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Working Scientist

How to write a top-notch paper

Season 1

Getting published for the first time is a crucial career milestone, but how does a set of experiments evolve into a scientific paper?

In the first episode of this four-part podcast series about writing a paper, Adam Levy delves into the all-important first stage of the process, preparing a manuscript for submission to a journal.

He also finds out about the importance of titles, abstracts, figures and results, why good storytelling counts, and the particular challenges faced by researchers whose first language is not English.

Pamela Yeh, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, shares some personal pet peeves when she reads a paper: “I can’t stand those papers that have really long sentences with a ton of commas and a lot of jargon. I don’t think the writer is thinking about the reader,” she says.

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  • Infrastructure projects need to demonstrate a return on investment

    Power networks are humankind’s biggest engineering achievement to date, says Sinan Küfeoğlu. But ageing infrastructure in advanced industrialised economies, coupled with the fact that around one billion people in the world lack continuous power access, particularly in Global South countries, could threaten the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 9 by 2030, he warns. The goal promotes resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and innovation.Speaking in a personal capacity, Küfeoğlu, a senior policy manager at the UK government gas and electricity market regulator OFGEM, lists some of the hurdles ahead, based on his work as an energy systems researcher in Finland, UK, US, and Turkey, where he grew up.Many funding proposals, he says, pack in “buzzwords” such as green, sustainable, holistic, inclusive, and circular economy, but governments and other infrastructure project funders are often poor at measuring impact, and undertaking return-on-investment and cost-benefit analyses.How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals is a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • 8. Decent work for all: why multinationals need a helping hand

    In Kenya, where Moses Ngoze teaches entrepreneurship and management at Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega, micro, small and medium enterprises provide 75% of jobs and more than 80% of the country’s gross domestic product. Typically these organizations employ between one and 100 people and include subsistence farming, hospitality and artisan businesses, mostly operating in a jua kali environment, a Swahili term meaning “hot sun,” he says.Ngoze's research explores how the enterprises can help achieve full employment and sustained (and sustainable) economic growth by 2030, captured in Sustainable Development Goal 8, one of 17 agreed by the United Nations in 2015.He tells the How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals podcast that African economies and employment ambitions need more than multinational employers moving there. These firms only employ 10% of the world’s workforce, he says.Infrastructure improvements are also needed, Ngoze adds, alongside more reliable energy, stronger internet connectivity, and tax breaks for business. Government funding for university-based centres of enterprise development are also a priority.The podcast series profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • How artificial intelligence is helping Ghana plan for a renewable energy future

    Julien Harou’s career started in geology in his current role as a water management and infrastructure researcher now straddles economics and engineering, with a particular focus on using artificial intelligence (AI) to measure Ghana’s future energy needs. Harou is relatively upbeat about progress so far towards achieving sustainable and reliable energy for all by 2030, the seventh of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015. He points out that from 2015 to 2021, the portion of the global population with access to electricity increased from 87% to 91%, and last year about 30% came from renewable sources. Harou’s research at the University of Manchester, UK, incorporates computer modeling and artificial intelligence design algorithms to balance Ghana’s long term renewable energy and infrastructure needs. But AI also helps to address the environmental and human health impacts. For example, Ghana’s Volta River was dammed in the 1960s to create the Akosombo dam. But its arrival depleted fish stocks and increased weed and algae growth, providing habitat for vectors of waterborne diseases. It’s all about compromise, he tells the seventh episode of How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals, a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs.Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pullizi, its chief editor.
  • How a young physicist’s job move helped Argentina join the ATLAS collaboration

    María Teresa Dova describes how an early career move to CERN as the first Latin American scientist to join Europe’s organisation for nuclear research ultimately benefited both her but also the researchers she now works with back home in Argentina.The move to Geneva, Switzerland, where CERN is based, required Dova to pivot from condensed matter physics, the subject of her PhD at the University of La Plata, Argentina, which she gained in 1988. But any misgivings about the move to Europe and switching to a new field were quickly banished by her excitement at working on the L3 Large Electron Positron Collider project, she tells Julie Gould. Dova returned to Argentina two-and-a-half years later, launching the experimental high energy group at La Plata and driving other important collaborations, including the inclusion of Argentina in CERN’s ATLAS particle detector collaboration. She describes how it happened.
  • How to plug the female mentoring gap in Latin American science

