Friday, December 01, 2006

Dead Manuscripts #0

When Millennium originally cleaned house, I thought I would be idled almost immediately & this blog was one new initiative to maintain my sanity during the downtime. But then, thanks to some campaigning by friendly middle managers, I was given an extension until end-of-year. It's nice, since it gives me a little more time to hand-off a couple of projects to people.

But, there's still a lot of time left over, and so like Derek Lowe I find myself trying to cobble together some manuscripts before I go.

Now the problem here is that I tend to think I have a lot of interesting stuff to publish -- until I actually get going. It's serious work preparing something for publication. Plus, sometimes when you start dotting the i's and crossing the t's your results start looking less and less attractive.

I am trying to tackle too many papers, especially since all but one are solo affairs. So it will be time to cull some of the ideas soon. There's also stuff that previously stalled somewhere along the way & I doubt I'll ever resurrect. One was even submitted -- and rejected; I found myself agreeing with half the reviewer's comments about the quality of the writing.

Normally, these just go back into memory as items to trot out if they answer questions in interviews ("oh, yes , I once did a multiple alignment of llama GPCRs..."). But now, I have a place to unleash them on the world! I'm the editor & review board! (& 1/10th the readership? :-) Perhaps some of the nuggets will be useful to someone, and perhaps some will even be worked up by someone else into a full paper.

A lot of these little items are interesting, but not quite a Minimum Publishable Unit, or MPU. In academia, there are often debates as to the minimum content of a paper, and some authors push to publish no more than an MPU. Others go in the opposite direction: you need to read every last footnote in one of George Church's papers to get all the stuff he tries to cram in. For example, Craig Venter was the first to succeed at whole genome shotgun sequencing in 1995, but George was trying it back in 1988: see the footnotes to his multiplex sequencing paper.

I almost killed one idea today, but alas I figured out one more question to ask of the data. I'll do that, but I really should kill this one. It's the one where I'm skating way outside my recognized expertise and the results are useful but not stunning. The clock is ticking away, and it would be better to wrap up one good story than have 4 manuscript fragments to add to the queue for this space.

1 comment:

Paras Chopra said...

Yes, one should always resurrect one's old work.. how else is the world gonna learn about real you.