After a year and a half at NSF

So, right now this blog is private because I’m very much in the public eye. But one day, when I return to academia, it’ll go public again. So I’ve decided to start writing again today.

Yes, running BIO at NSF is the most challenging job I’ve ever had in my life. I find myself working at, our beyond the level of intensity of my years in grad school in Ann Arbor. The high points are incredible. The low points are devastating. I certainly didn’t expect this type of life for my sixties.

Writing is like exercising. I’m out of practice. So it’ll be slow. But I’m ready to go ahead again.

Scientific writing

One of my students commented today in class on how hackneyed and boring scientific writing is (passive tense and all). I retorted that one might say the same thing about java code or C++, but we don’t because it’s understood that the rules and syntax are required to get the source code to compile. In fact source code that is considered aesthetically pleasing or beautiful gets its qualities, not from its “beauty of language” but rather from its clarity (documentation) and the underlying originality of the pseudo-code.

In the same way, scientific writing gets its beauty from an ability to convey scientific information (lit review, methods, results, discussion) in a clear fashion. The writing itself is not where the originality is. Rather, like iceberg lettuce (which is only a carrier for creamy salad dressing), scientific language is only a carrier for the underlying scientific expression.