    A 2021 report by the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean revealed that only 18% of public universities in the region had female rectors. Vanessa Gottifredi, a biologist and president of Argentina’s Leloir Institute Foundation, a research institute based in Buenos Aires, says this paucity of visible role models for female scientists in the region means that damaging stereotypes are perpetuated.A female, she says, will not be judged harshly for staying at home to handle a family emergency, but will be for being pushy at work, unlike male colleagues. “Women need to hear that they are good, more than men do, because they tend to convince themselves they're not good enough,” she adds.In the penultimate episode of this six-part podcast series about female scientists in Latin America, Gottifredi, who worked abroad for 11 years before returning to Argentina, tells Julie Gould how she aims to empower female colleagues, based on what she witnessed elsewhere.
  • ‘Maybe I was never meant to be in science’: how imposter syndrome seizes scientist mothers

    Fernanda Staniscuaski earned her PhD aged 27. Five years later she had a child. But in common with many scientist mothers, Staniscuaski, a biologist at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, saw funding and other career opportunities diminish as she combined motherhood with her professional life. “Of course I did not have as much time as I was used to have. And everything impacted my productivity,” she tells Julie Gould.The Brazilian biologist founded the Parent in Science advocacy movement after talking with other scientist parents. In the fourth episode of this six-part podcast series about Latin American women in science, Staniscuaski lists the movement’s achievements so far, and the challenges that lie ahead.In 2021 Parent in Science won the science outreach category in the Nature Inspiring Women in Science awards, in partnership with the Estée Lauder Companies.
  • 3. ‘Hopeless, burnt out, sad’: how political change is impacting female researchers in Latin America

    Paleontologists Ana Valenzuela-Toro and Mariana Viglino outline some of the challenges shared by researchers across Latin America. These include funding, language barriers, journal publication fees and conference travel costs. But the two women then list some of the extra burdens faced by female researchers who live and work there, many of which will resonate with female colleagues based elsewhere. “When you are in a room sharing a scientific idea or project, nobody listens to you. Then another person, usually a male researcher, says what you said,” says Valenzuela-Toro, who is based in Caldero, Chile. Mariana Viglino, a Puerto Madryn-based researcher at CONICET, an Argentine government science agency, says the election of far-right governments inevitably results in science funding cuts. “And that means many people having their careers cut. Many research projects that are not going to be able to continue,” she warns.“It makes me feel really hopeless, and really burnt out, and really sad. I really don’t even know how to put it into words. You want to give back to the government who has invested in you. You want to give back to society. You just feel like they are just pushing you out.”
  • How we connect girls in Brazil to inspiring female scientists

    In 2013 physicist Carolina Brito co-launched Meninas na Ciência (Girls in Science), a program based at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul.The program exposes girls to university life, including lab visits and meetings with female academics. “There are several girls who have never met someone who has been to university,” says Brita. “It’s beyond a gender problem.”Jessica Germann was one of them. The 19-year-old is about to start an undergraduate physics degree. She tells Julie Gould how writing a school essay about particle physics and a fascination for YouTube science videos helped in her career choices.This episode is the second episode in a six-part Working Scientist podcast series about Latin American women in science.
  • ‘There is no cookie cutter female scientist’

    In her role as Vice Rector for research partnerships and collaboration at the University of the Valley in Guatemala City, Monica Stein works to strengthen science and technology ecosystems in the Central American country and across the wider region.To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, Stein outlines the steps needed to attract girls into science careers. Access to higher education needs to widen, she argues, alongside more robust legal and regulatory frameworks to make research careers more diverse.“We need to inspire other women, we need to mentor other women, we need to be available for conversations,” she says. “We need to tell them it’s okay to say no to a project, because you’re pregnant, just giving birth, or your child is young, which is something that is so common here in Guatemala.”This episode is the first episode in a six-part Working Scientist podcast series about Latin American women in science.