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Writing a paper with PI

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Writing a paper with PI

Postby Eric J » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:12 pm

I did a brief forum search but did not find anything that resembles this topic.

I am having some (relatively) minor problems with my PI when it comes to writing a publication. I am looking for some advice or some tips on what to do if anyone else has been in this situation.

Background: I finished the main experiments for my project last fall. I was eager to write the paper and put a draft together. The next step was to get my PI to read and revise it. Over the course of 3 months after, he read and put revisions on the paper twice. These revisions were somewhat helpful but also had a large share of problems, both in terms of proper English/grammar and in terms of content (concepts were sometimes altered to not match my experimental results, nor cited references). At the end of these 3 months, my PI told me to do more experiments to add to the paper, which I did, as I agreed that they would help the paper, but at the same time I felt they weren't really necessary. I don't have a good explanation for why it took 3 months for these experiments to be suggested, other than my PI not reading very deeply into my paper the first 2 times.

My PI just recently returned a 3rd draft that "rewrote" half the paper, and by that I mean paragraphs were shuffled in unintuitive ways, important sections were deleted in hopes to streamline(?) the paper, and the grammar was twice as bad as the past revisions. It took me hours to fix this draft. Most recently, he has told me that he won't be available much to further revise my paper due to other more pressing priorities, but he wants to be finished with the paper in 3 months from now -- and that's a target goal, not a deadline. I haven't replied yet or approached him about this, but obviously I disagree with the handling of these revisions. And while I suppose it is unlikely, I am getting increasingly more nervous about the thought of getting scooped.

Any thoughts on how I can approach this situation, or is it something I should just ignore and I should hope for the best? And are there successful strategies for "group-writing" that others can share?
Eric J
 
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Re: Writing a paper with PI

Postby Ana » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:45 am

Hi Eric,

How are you communicating with your PI (e-mail or in person)? How often do you talk in general? Are there other senior co-authors in the publication? The situation changes depending on your type of interaction and the presence of senior neutral parties.

When I was doing my PhD I had some frustrations along the lines you are describing. Because English was our second or third language we always asked an English specialist to correct our manuscripts, which was very helpful. This man used to tell me “don’t worry too much about it, right now your goal is to get your degree and get these papers out there, the day you’ll have your lab you’ll write beautiful papers”. I think it was great advice, so keep your eye on the target and don’t worry too much about it.
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Re: Writing a paper with PI

Postby Eric J » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:24 am

I appreciate the reply, thanks. We communicate in email mostly, but meet weekly and tend to generally discuss my other ongoing projects. We have not done any revisions while we are together in one room; instead, we email each other back and forth our revisions and re-re-revisions. I am the only other author.

I think it is good advice to keep my eye on the target and I am focusing on doing just that, although I do still worry about getting scooped in the time it takes to get my PI agreeable to focusing on my paper. I also do still wonder if there are other ways to go about this writing process.

Is emailing revisions back-and-forth the typical way writing a paper is done for others? English is our primary language so I'm not sure suggesting an English specialist to review the manuscript would be useful. What about sharing manuscripts with other members of the lab to get more eyes on the paper?
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Re: Writing a paper with PI

Postby RGM » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:20 pm

This statement makes no sense " At the end of these 3 months, my PI told me to do more experiments to add to the paper, which I did, as I agreed that they would help the paper, but at the same time I felt they weren't really necessary. "

Would you elaborate on this? Was there confusion between you and your PI on this too??
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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Re: Writing a paper with PI

Postby Eric J » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:51 pm

RGM wrote:This statement makes no sense " At the end of these 3 months, my PI told me to do more experiments to add to the paper, which I did, as I agreed that they would help the paper, but at the same time I felt they weren't really necessary. "

Would you elaborate on this? Was there confusion between you and your PI on this too??


After I finished the experiments I expected to report on in my paper, I wrote up a draft and sent it to my PI. He made a couple revisions on the draft and we passed the draft back and forth a couple times. After the third time, he got a new idea for something to add to the paper and told me to do these new expts. Like I said, I think they were nice expts but unnecessary. We had actually discussed a similar idea a while back but at that time figured the expt wouldn't be worthwhile. I was frustrated because it further delayed publishing and because the suggestion would have come months earlier had he read more deeply into the paper the first time.

There is a chance that he will do this again, unfortunately, since he said he is thinking about New expts lately to add to the paper and furthermore admitted he has forgotten some of the changes he has already made and so might make revisions I have already fielded on earlier drafts. I will object strongly to this as the paper is already very thorough and will very likely get accepted as is but, as was my intent from asking here, I am looking for strategies for how to approach this situation in a positive way and/or new ways to go about reviewing a paper.

I hope this clarified, thanks again
Eric J
 
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Re: Writing a paper with PI

Postby RGM » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:29 pm

perhaps showing your PI papers which are proving the same types of concepts as you would be helpful, if possible. Example, if you are showing 2 proteins interact, there are clearly defined sets of experiments people need for a paper, anything extra is just a bonus regarding figures.
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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