.  But wait, what’s wrong with that review paper?”

Them: “Hah, Joe.  No comment.”

Me: “Wait wait wait, back up. Joe’s wrong too?”

Them: “Just look at Equation 4, yeah. No way.”

Me: “Ok, seriously.  Stop.  All these guys are wrong, sure, whatever.  Do you have any books or reports or anything that can explain this to me better than, say, a supposed group of transistor experts who sure as hell don’t seem to be able to explain it right now.”

Them: “Oh, you’re not gonna find any sources that refute it.  They’re not out there.  But if you solve these non-analytical sets of equations using our special model, you’ll see what we mean.”

Me: “Aaaand scene.”

Are these guys for real?  Could be.  Is the collection of other folks in the field misinterpreting the physics?  I’m actually surprisingly open to that idea.  All sorts of weird ideas get wrongly carried over when you’re adapting the ideas of one field to another (the supposed problem seems to stem from using electronics theory developed for inorganic materials with hydrocarbon materials).  But right now these guys are sitting around playing “Yuh-huh”/”Nuh-uh” which certainly isn’t helping us.

So after weeks of running in circles and getting nowhere, we’re sticking with our first interpretation.  The rest of the paper is pretty close to submittable, figures are prettied up (I’m always amazed at how long it takes to get your figures ready for the ball), and we’ll probably shoot it towards Science in the next week or so.

Swinging for the fences – Part 1

I’ve been collaborating recently with physics department from the nearby Mount Holyoke College. And by recently, I mean about a year and a half running now. Lots of experiments, and troubleshooting loose wires, and redoing experiments, and realizing we completely misinterpreted some data, and more redoing experiments.

In the past month or so I really hit my stride on the experimental side of things and have been getting some really pretty looking data. After a brief chat with the boss this week, we think this stuff is awesome. Really awesome.  And this ain’t just us talking to the NSF in our grant report. This is us getting amped up just looking at figures in group meeting.  So we’re ready to start writing it all up.  And we’re aiming for the biggy. The one journal to rule them all.  Science. Or Nature. So, you know, the two journals to rule them all I guess. 

Obligatory PhD Comic:

Editing for a new journal? Don’t mind if I do!

Exciting professional news! I just accepted a position as a language editor for the open access journal Smart & Stimuli Responsive Materials. It’s a part time position, largely focused on improving the clarity and readability of submitted papers. Every famous editor has to start as a copy editor, huh?

I do find it a bit curious that I have no aspirations for academic positions after my PhD, yet here I am entrenching myself into academia a bit deeper.  But such is life. It’s a brand new journal, non-traditional in the sense that it’s open access, and rather specialized. So it probably won’t be barnstormed by folks quite yet. But I’m optimistic! And excited to be contributing to the open access scene.

Where do all the theses go when their parents leave them?

This post about open access grad student theses is a worthwhile read for grad students and bosses: The dissertations that get away (& where they end up, and why).  It makes specific note of the company ProQuest, which does a lot of thesis publishing and has an “open access” option, and the newer FigShare, a cloud-based open access publishing service.

Here’s an interesting bit from a student, who Gail Clement – manager of the Free US Electronic Theses and Disseratations blog – had some correspondence with:

With some hesitation at the cost of $95, I did pay the “Open Access Publishing PLUS” fee upon filing my dissertation, so it comes as something of a surprise to learn that my dissertation does not appear in the ProQuest database.

I know that I’ve often found students’ Masters and PhD thesis to be more helpful in my work than published journal articles.  They tend to be much more thorough about experimental setups, what the relevant background is, and all sorts of other details.  And I know tracking them down can be tough.  When I find one that seems interesting (which itself is not as simple as I’d like), more often than not I need to get the university library to track it down, and the thesis ends up on my desk pretty shortly after.  Who knows what magic they use, but being able to easily find a thesis online instead of just a dusty advisor’s bookshelf would be fantastic.

Chemistry of Materials, we have arrived!

