Friday, April 4, 2008

Best paper EVER!

The most useful paper in the history of science was published this week, in a specialist journal that focuses on my department's field of study. I really wish I could link to it, but that might give away too much about the grants that I may or may not be submitting soon. So I'll just tell you why I'm so in love with this paper's authors.

The paper is a gap analysis - that is, a discussion of the most pressing gaps in our knowledge of the field. It's broken down into several different sub-fields, and each section includes the following:
  • A brief literature review that describes our current understanding of the subject
  • A list of gaps in that understanding
  • Obstacles to filling the gaps (e.g. limitations to existing technologies, lack of funding etc.)
  • How filling in the gaps will benefit researchers and patients
Wow. Just, wow. It's a long paper, put together by several committees, but reads with a single voice, and is just about the most useful thing I've ever seen. The best thing is how well my group's various research interests match the list of gaps. Just about every grant proposal I write for the next couple of years will reference this paper as proof that what we're doing is important, as recognised by opinion leaders in the field. I've emailed the PDF to everyone I work with and I'm getting some great feedback from them too, including suggestions of older papers with a similar focus. They're at the top of my substantial reading pile!

On a related topic, the Medical Writing, Editing and Grantsmanship blog has a great post on how not to get your grant funded. There are some great tips on there, to which I would add the following:
  • Use different formatting and alternative spellings throughout. Your reviewers will be impressed with your lack of attention to detail and will realise that you're probably as sloppy with your data as you are with your grant applications.
Do you like the new blog list by the way? Thanks to Veo Claramente for the tip-off! My old list was way out of date.

If you need anything else to read, there's a scary fish and a dodgy analogy on my Nature Network blog. (Yes, I got into a disagreement with a Nature editor last week. Really smart move for an aspiring freelance science writer, eh? All is well now though. And I've got the 4th most active blog and 3rd most commented-on post this week! Woo hoo!)

Have a good weekend!

4 comments:

  1. Love the new blog roll--I can see at a glance what's happening at most of my favorite blogs! Cool function.

    And thanks, too, for that link to the grant writing/medical writing blog. Very useful. Yeah, I hate inconsistent use of abbreviations--I saw that on the one R01 I edited, and I'm seeing it now on my current assignment. Grrr!

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  2. Ooh I forgot about abbreviations. "Define at first use and then be consistent" sounds so easy, but errors crop up all the time. I think the problem is that most grants are stitched together from existing pieces of text and not written as a single entity.

    The blog roll is great but inconsistent. It doesn't always seem to want to update automatically, so unless that gets fixed it won't always be up to date. I'm giving it a nudge every now and then and hoping they remove some bugs when it moves out of draft!

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  3. Sounds like an excellent review. I wish someone would write a paper like that for my field!

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  4. You could do it! Then people will blog about you and you'll be a hero.

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