A hat-full of academic how-tos

Dipping in and out of the stream of tweets, there are always fascinating links to excellent resources for academics at all stages of their careers. I just spotted another, and thought it might be about time to aggregate some of these for posterity. Here’s the quick list (to which I will add if people suggest links), and details are below

  1. “How to find a postdoc”
  2. “How to get started with R”
  3. “How to use Github and RStudio”
  4. “How to use Github effectively”
  5. “How to respond to reviewers’ comments”
  6. “How to write a literature review”
  7. “How to help fight sexism in academia”
  8. “How to make your publications more accessible”
  9. “How to make your work reproducible”

1. “How to find a postdoc”

There are no firm rules with how to obtain a postdoc, unfortunately, but there are resources that can help. First of all, knowing what opportunities are out there is vital. Dieter Lukas’ extensive list of postdoc opportunities is a great place to start.

2. “How to get started with R”

“How-to” guides for R are multiplying daily, so here are a few of my favourites:

  1. CodeSchool’s Try R – this is one of my favourites, because it works within an R sandbox (i.e. you don’t need to program – the web interface simulates R and tells you when you have done something wrong).
  2. EnvironmentalComputing.net – this is another recent find from Twitter. A great set of tutorials covering everything from getting started with R to complex mixed models. Not only a starting point, but a useful refresher if you are doing more advanced work.

3. “How to use Github and RStudio”

I have tried to use Github to archive and share code on a few occasions and now I have collaborators who are more enthusiastic than me, which has provided the final impetus for me to get started with it properly. While standard developers/coders may be au fait with Git and command-line, most ecologists and evolutionary biologists may be limited in their programming to statistical languages like R. Fortunately, RStudio (an excellent interface for R) also interfaces with Github and you can find out more about that here.

4. “How to use Github effectively”

Having designed my first shared Github repo, commented all my code thoroughly and pushed the four files out through RStudio, I sat back and watched as a collaborator completely changed the format. However, the system that he used was a vast improvement on how I had designed the file structure, and was based around this project.

5. “How to respond to reviewers’ comments”

Andrew Hendry at EcoEvoEvoEco just published a great guide to responding to reviewers’ comments. This peculiar aspect of academic culture is as much a ritualised dance as it is an intellectual exchange, and involves a specific style and format of writing with which publishing novices may not be familiar.

6. “How to write a literature review”

Among the non-scientists that I follow on Twitter, Raul Pacheco crops up time and time again with useful writing tips. He recently wrote a piece on some interesting tips for literature reviews, which is an area of writing with which I know many students struggle. Too often students simply list papers and their findings with a vague categorisation, but Raul offers some more in-depth techniques for organisation concepts.

7. “How to help fight sexism in academia”

The Twitterverse has provided a host of great articles on how to combat discrimination in academia. Tenure, She Wrote is a fascinating blog for a male academic to read, and in particular this post on how to avoid (often unintentional) sexist behaviour. You can also check your implicit bias (try the Gender-Science IAT).

8. “How to make your publications more accessible”

Self-archiving is an easy and effective way to increase the number of people who can read your papers. By getting around paywalls (legally, of course), you can potentially increase citation rates as well. There is a good guide to self-archiving here, and one of my own papers makes the case and provides examples here. I use Figshare to archive individual files because it is free and offers analytics on views/downloads, Kudos to aggregate Figshare files and other content associated with particular papers, and a Weebly website to add other information.

9. “How to make your work reproducible”

Reproducibility has been the bane of psychological sciences over the past few years, and now there is growing interest in ensuring that work is transparent and open so that findings can be checked. The British Ecological Society’s Macroecology special interest group had a session on reproducibility and the results can be seen on the Methods in Ecology and Evolution blog.

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