The official version of the last paper I wrote about has gone live in Chemistry of Materials!  http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cm302790a

Emissive Conjugated Polymer Networks with Tunable Band-Gaps via Thiol–Ene Click Chemistry

See those LEDs? Made from plastic. Pretty snazzy stuff. 
Wrapping up publication was really quick and painless this time around, which was nice. After getting the reviewer comments back, we had a really easy time turning it back around to the journal. Just goes to show the importance of doing the science right the first time around so the only things the reviewers have to point out are typos and a missed reference or two. Comments went back to Chemistry of Materials without a hitch, we received the galley proofs around a week later for any last minute formatting/typo/blurry picture fixing, and just sent those back at the start of this week. And two days later: we have officially pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge outward another tiny step.
Lab-wise, I’ve got some other stuff cooking that is producing some really fascinating data, but it’s probably going to be on the backburner for the next month or so. Most of my science focus is on one of the PhD degree requirements here: writing an Original Research Proposal. It’s one of the few Big Official Check Marks you need before they let you call yourself a doctor (along with qualifying exams, thesis and its defense) and essentially amounts to a grant application. It’s chugging along nicely and should be submitted early December, then its back to becoming Science Famous.

Three cheers for RSC!

This is the RSC.  We’re buds now.

Ok, I’m now officially a huge fan of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  I was recently on the receiving end of an interesting email from them offering a sort of free semi-membership since I published an article in one of their journals not too long ago.  Most researchers in America are probably familiar with the RSC only through the journals they publish (Chemical Communications, Chemical Science, and Chemical Society Reviews being the big ones, but there are plenty others).  They are roughly the UK’s equivalent of our American Chemical Society, organizing conferences, publishing journals, etc.

The email offered a free e-membership, which included “access to one of over 70 RSC subject-based groups allowing to engage with fellow chemists globally, …digital monthly access to Chemisty World [the general RSC chemistry publication…kind of like C&E News as far as I can tell], …and being kept informed about specialist events and conferences”.

Color me impressed!  Go RSC!  This is one of those things that every scientific publication should advocate.  Is it a lot?  Not really.  I’m sure I could engage with international chemists by email just fine, and I’d bet good money I could access Chemistry World through the library.  But the impressive part, to me, is pushing more open access, technologically connected science access.  Basically a message of “Contribute to our network, get official access to a bunch of our stuff”.  Which makes every kind of sense is really pretty awesome.

The sad thing is I haven’t heard of any other science organizations doing this sort of thing (speaking only for chemistry and materials science groups, myself).  I don’t know if this is something ACS does as well.  I know I’ve never received a similar email offering semi-membership for publishing in an ACS journal.  But that may be because I’ve already been an ACS member for the duration of my publishing career so far.  I’m really curious now and sent them an email to find out, so we’ll see.

EDIT 5 NOV. 2012: Got a response from ACS.

“At this time, ACS does not have any such benefits for non-ACS members that publish in ACS journals.”  

And there ya go.  Need to get with the times, guys.

Review process: done!

Publication process news! The article we submitted back at the start of September has come back with comments from the peer reviewers. Clocking in at about 2 months after submission, the timing of the response fits pretty well with what we usually expect. Maybe a bit on the long side, but not too bad.

And the good news is that the reviews were about as good as you could realistically hope for: accepted with very minor revisions. Both reviewers more or less just pointed out a few typos, non-exact terminology, and a good reference we missed. One of them did ask for a bit of clarification on a heat vs time plot we were using qualitatively – just to show how quickly certain reactions happened. He wanted a little more quantitative analysis on it, which honestly I had thought about but didn’t go through with. It would have been a lot of work for some fairly ambiguous data. But he asked, so I plugged through it and stuck it in anyway.

Bottom line: paper accepted! We’ve got the corrections made and should be sending it back on Monday. Next the journal will be formatting it to their specs, and we’ll get the galley proofs back for any last minute typo and blurry picture corrections we want to make. ETA till press is probably about a month. Though I think Chemistry of Materials is one of the journals that puts accepted papers up on the web before galley proofs are done, so it could be even sooner!