Superwomen

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Jun 242012
 
Screen Shot 2012-06-24 at 8.08.35 AM

Everyone’s read the Anne-Marie Slaughter piece in the Atlantic on why there are so few women on the upper rungs of government and corporate ladders. Most of the discussion of the piece I’ve seen is about work/life balance, etc., but what resonated with me is Prof. Slaughter’s insight that the women we aspire to be (Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, etc.), and who advise us that we can have it all, are superwomen. I agree, except that I think we don’t have to look at the upper rungs to find them. I run into them all the time. And here are my observations from the field:

While the rest of the world sleeps soundly, the superwoman steadily advances science.

Late into the night:

It's 11pm, do you know where your stack of work is?

or the wee hours of the morning.

When even the squirrels are still sleeping.

If she has volunteered for an especially critical task, the superwoman does what must be done:

If she is deprived of sleep for another reason, well, that’s just another opportunity for the superwoman to advance science:

Unlike the rest of us, the superwoman does not need to catch up on sleep. The superwoman never naps…  well, almost never.

And when duty calls for her to save another part of the world, the superwoman flies back on the weekends to take care of her responsibilities back home.

To the superwomen out there: you’re all my heroes. And to the supermen, you have my admiration as well!

dress

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Jun 212012
 
neimanm

A while ago I commented on how I haven’t practiced dressing up too much. Apparently Visa’s fraud detection algorithms have detected this.

dress[click on image to see bigger version]

 

 
who is reading

[By 'you' I mean me, but it's easier to say 'you'] You spend sleepless nights and frustrating days working on a problem, pushing the limits of your data-analysis, algorithmic and analytical know-how, following obscure and not-so-obscure leads through the literature,  until, one day, it clicks. Your model actually fits the data. And no one has even seen data like this before. You’ve made a scientific discovery!

eurekaA colleague who hears you gushing about the result suggests you submit it to Nature. Although you have only written up bits and pieces during the course of the research, it’s too late now, those bits have become the “Nature” paper.

Even in this incomplete state, the “Nature” paper changes you. It makes you feel important, special. You go to conferences and are surprised to find that a lot of other researchers have “Nature” papers.

conferenceAfter a bit of initial angst that they may actually have your “Nature” paper, you wonder a) if Nature will have enough room and b) if these people seem a bit delusional, am I delusional too?

As you spend weeks to months doing the last 10% of the work to make the paper 100% ready for submission, you try to handle the anxiety of getting scooped. Mornings are the worst, as you read arxiv or Google News headlines (because of course, any paper that did what your “Nature” paper does would capture the headlines).

checking newsUntil one day it happens. Your office mate has spotted a Nature (no quotes) paper on X, and your “Nature” paper is on X. Your stomach turns, you quickly skim the paper. Relief: the paper says X, it’s not your X.

scooped

After that scare, your work pace gets even crazier. Gotta finish that last 1%, triple-check all results. You send the paper to a few people who regularly publish in Nature. When they say they like it, you’re over the moon. And if they ask where it’s going to, you reluctantly admit your aspirations.

where are you submitting to?When you’re not working, you daydream. You imagine your PhD advisor, mom, dad, long-ago flame just happening to read your paper, because they all read Nature or at least used to or at least used to say they do.

who is readingYou’ve delayed as long as possible, but it is time to do the final formatting. You create a new folder, and give it a name e.g. “Nature2012″ which will forever serve as a painful reminder of your unsuccessful attempt if the paper is rejected.

the folderNow you are ready to begin formatting. Inexplicably, you are asked to take your perfectly well-formatted paper, tear out the figures, upload them as separate files (which you will have to rename, resize, and resort), separate out the figure captions (to ensure that the reviewers will have the most difficult time figuring out what you are talking about when referring to a figure), and then wait for the submission system to glue them back together in the most impractical and unreadable form possible. This will take hours to days.

formatting the submissionFinally, you submit. It’s a strange feeling. The creation you have labored so hard for is now in someone else’s hands. There is emptiness. You start to think about other things in life besides the “Nature” paper. Life returns to “normal”. Then…

rejection

gloom[To be continued in other fine publication venues...]

 

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